DEAR ABBY: My mother-in-law, "Vera," is a difficult person. She declares her opinion on anything and everything, and doesn't care whether it's hurtful, if it's asked for, or even if it's her place to speak up at all.
She also plays favorites with her children and grandchildren. Vera has always felt it is her right to discipline her grandkids, even if their parents are present.
My husband says with a chuckle that she's too old to change, that she's got a good heart and means well. I chalk it up to her being meddling and overbearing.
Vera has treated me with disrespect during most of our marriage, many times in front of our children. In spite of this, I have never said a bad word about her in front of the children and have tried to cover for her when it was obvious she was playing favorites.
All this has not been easy, because my mother-in-law has not had a lot of time for our family. As a result, she doesn't really know our children individually. My husband is blind to how his mother's behavior has affected our kids.
Our oldest son is now a freshman at a university about half an hour from Vera's home. She remarked to me several times before he left that she is looking forward to seeing him on weekends, and that she has many chores for him to do.
When we were packing our son off to school, I mentioned this to him. He looked me straight in the eye and said: "No, Mom. Grandma treats you like dirt. She hasn't had time for me in the last 18 years. Now I don't have time for HER."
My son asked that I not give Vera his phone number. We agreed that, to be fair, I would not give anyone in the family his number, and that he would take a list of family addresses and phone numbers so he could contact relatives himself.
Abby, what do I say to my mother-in-law? I understand where our son is coming from, but I feel he should show some respect to his grandmother. He left last weekend, and Vera will be calling soon to get his number. There are going to be repercussions if I withhold it from her. Please help. -- DESPERATE DAUGHTER-IN-LAW
DEAR DESPERATE: Your mother-in-law is reaping the harvest of what she has sown. Tell her that college is a big adjustment for your son -- it's the truth -- and that he has her number with him. In the meantime, she'll have to find someone else to do her chores.
Don't make your son feel guilty for not loving someone who hasn't loved him. His silence will deliver his message loud and clear.
DEAR ABBY: I am 20 years old. My parents have been married 31 years. My parents and I have a great relationship. Dad and I work in the same office.
I looked in my father's desk for something, and much to my surprise, I discovered two boxes of condoms. I wasn't snooping. In our office, we are always in and out of one another's desks, getting business cards or other office needs.
Abby, I can't see why my father would need condoms, especially at work. The first thing that crossed my mind is that my father may be cheating. Should I confront him? -- PERPLEXED DAUGHTER IN ALBERTA
DEAR PERPLEXED DAUGHTER: If you're smart, you'll M.Y.O.B. and assume someone gave the condoms to your father as a joke. Say nothing to him about them. Possession doesn't necessarily mean he is guilty of anything.
Dear Abby is written by Pauline Phillips and daughter Jeanne Phillips.
Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)
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