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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My boyfriend, "Claude," and I are deeply in love. He's devoted to me and my son. He brings me candy and flowers and takes me out. He includes my son in everything we do.

My problem is, he recently mentioned that he is on the national sex offenders list. He says he didn't do it and that he was framed. It happened years ago -- if it happened at all -- and he doesn't like to talk about it.

Abby, I need your advice. Should I believe him or run the other way? It scares me to think that I am putting my son in danger, but then again, I don't believe Claude did what they say he did. Please help me. -- MOM IN THE SOUTH

DEAR MOM: The first thing you should do is check the national sex offenders database. Find out if Claude should, by virtue of the fact that he is a convicted sex offender, even be around children. Learn the facts of what happened from the authorities in that community. And then, think with your head instead of your heart and put your son's welfare above everything.

DEAR ABBY: You frequently say children are not responsible for their parents' divorce.

My grandmother said my parents married because my mother was pregnant with my sister. They divorced because I was born. What do we say to our parents, knowing they divorced because Mom didn't want us? (I have met her only twice, and she's not around to defend herself.) I am 25 and have had self-esteem problems my entire life. -- STILL FEELING SAD, MESA, ARIZ.

DEAR STILL FEELING SAD: I'm sorry you have had so little contact with your mother. Had it been otherwise, you might have discovered that your parents' divorce had nothing to do with you as a person and everything to do with her and your father's level of maturity at the time and the quality of their marriage.

I strongly suspect that other factors in your mother's life made her unable, rather than unwilling, to nurture. If it's possible for you to contact her, you should do so. And if not, discuss this with a therapist who will help you put any questions about your self-worth to rest once and for all.

DEAR ABBY: My son is married to a beautiful Japanese woman who is well-educated and speaks both Japanese and English fluently. They have a daughter, "Mari," who is 2 1/2 and just starting to talk. My concern is whether my granddaughter should be taught English or Japanese first.

Mari already speaks and understands a little of each language, but I'm worried that she may grow up confused while trying to communicate with others. I feel she should learn English first. Then, as Mari grows older, her mother can teach her the Japanese language.

Am I being concerned about something I shouldn't be? By the way, there is no family conflict here. I'm just concerned that my granddaughter will grow up confused. -- HAPPY PAPA IN CALIFORNIA

DEAR HAPPY PAPA: Worry no more. Children absorb languages like sponges absorb water. Mari is a lucky little girl to be learning Japanese and English so young. If she's able to practice both, they will become interchangeable for her. So stop worrying, and if you're receptive, your granddaughter may teach you a few phrases.

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