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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Hello? Is anybody home? How could you agree with "Lucy in Cheyenne, Wyo.," who admonished married couples not to shower together because they leave the children unsupervised when they do? Tell that ice cube to get a life!

Are we to assume that single parents don't bathe? Or that in a two-parent household, Mom doesn't shower unless Dad is at home to watch the kids? Do they take turns sleeping?

Obviously, Lucy never had kids. And, with her negative attitude about physical closeness, she probably never will! -- JOYCE IN DOLTON, ILL.

DEAR JOYCE: Cool off. Lucy and I both stand corrected. As long as the child is secured in a playpen or a child-proofed room, it's probably going to be just fine if the parents take a shower break. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: I am so steamed, I can hardly sit still to write you!

As an extremely busy mother of three active boys (one with special needs), I want to tell "Lucy" to MYOB.

Couples have to give up a lot (albeit willingly) when their children are born. Sneaking a few private moments in the shower while their little ones are asleep or behind a security gate is neither neglectful nor unsafe.

Why? Baby monitors! They are so sensitive you can hear your child breathing, much less waking up and crying for attention.

Loving, affectionate parents who enjoy intimacy are among the greatest gifts you can give a child, assuring them of a stable home life. -- MAD REDHEAD IN TEXAS

DEAR MAD REDHEAD: That's true. Couples who play together usually stay together.

DEAR ABBY: "Smokeless but Outnumbered in Pennsylvania," who dreaded the thought of her heavy-smoking in-laws holding her newborn baby, has a legitimate concern. Many smokers have the mistaken idea that their secondhand smoke is a gas that is "gone with the wind" when the cigarette goes out.

Quite the contrary. Cigarette smoke produces microscopic particles of carcinogenic substances that land on clothing, skin and hair. These particles are stirred up with every movement and drift into the air and can be inhaled by those around them long after the cigarette is out.

People who are subject to secondhand smoke have a four times greater chance of getting lung cancer than those not exposed. As a respiratory therapist who works in pediatric intensive care, I am always outraged when I have a pediatric patient who is struggling to breathe, and Mom and/or Dad and/or relatives come into the room reeking of cigarettes. I try to explain that even though they go outside to smoke, they are bringing particles into the room that have clung to their hair and clothing.

Smokers should take a paper towel and wipe down the windows of their cars. That yellow stain on the paper towel is not a gas but an accumulation of microscopic particles that also lodge in people's lungs.

I would urge "Smokeless" to allow her in-laws to hold her baby only after they shampoo, shower and put on clean clothes since their last cigarette. A baby can't defend itself. If her husband won't, then she has to. -- BOB CRONIN, CAPE ELIZABETH, MAINE

DEAR BOB: You have written a powerful letter. If it convinces just one set of young parents to assert themselves on their child's behalf, then it was well worth the space in my column.

Dear Abby is written by Pauline Phillips and daughter Jeanne Phillips.

For everything you need to know about wedding planning, order "How to Have a Lovely Wedding." Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby, Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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