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by Abigail Van Buren

In-Laws' Public Reserve Is Wife's Private Frustration

DEAR ABBY: This concerns all those letters in response to "Hurt Mother-in-Law," whose daughter-in-law couldn't call her "Mom."

In my case, I wanted with all my heart to call my mother-in-law "Mom." She didn't ask me to, so I came right out and asked my in-laws if I could call them "Mom" and "Dad."

They said it was OK with them, but every time I did, they looked uncomfortable, so I quit calling them Mom and Dad and started calling them by their first names. Well, I could see they weren't pleased with that either, so I just gave up and avoided calling them anything.

They are very undemonstrative and never hug or kiss each other in public. They kiss above their grandchildren's heads when they greet them. This is foreign to me because I grew up in a very affectionate family. However, my husband didn't, although he shows me lots of affection in private.

Abby, is there a solution to this problem? Or must I learn to live with it? -- FRUSTRATED DAUGHTER-IN-LAW

DEAR FRUSTRATED: Don't try to "teach" your in-laws to be more demonstrative or affectionate; just be grateful that your husband shows you "lots of affection" in private.

Continue to be affectionate to your children. However, never order them to kiss Grandma, Grandpa or anyone else. Insincere kisses give children the wrong message.

The way to teach children to be affectionate is to show them affection.

DEAR ABBY: My mother is 59. My father was 74 when he died last year. They had been married for 40 years. When they met, my mother was 19, and Father was a 34-year-old widower with a 4-year-old son I'll call Max.

When Dad died, Mom went to a grief counselor who told her to "go for it." Nine months later, Mom moved Max into her bedroom! Max is my half-brother, but technically he is not a blood relative to my mother.

I thought it showed terrible judgment on her part when she had him move in with her, and most of my relatives agreed. After all, Max had been my mother's stepson for 40 years.

Abby, is our society so morally bankrupt that this is considered OK? Max is 44 and has been married five times. -- MORTIFIED

DEAR MORTIFIED: Let me put it this way: In at least 15 states, marriage between "step" relatives is prohibited by law. And in the other 35, I'm willing to bet that the behavior exhibited by your mother would raise eyebrows. However, both are adults, and neither one has solicited my advice.

DEAR ABBY: I've been following the letters from job-holding and at-home mothers, each of whom is critical or envious of the other.

Isn't it time to declare that parenting is just plain difficult? If there were a way to raise kids to ensure that they'll turn out to be happy, well-adjusted adults, we would have noticed by now.

Let's stop wasting time and join our efforts to make a better place to raise children. Give parents more help and respect, make our schools great and our streets safe. Let's applaud mothers who go out and work to support our economy, as well as those who stay at home and keep the neighborhood alive.

We're all in this together. -- DIANE E. BAKER, BERKELEY, CALIF.

DEAR DIANE: Thank you for a levelheaded letter. You said a mouthful.

Abby shares more of her favorite, easy-to-prepare recipes. To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, More Favorite Recipes, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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