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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I have a problem with my father-in-law. When my husband, our two young sons and I visit his parents out of state several times a year, my father-in-law gives my sons beer.

My husband has talked to his father several times and told him that alcohol is an adult drink, and the boys may not drink it with our approval until they are 21. My in-laws are both big drinkers, and when we mention it they act offended.

Last weekend, my father-in-law gave our 19-month-old several sips of beer. I kept quiet because my husband's 90-year-old grandfather was visiting, and I didn't want him to feel uncomfortable. (I didn't think my father-in-law would listen to me anyway.)

I've told my husband that it is disrespectful for his dad to continue giving our kids something when we've asked them not to. My husband's response is, "I've asked him to stop, but I don't want to say anything else about it because I don't want to 'make any waves.'" He is always making excuses for his dad, even when he called our firstborn an "ugly monkey."

My husband got upset when I told him that the kids and I would not attend any more family gatherings for a while.

Am I being irrational? Should I continue to let my father-in-law give my children alcohol even though it is against my beliefs? Help! -- ANGRY ARIZONA MOM

DEAR MOM: Providing alcohol to minors is against the law. Under no circumstances should you permit your father-in-law to give your children sips of alcoholic beverages. Alcohol is an acquired taste, and this could create a dependency that could lead to disastrous results in later years.

It is your and your husband's responsibility as parents to protect your children from harm, and alcohol is harmful to children. If you permit them to be given such drinks for fear of making waves or making others uncomfortable should you protest, your priorities are misplaced. Should it mean keeping your children from visiting their grandparents in order to protect them, then so be it.

DEAR ABBY: I have two ideas for "Steamed in Minnesota," who has uninvited "moochers" show up on weekend afternoons, loaf around until dinnertime and expect to get a free meal.

One: Don't serve dinner, crackers or refreshments of any kind. Just sit around, be polite, wait it out, and don't act hungry. (Think of it as playing "chicken" over chicken!)

Two: A couple of hours before these moochers expect to be given a free meal, announce that earlier in the day you made dinner reservations at the "Fantastico Room" at the "Ritzy Hotel" -- and if they call now, you are sure they can get a table near yours. -- PREVENT MOOCHERS IN THE MIDWEST

DEAR PREVENT: Your solutions are creative, but some of these loafers are pros at the game. So, one: Be prepared to starve; and two: If they call your bluff, be sure to ask the servers at the "Ritzy Hotel" for separate checks!

NOT CONFIDENTIAL TO MORT PHILLIPS: Happy anniversary. Every night is New Year's Eve and every day is Thanksgiving since you married me. Thank you for making me the luckiest woman alive.

For an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more attractive person, order "How to Be Popular." Send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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