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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I must respond to the letter from "Tacoma Mom," who complained that her ex-husband didn't want to take their 6-year-old to his swimming lesson during his regularly scheduled Wednesday night visit.

I, too, am a divorced mother who is happily remarried. Unlike "Tacoma Mom," I do not wish to control every moment of my daughter's time with her father. Watching the children participate in a sport does not allow the quality time divorced parents should have.

Everyone talks about the importance of a father's role in a child's life. Does that apply only if he follows the schedule given to him by the mother? I am sure that when the family was intact, "Tacoma Mom" didn't tell the father how to spend his time with his son.

After a divorce, people are consumed by hurt and anger. Children are too often caught in the middle and used as a way of "getting back" at each other.

While I agree that the Tacoma father should be involved in the child's activities, divorced fathers need time with their children on their terms, not ours. This is what creates a bond between fathers and their children.

My daughter and I enjoy a close and loving relationship; I believe her father is entitled to one, too. She and her father do things that I don't do -- fish, camp, work on cars. She has two very different and fulfilling lives. That is what keeps her well-adjusted. Her father and I have developed a healthy relationship where our daughter is concerned. We always keep HER best interests in mind.

Abby, shouldn't a mother consult the father before signing up the children for activities that interfere with his time? They are his children, too. Or is this just a power struggle of a bitter woman? -- A MA IN PA.

DEAR MA: I commend you and your ex-husband for putting your daughter's best interests first.

I have received stacks of letters regarding "Tacoma Mom." Most readers felt that there should be a compromise. They suggested that Dad should have an additional day of visitation with an activity that he has planned -- or just some alone time. More compromise and less "control" would be a healthy solution.

DEAR ABBY: My best friend asked me who I liked. I told her, trusting that she wouldn't tell anyone. Her response was, "Eew! You like him?!"

The next day she got one of our other friends to get the guy I like to ask her out. The worst part is she doesn't even like this guy and she's moving away. What should I do? Help! -- MAD IN LEESBURG, VA.

DEAR MAD: The first thing you should do is recognize that your "best friend" can't keep a secret, and is a troublemaker on top of it. Do not confide in her again.

And second, don't give up hope. Your rival is moving away, and the field will soon be open for you again.

DEAR ABBY: My daughter is having her marriage blessed next week. After the blessing, she is to have a dinner party for about 50 people. Most of them were at her wedding, which took place five years ago.

I am unsure about giving gifts. Should we bring a gift, and if so, what kind of gift should it be? Thank you. -- PUZZLED IN RHODE ISLAND

DEAR PUZZLED: Give her a token gift for the happy occasion -- a lovely picture frame, a candy dish or a crystal jam jar.

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

Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600