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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My wife and I divorced 11 years ago. We had no children together. However, for the past eight years -- since the birth of her son -- we have lived together. I love the boy with all my heart and soul. Although I am not his biological father, I am his Catholic godfather, and most definitely his "dad."

His mother and I do not have a good relationship. If it were not for this little boy, I would not want to be around her. She sleeps with him in his bed each and every night -- and often bathes with him. She is sometimes nude; other times, she wears a bikini.

Abby, my concern is for my "son." I am turning to you for help. The counseling my ex-wife and I received from a doctor of psychology didn't help, because she rejected the advice. Things around here have become so volatile, I am desperate for any suggestion you can offer. -- BEYOND WORRY

DEAR BEYOND WORRY: Most experts in child development think that as boys and girls reach the age when they become curious about sex, sleeping and bathing nude with a parent of the opposite sex is unhealthfully stimulating.

However, if your former wife won't listen to you, and ignores a Ph.D. in psychology, she's not likely to accept advice from me. Perhaps the problem will resolve itself when the boy is old enough to tell his mother to find other sleeping arrangements.

P.S. All three of you could benefit from family counseling.

DEAR ABBY: Seven years ago, you received a letter from Prisoner No. 711895. Today, you are reading a letter from "Mark," a proud and productive member of society. I am not proud of my past, but I have made positive changes in my life.

I have worked at the same job since I was released from prison six years ago. I am now one of the top managers in the company. My children see a father who is not perfect, but willing to talk about mistakes and learn from them. My parents see a son who has finally grown up. They tell me they are very proud of me.

Abby, I want you and others to know I am not letting the fact I carry the stigma of being a felon define me. I am a man who works hard, takes care of his family and has learned from his mistakes. I am proud of who I am today. -- MARK IN SEATTLE

P.S. Last month I had coffee with the officer who arrested me eight years ago. I thanked him for saving my life.

DEAR MARK: I salute you. You are living proof that with hard work and determination, rehabilitation is an attainable goal after release from prison. I hope that people who are currently incarcerated will see your letter and realize that one day, they, too, can become productive members of society.

DEAR ABBY: A few months ago you published a letter from "Proud Mom," who had a child out of wedlock. The father supports the child financially, but does not see him. She wondered if she should tell the parents of the child's father they had a grandson. You opened the advice up to readers, but I haven't seen the results of this important question. Did I miss a column? -- ANOTHER PROUD MOM IN FLORIDA

DEAR ANOTHER PROUD MOM: No, you didn't -- and thank you for the reminder. The response I received from readers was a virtual tie. Half of those who wrote felt "Proud Mom" should keep her mouth shut. The other half believed she should inform the grandparents that they have a grandson, and let them choose whether or not to have a relationship with him. Belated thanks to the hundreds of you who responded.

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