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by Abigail Van Buren

Man Who 'Needs His Space' Won't Make Room for Kids

DEAR ABBY: In all the 33 years I have read your column, nothing has appalled me like the letter from the live-in who described herself as "Almost No. 2." She said, "He left his wife and two kids because the responsibility gave him no time for himself." What idiocy!

What kind of woman would want a man who shows no responsibility for his own children, but expects him to parent HER kids? These people are sick, sick, sick! You were much too easy on them with your answer. Stand tough, Abby. -- MARY EGAN IN DALLAS

DEAR MARY: I advised the woman not to try to defend her position, which was indefensible. I do not flog those who write to me, even when I disapprove of their actions. Mine is an advice column -- not a whipping post.

Believe me, my readers got the message. The letters are still flying in. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: I have never been as angry as I was after I read the letter signed "Almost No. 2." She said, "Nine- and 16-year-olds don't need a lot of attention." These are critical ages in their lives, and being ignored by their father because he "needs more time to himself" is clearly child abuse.

When people ask why the kids aren't around, "Almost No. 2" and her boyfriend should tell the truth: "We want them around only when we have nothing else better to do." That's the message he's sending out to his kids.

If his children are too much of a responsibility, he should have kept his pants on. These two deserve each other. -- MOM WHO LOVES TO BE WITH HER SON

DEAR ABBY: "Indefensible" is the word! The next time people ask why Matt, "Father of the Year," doesn't see his own children, they should be told he simply doesn't give a damn. And when they ask "Almost No. 2" how she could defend him, she should tell them because she's still "Almost."

After she actually becomes "No. 2" and Matt gives her the "I need my space" story, I'll be looking for a letter in your column signed "WHAT WAS I THINKING?" -- or, perhaps, simply, "DUH." -- CLIFFORD WILLIAMS, MALDEN, MASS.

DEAR ABBY: What a wonderful couple these two make! She's insensitive, while he is simply a cad.

My brother and I (both now in our 20s) were fortunate to have an understanding stepmother who realized that our relationship with our father shouldn't change regardless of the marital status between our parents. Our father continues to spend a lot of time with us.

We are now professional, responsible adults who were fortunate to receive all the love and support both parents could give.

I hate to think that Matt's kids will never get that support from their father. Child support is not an expression of love -- it's an obligation -- and believe me, those kids are intelligent enough to know the difference. -- THANKFUL IN CAPE CORAL, FLA.

DEAR ABBY: As I read that letter I could literally feel my blood pressure rising. I wanted to reach out and strangle "Almost No. 2."

This is a personal issue to me, Abby. The day before my sixth birthday, my father left my mother for another woman. I missed having a male role model. I missed having a father's hug when I needed it (and I did need it -- to this day I have never hugged another man). I missed having a father there to congratulate me and praise me during those special times in my life when I accomplished something.

My father tried to reconcile when I was older, but it wasn't the same. We no longer talk -- yet I still love him. The only way I followed in his footsteps was to become a volunteer firefighter like he had been.

Children, regardless of age or gender, need their father. "Almost No. 2" should accept his kids as he accepts her. If you print this, please use my name; I hope my father sees it. -- CHRISTOPHER M. OTT, HARLEYSVILLE, PA.

To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby's "Keepers," P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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