DEAR ABBY: "Angry Arizona Mom" hates to make waves when her in-laws give her sons sips of alcohol. I, too, didn't make waves when my stepfather taught my younger son and nephew to smoke. I wanted the boys to have a good relationship with their grandfather. Today, they both smoke, and although they talk of quitting, they can't because they are so severely hooked.
I also said nothing when my brother and sister were slipping off during family parties to smoke a joint. As a result, I sent my own children the message that smoking joints was OK. My nephew ended up having his stomach pumped to save him from an overdose of drugs, and my son was discharged from military service due to his addiction to drugs.
I have finally wised-up, Abby. I have laid down the law to protect my grandchildren. If I had it to do over again, I would draw the line sooner. Parents must stand up for what is right. Hurting the feelings of in-laws is a small price to pay for protecting one's children. -- SADDER BUT WISER IN FLORIDA
DEAR WISER: I'm pleased you finally found the conviction to speak out for what you know is right. Children cannot be expected to know what they haven't been taught. That's why adults are supposed to make mature decisions even if they're not always popular. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: I must respond to "Angry Mom in Arizona," whose father-in-law allows his young grandchildren to take "sips" of his beer.
I am a 37-year-old male writing from the Hillsborough County Jail in Tampa, Fla. I am here because of a fourth DUI (driving under the influence) arrest -- the result of 20 years of alcohol abuse.
Abby, I was brought up to sip from my dad's and uncles' beers. I vividly remember the first time I got drunk. I was 5. I honestly believe it triggered something in my body. I loved the taste.
Forget the legal issues and the morality of giving liquor to small children. Consider instead the very real danger of alcohol poisoning and a life of possible addiction!
That grandfather is doing something detrimental to the welfare of those innocent children. The parents should forget about "hurting his feelings" and put a stop to it.
I am finishing a court-ordered relapse program here in jail. I look forward to a clean and sober extended life when I am released. I have seen the hell of alcohol abuse and it's not pretty.
Please print this so others won't have to experience what I have been through. -- LOOKING FORWARD TO FREEDOM DEAR LOOKING FORWARD: If your testimonial doesn't get the attention of parents, nothing will. I have been told that children in families of alcoholics can have a genetic predisposition to the disease themselves, and that many alcoholics report having that same feeling of "completion" that you described upon tasting their first drink -- another reason why it's unwise to allow small children to develop a taste for alcohol.
To order "How to Write Letters for All Occasions," send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Letter Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)
4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600