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by Abigail Van Buren

Teacher's Hurtful Words Set Bad Example for Class

DEAR ABBY: I am the mother of two daughters, one of whom is 9 years old. The other passed away eight years ago just before she turned 3.

My daughter who died had Down syndrome and many other health problems. However, that is not the reason for this letter.

My other daughter is in fourth grade, and at open house for her class, her teacher used a word in her talk to parents that I found deeply offensive. She used it not once, but twice. Demonstrating for the parents a stretching exercise she has the children do midmorning to break the monotony in their routine, she said, "I know this makes me look retarded, but this is the way to stretch." My daughter reports that this teacher uses the word "retarded" often, as if it were an adjective.

I am unsure how to handle this. I don't want whatever I say to be used against my daughter in the classroom, and yet I feel strongly about the poor example this teacher is setting for the children. I considered sending an anonymous letter to her with a copy to the principal of the school, but I would like you to address this subject in your column. If you print this, I just might mail her a copy. –- TWICE A MOTHER IN SOUTH DAYTONA BEACH, FLA.

DEAR MOTHER: It is deplorable that the word "retarded," as a synonym for "dumb" or "stupid," has become common slang (i.e., "That is so retarded!"). It shows a lack of respect for those who are challenged, and the person to whom the remark is directed may have a sibling or relative who is developmentally or mentally disabled.

Rather than anonymously mailing this to the teacher or penning an unsigned letter, I urge you to meet with the teacher and tell her how hurtful her comments were to you and the reasons why. If that doesn't teach her a lesson she'll never forget, nothing will.

DEAR ABBY: I have been married to "Milton" for two years. Actually, we've been together for six years. We have two beautiful daughters, ages 2 and 4. Milton works full time during the day. I work full time at night. We hardly see each other.

I am at a crossroads because I think I am in love with Milton's best friend, "Herb." Herb and I have slept together, and I can't get him out of my mind. He has a girlfriend and two children.

I feel Herb is the person I have waited my whole life to be with. I know what I have done is wrong; however, I ache for him. I am torn between the two men, but I know we can ruin a lot of lives if we pursue this relationship. Therefore, I recently made up my mind to live my life with Milton and my kids.

Abby, please help me to stick with the right decision. –- IRIS IN ILLINOIS

DEAR IRIS: Actually you didn't "wait your whole life" for Herb. You made a sizable emotional investment when you had the children with Milton and married him. I'm pleased you made the mature decision to stick with your husband. It is going to take time to get over this -– but it was the right choice.

Another big step in the right direction will be to avoid Herb and his girlfriend or get them out of your life entirely. Also, you and your husband must get on the same work schedule and get marriage counseling. Marriages die from lack of communication, and unless you act immediately, there won't be much life left in yours. Trust me.

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