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by Abigail Van Buren

Mother-Daughter Relationship Is Toppled by Mountain of Debt

DEAR ABBY: You often hear from people who feel trapped into "competitive grandparenting," feeling they must match the in-laws gift for gift. The same sort of competition can develop between parents and stepparents. The kids encourage it because of all the goodies they get.

I recently heard my mother deal with the issue in a wonderful way. My sister's 5-year-old was visiting my mother and asked, "Are you going to take me to the toy store? Grandma Johnson always does."

I was horrified because my parents are nowhere near as well off as the "Johnsons." But Mother didn't get defensive. She just said, "Different grandmas are good at different things. Grandma Johnson is your shopping grandma; I am your cooking grandma." And they went into the kitchen and made brownies!

Isn't that beautiful? I don't have any grandkids yet, but I have already decided to be their "reading grandma." -- AUNTIE M IN SAN DIEGO

DEAR AUNTIE M: I admire your mother's sense of values. Every child should be so lucky as to have a "cooking grandma."