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by Abigail Van Buren

Mother Protecting Daughter Provokes Ugly Family Fight

DEAR ABBY: My husband, our 6-year-old daughter (I'll call her Marcia), and I recently drove to my sister-in-law's, several states away, for a visit. At dinner, I was introduced for the first time to her new boyfriend, "Joe." The man was sloppily dressed and didn't look very clean.

After dinner, Joe and several of the other male guests who had been drinking during dinner went out to continue drinking. Marcia asked to spend the night at my sister-in-law's, but I was reluctant to let her stay in a home where these men would be returning later, no telling how intoxicated.

I was concerned for Marcia's safety and put up a fight. I got pretty ugly in front of her and my husband. Marcia was crying and my husband was yelling. Nobody cared to listen to my reasons for not wanting her to stay.

Abby, I grew up with an alcoholic father. He used to come home drunk and get very mean with my siblings and me. I didn't want the same thing to happen to my little girl.

Marcia ended up staying there for the night, and Joe did come back drunk. He finally passed out on a couch near my daughter's bedroom. The next day, Marcia said Joe and my sister-in-law were talking loudly for hours after he returned, and she didn't get much sleep.

Now my sister-in-law won't speak to me, and my husband and mother-in-law are upset with me for the way I acted. I believe I acted as any mother would who has had experience with drunks.

How can I fix this? -- A MOM WHO TRIED IN FLORIDA

DEAR MOM: Although your motives were noble, you over-reacted. Had you approached the problem calmly and rationally instead of putting up a fight, you might have gained support for your position.

Write your mother-in-law and sister-in-law notes of apology for the unpleasant scene, and apologize to your husband and daughter. In the future, make sure the sleeping arrangements are clear to Marcia BEFORE you visit this household.