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by Abigail Van Buren

Single Mom With Hands Full Ponders Giving Up Custody

DEAR ABBY: I'm going through the most confusing period of my life. I am 18 and working both a full-time and a part-time job to support my children, a daughter who is 2 and a 1-year-old son. My life is crazy at this point.

Abby, I'm thinking about giving custody of my son to a couple at church. Why? Because raising two children is too difficult at my age. I'm a single mother and cannot support two children financially.

I'm unable to give my son the love and care he needs, and I want him to be happy. I don't want to give him up, but I want the best for him and I know I can't provide it.

Abby, please help me. What should I do? -- CONFUSED, CRAZY MOTHER

DEAR MOTHER: Follow your heart and give your son to parents who can provide what you cannot. It would be a generous act of love.

I would urge you, however, to give the custodial parents a letter to your son that they can give to him when he begins to question the love of a mother who would "give him away."

DEAR ABBY: My 21-year-old son, "Sam," dropped out of college and wanted to paint houses for a living. He needed a car, so I offered to find him painting projects around the house to earn $500 -- partial payment for the car. I paid him more than the going rate and gave him credit for more hours than he worked.

When he came to me and wanted the $500, I reminded him the money was for a car, and he could have it when he found one. (He's getting money from his mother to live on.) He picked up a bar stool and hit me with it, bruising me and breaking the tile countertop. On his way out, he broke a table and a bowl. I deducted $300 for the damages and sent him a check, but he hasn't apologized and says he never wants to see me again.

Should I have called the police and charged Sam with assault and battery to help him see that violence is not the way to settle a dispute? -- A GRIEVING FATHER

DEAR GRIEVING FATHER: Your son has a serious problem controlling his temper. He should have learned by now how to channel his anger and frustration without resorting to violence. I am undecided as to whether or not he was fortunate that you didn't notify the police and press charges.

However, you were also wrong for having agreed to pay Sam for painting your house, then to have withheld the money he earned when he asked for it.

DEAR ABBY: Today I read the letter from "The Man Who Loves Her." I, too, was a smoker and can sympathize with both people in that letter. It took me -- and me alone -- to quit. Please, Abby, pass this on to those who are trying to quit: "DON'T GIVE UP!"

Maybe today you will quit for only a day, perhaps tomorrow it will be for two days. Just keep trying. I know it's not easy to stop something you enjoy, but after you have quit for a month or so, you will realize that you didn't really enjoy it -- you were simply a slave to it.

In my mind, I finally decided what I wanted more than nicotine. I wanted to live. -- JILL DIAL, TITUSVILLE, FLA.

DEAR JILL: Thank you for a powerful letter. Be assured that it will inspire countless smokers to follow your example.

To order "How to Write Letters for All Occasions," send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Letter Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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