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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My son was conceived when his father and I were married to other people. He is now 3 and starting to ask questions about his daddy.

I have since divorced, but my child's father has not. His wife and other children are not aware that my son exists. His father pays child support, but has made it clear he wants no relationship whatsoever with our son.

How do I begin to explain to my little one where his father is and why he's not a part of our family?

I also worry about how my son will handle the truth when he's older. I'm afraid he'll have a real issue with the fact that he was conceived during an affair. Please advise me, Abby. -- CANADIAN MOM

DEAR CANADIAN MOM: Honesty is the best policy -- but it should be given in small doses in an age-appropriate manner. Tell your son that his father lives "elsewhere," with his "other family." He can learn more details later.

It would be very helpful if you could get a father substitute involved in your son's life. A trusted male friend or relative could spend time with the boy. If you don't have one, Big Brothers Big Sisters may be able to match your son with a caring male adult who can serve as a mentor and role model. In Canada, call (800) 263-9133 or visit the Web site at (There is no national 800-number in the USA at this time, but readers who are interested in Big Brothers Big Sisters of America can visit for information.)

DEAR ABBY: Six weeks ago, I met "Rod" through an online singles ad. He lives one village over from me. We met after five "chats" and hit it off. He's an easygoing gentleman. We enjoy many of the same interests (hiking and bird-watching, for example) and have a great time together. However, I fibbed and said I am 51, when in fact I'm 62. Rod is 49. I look great for my age and I'm in excellent health.

Rod said our "small" age difference doesn't mean a thing to him. (But I wonder if he'd feel that way if he knew that it's really a 13-year span?)

Too many people know my age for him not to find out eventually. Try as I may to hide the truth, it's bound to come out. He's starting to get serious about me, and I'm afraid if I level with him now, he'll quit liking me -- not only for fibbing, but for being too old for him. I only stretched the truth because I thought my age might be a barrier, and he's so attractive I wanted a chance with him.

Abby, what am I going to do now? Help! -- THE OLDER WOMAN IN ENGLAND

DEAR OLDER WOMAN: Unless Rod dreams of starting a family, your age shouldn't matter much to him. Regardless of the numbers, he's already attracted to you.

One evening, after fixing him a delicious dinner, ask him, "Would you still be attracted to me if I were five years older than you?" (Of course, he will say yes.)

A few weeks later, ask if he would like you if you were, say, 10 years older.

A month after that, ask if he'd still be attracted to you if you were 12 years older.

If he keeps saying "yes," 13 could be your lucky number!

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