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

by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My husband and I are in our mid-70s. Until recently, we had lived in the same house for the past 40 years. We did a lot of the building and maintenance on it ourselves. It is a beautiful home where we raised seven wonderful children.

Now that we're older, we decided to move into a condominium where there is less upkeep. One of our sons had a job change that brought him back into the area, so he was delighted to purchase our house.

Before he and his wife moved in, we installed new carpeting, new wallpaper and paint, and had some of the furniture recovered -- all at our own expense. Instead of appreciating our efforts, our daughter-in-law is now in the process of repainting in a different color and is talking about changing the carpeting and drapes and getting rid of some of the furniture. We are hurt.

Every time we visit, I notice more things she has changed or gotten rid of. I know her tastes don't necessarily match my own, but I am shocked at her disregard for my feelings and the amount of money she is wasting.

Would you please comment? -- DISGRUNTLED GRANDMA

DEAR DISGRUNTLED: I understand that it is difficult for you to see your cherished home changed, but your son and daughter-in-law are now the rightful owners. It is only natural for them to want to make this nest "their own" by implementing their interior decorating ideas. It is a tribute to you that they chose your home to purchase. Let them enjoy it.

DEAR ABBY: I would like to respond to "Young Reader," who would like a new bike but is too young to get a job. Two examples come to mind:

When I was 12 years old, I, too, wanted a bike. I stood out in front of a bowling alley in Point Pleasant, N.J., and I asked every woman who went by with a baby if she needed a baby sitter. I got a full-time job for the summer taking care of a Navy couple's son. It worked out so well they hired me again the following summer. That was more than 50 years ago, and buying that bike meant more to me than the car I could finance when I grew older.

One Memorial Day weekend during the 1980s, I wondered what the youngsters in town would be doing. My two daughters were in their teens, too young for regular jobs. So I formed "Pat Diana's Summer Employment Program for Teens." It matched younger children with senior citizens on a fixed income. Garages and kitchen cupboards could be cleaned, dogs walked -- you name it. I involved every organization in town -- the Kiwanis, women's clubs, etc. Each sent one member to a meeting to learn what we would do. Our library offered their meeting room for our volunteers who met with the children seeking work to find the proper job for them.

American Legion Post 105 (Belleville, N.J.) allowed us to use their premises each weekend to wash cars. The veterans would come in on a Saturday to watch a ball game, give us the keys, and we moved their cars through quickly. It was a time of great fun and of learning responsibility.

If I were sitting at your desk today, I'd tell "Young Reader in Norfolk, Va." to reach out and find those who need help. There must be several organizations in Norfolk that could promote this idea. -- PATRICIA M. DIANA, SOUTH AMBOY, N.J.

DEAR PATRICIA: Thanks for an upper of a letter -- and one that I hope will get parents of eager adolescents everywhere thinking about how they can provide a similar experience for the youngsters in their communities. Having a job is a great confidence-builder at any age.

For Abby's favorite family recipes, send a long, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Cookbooklet No. 1, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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