Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

Stepfather's 'Play' Is Abuse, Pure and Simple

DEAR ABBY: I am desperately worried about my brother's two children. Their mother remarried a man who abuses them.

This guy has torn the children's earlobes by yanking on them; threatened to kill their pets; says he'll beat the kids if they tell their dad, as they have in the past. Last time it happened, their dad confronted his ex-wife and this man, but they denied everything and told the kids after he left that they'd get "beaten senseless" if they ever told again.

My brother's ex-wife is not being abused by this man. The children tell me she laughs when he hurts them. She calls it "playing" -- or claims it's the kind of treatment the kids deserve.

These little children are in first and second grade, Abby. What can we do? Please send us some information. Do not use my name or city. -- VERY SAD AUNT

DEAR SAD AUNT: If ever I read a letter where intervention is needed -- yours it is. Call Childhelp USA immediately. The toll-free phone number is 1-800-422-4453. The people there will refer you to child protective services in the state where the children reside.

DEAR ABBY: I have been married to my wonderful husband, "Jerome," for more than 20 years. He is a good provider and we own our own home.

The problem is the TV. Jerome eats in front of it, does paperwork in front of it and reads in front of it. I really don't believe he could exist without it. One day the TV was on 16 hours straight. I know he isn't out chasing other women, gambling or drinking in bars because he's home watching television. The noise box is on even when nobody is in the room.

Abby, I'm tired of him turning it on as soon as he wakes up and turning it off when it's time for bed. I'd like some quiet time and his full attention. Kindly give me your opinion. This isn't a new thing -- it started on our honeymoon. -- SEEKING PEACE AND QUIET IN NEW JERSEY

DEAR SEEKING: Tell Jerome the honeymoon is over. It's time to cut the cable and put a stop to this "menage a trois." You need a TV-free zone -- at least one night a week -- with adult conversation and no distractions. It may be an adjustment for him, but it's not too much to ask.

DEAR ABBY: The letter from "Happy Mom in North Caroliona," about her 6-year-old son's reaction to the "facts of life," brought back the memory of my first mother/daughter talk with the second of my four children.

My 7-year-old daughter called me aside one day after school and informed me that she now knew how babies were made. She graphically described what she had heard from her friend, and it was technically correct. I was at a loss for words, so I shrugged and told her, "Yes, that's how babies are conceived."

She gasped, clutched her chest, and said in a disgusted voice, "And you and Daddy did it FOUR times?!"

Abby, I didn't know what to say, but I heard myself tell her, "Well, honey, if you want a baby badly enough, you'll do ANYTHING!"

My little girl thought for a moment, then jumped up from her chair with, "Oh, OK!" and ran outside to play jump-rope with her playmates. End of conversation! -- LOIS HAMILTON

DEAR LOIS: Since she caught you flat-footed, I think you handled the situation very deftly.

Abby shares more than 100 of her favorite recipes in two booklets: "Abby's Favorite Recipes" and "More Favorite Recipes by Dear Abby." Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $10 (U.S. funds)

to: Dear Abby -- Cookbooklet Set, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in price.)

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