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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: The letter from "No Name, No Address, No Phone," about the way a stepmother treated her husband's children, brought tears to my eyes. It was a real eye-opener.

My fiance and I have chosen to blend our families. I have an 8-year-old daughter and a 12-year-old son. My fiance has a 5-year-old son, "Benny," whom we are trying to get custody of. The battle has been ugly and is not over yet.

The stress of being jostled back and forth between his mother and father has made Benny oppositional, defiant and difficult to live with. He got so bad that I refused to deal with him any longer. I regarded him as an ungrateful, rotten child. My fiance was always disciplining him to appease me. He also cut back on visitations with Benny to keep peace in the household. I felt guilty about this, but was so stressed out, I didn't oppose it.

Then I read your column. It made me realize I was so focused on Benny's bad behavior, just waiting to "catch" him doing something wrong, that I had failed to recognize all the good things he was doing -- and that really, all he wanted was for someone to love him unconditionally, and not expect him to be "perfect." This is every child's right, after all. I also realized we were more strict with Benny than my own children. My kids don't upset me because they're older, but they're certainly not perfect. All three children should be treated equally.

Yesterday, Benny helped me clean the living room without being asked. I scooped him up in my arms and told him how much I appreciated it and what a good helper he was. His face lit up and he hugged me back. From now on, I will not see him as his mother's son. I will see Benny as the individual he is and focus on the positive.

Thank you for waking me up, Abby. Our blended family will be a lot happier because of your column. If you print this, please sign me ... AWAKENED

DEAR AWAKENED: You are to be applauded for your awakening. All I did was write the column. You were the one perceptive enough to read between the lines, apply it to your own situation and begin to make the necessary changes. I congratulate you.

DEAR ABBY: One of the letters you printed suggested that when people visit their doctor, they take a list of all their medications. I work in a medical office and would like to offer a better idea:

Bring all your medicine containers with you. That way, the medical staff can take all the information directly from the bottle labels, and there will be no misunderstandings. (It's easy to forget important information, such as dosage and strength.)

It's also a smart idea to use only one pharmacy to have prescriptions filled, particularly for people seeing more than one doctor. Pharmacists are trained to spot possible drug interactions, but they can't pinpoint potential problems if they don't have all the information.

If people would use their pharmacist in partnership with their physicians and other health-care providers, they'd be better off. That's my advice for the day, Abby. -- SOUTH CAROLINA MEDICAL WORKER

DEAR MEDICAL WORKER: That's excellent advice. Readers, take heed.

P.S. Doctors should also be informed about any vitamin supplements and over-the-counter medicines you are taking.

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

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