Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I am 17 years old and live with my grandmother because my mother and I don't get along.

My problem started two years ago when my father passed away. After only six months, my mother started dating "Allen." I thought it was too soon. Mom is very pretty. I know she can't live alone forever, but I don't think she had to grab the first man who came along. I wasn't sure how Allen would treat us, so I thought it would be better for me to move away. Now that I have met him and see the way he treats both my mother and my brother, I have no problem with him. Every time I go visit them I have a great time.

But now they are talking about getting married. I'm not sure of the date, but I think it's getting close. After my father died, Mom said she would remain a "Smith" (not our real last name) for the rest of her life. Now she's talking about marrying and changing her name!

I don't see why they have to get married. I think it will change their relationship for the worse. I told her that when they do get married, I won't be there. Maybe I shouldn't be that way, but that's the way I feel.

What should I do? Should I accept the fact that they may get married and be happy, or what? I'm confused. -- AFRAID MOM WILL MARRY

DEAR AFRAID: It is not surprising you are confused; however, rather than run from the problem, try to work through it with your mother.

It may seem that she is being disloyal to the memory of your father, but it is more likely that she has been lonely since his death, is worried about you and your brother, and wants a stable home life again.

Since you like Allen and the way he gets along with your mother and brother, there is a good chance you will be able to get along with him too. Remember, no one is trying to replace your father. Your family deserves another chance at happiness, and Allen may be instrumental in helping you all find it.

DEAR ABBY: A reader recently asked why we don't have classes in schools to teach kids patience, kindness, manners, not to litter, etc.

Psychologists say that children's personality traits, their ability to get along with others, their perception of right and wrong, their sense of humor, values and morals are formed by age 4. Children are a reflection of their home environment and parental training. Schools should reinforce what the children have already learned.

It's time parents realize that they are the most important "teachers" in their children's lives. Don't blame the schools. We're doing the best we can. -- OLD-FASHIONED TEACHER IN OVERLAND PARK, KAN.

DEAR OLD-FASHIONED: You have stated it very well; however, not all children are fortunate enough to have parents who can teach them these vital lessons. The most enduring education comes from parents and teachers working together. To quote first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, "It takes a village to raise a child."

Abby shares more of her favorite, easy-to-prepare recipes. To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, More Favorite Recipes, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600