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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I am a single mother with two delightful children under 10. My ex and I have been divorced for seven years. It is his choice to have no contact with his children.

Three months ago, I met "Nate." Since then, we have spent a lot of time together. He has restored my faith and trust in men. Sine Nate and I are still getting to know each other, I feel it is too soon to introduce my children to him. I really think Nate could be "the one," but if our relationship doesn't work out, I don't want my children to be hurt by losing another male role model.

The problem is my mother. She takes care of my children and strongly believes that now is the time for the kids to meet Nate. I disagree, and my mother now refuses to take care of my children.

Am I prudent to wait to introduce Nate to my children until I am more confident about where our relationship is going, or is my mother right? -- TRYING TO BE A GOOD MOM

DEAR TRYING: For your mother to try to blackmail you into doing what she wants by refusing to watch the children is both controlling and wrong. Your children need continuity in their lives right now -- not the turbulence that could result if your love life became a revolving door.

Stand firm, and arrange for alternative child care until you know more about where your relationship with Nate is going.

P.S. Although your mother's tactics are heavy-handed, it's nice to know she approves of Nate.

DEAR ABBY: I am a 24-year-old woman deeply in love with a 32-year-old man I'll call Ben. The problem is this: I don't feel appreciated.

Ben is quick to tell me how afraid he is of losing me, but he has no problem canceling our plans at the whim of a friend. He works out of town, so he's gone five days a week, during which I basically go to work and come home.

When Ben is home on weekends, it seems as though everything and everyone is more important than spending time with me. In fact, right now he's out with one of his pals while I'm home alone.

I've brought this to Ben's attention countless times; nothing changes. I know I'm a good person and a good girlfriend. Please shed some light on my situation. Thanks. -- LOST IN CANADA

DEAR LOST: Face it, something is missing in this relationship -- him. If Ben were as in love with you as you are with him, he would want to spend more time with you when he's home on weekends. Regardless of what he says, his actions are sending a message, and you'd be wise to take heed. You deserve more than he is giving. Move on.

DEAR ABBY: I am a junior high school teacher. Throughout the year, I receive many gifts from my students. These gifts sometimes include cards from the parents expressing gratitude for the work I have done with their child.

Is it appropriate to write a thank-you note? Sometimes the gift is a combination Christmas present and thank-you gift, so the correct response is confusing. -- TEACHER IN MONTANA

DEAR TEACHER: Confusing? Regardless of who gives a gift -- or for what reason -- the giver should receive a written thank-you from you, acknowledging his or her thoughtfulness. You will be setting a wonderful example for your students to follow.

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 $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby -- Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)

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