DEAR ABBY: Three years ago, I married "Earl," a man with two children. We had both been single parents for years. Earl divorced in 1982. I divorced in 1987. I have four children. Only one is still living at home, and he's in college.
Abby, every Christmas since his divorce, Earl has given his children money to buy their mother a present. I assumed he had discontinued this after we married. However, this year I discovered that Earl gave them a blank check to buy something for their mother. (Her gift wound up costing $215.)
Earl insists he's teaching them an important lesson about Christmas and giving. Abby, his children don't have to pay for college, gas, clothing, food or car insurance. They each drive a sport utility vehicle.
I don't understand the lesson he's trying to teach them, and he seems unable to explain it to me. Can you? -- HURT IN KANSAS
DEAR HURT: Old traditions die hard. Your husband has probably always "slipped" his children money to buy their mother a Christmas present. He apparently can afford it. Perhaps on some level he feels guilty about the breakup of the marriage -- or he simply may want to stay in her good graces. If he's taking good care of you, don't make an issue of it.
DEAR ABBY: My husband and I recently left our 2-year-old daughter with my mother-in-law while we went shopping. When we returned, we reclaimed our daughter and went home.
After we arrived, I noticed my mother-in-law had cut my daughter's bangs. I have been growing her bangs since she had hair, and I intended for her hair to be all one length without bangs. (I kept her hair pulled back deliberately while it was growing out.)
Abby, I am furious. I feel that as her mother I have a right to choose my daughter's hairstyle without outside interference. My husband agrees with me, but he is unwilling to speak to his mother. He says that I can "chew her out" at my peril. How should I handle this? -- EXASPERATED IN INDIANA
DEAR EXASPERATED: The nicest thing about hair is that it grows constantly. The damage isn't permanent. I agree that your mother-in-law should not have cut your daughter's bangs without your permission, but it's not worth a scene.
To prevent it from happening again, tell your mother-in-law that you're trying to grow your daughter's hair to one length, so please refrain from trimming it.
DEAR ABBY: I want to thank you for a wonderful gift you gave me. Let me explain:
When I was a small child, my father would insist that my twin sister and I read aloud to him. He'd sit us on his lap at the dining room table, and we'd each take turns reading your column aloud to him. That special time with my father was a very precious gift.
Abby, Dad is now terminally ill and doesn't have the promise of tomorrow. Your columns presented us with a golden opportunity to spend time with our father, and for that I thank you. Sign me ... BLESSED AND LOVES TO READ, LAKELAND, FLA.
DEAR BLESSED: I am touched by the use to which your father put my column, and impressed that at this difficult time you are dwelling on the happiness you shared with him. Thank you for the compliment.
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