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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: When we learned our baby was going to be a boy, my wife and I settled on a name we both loved.

My mother-in-law has been gravely ill with Alzheimer's disease for several years, but she is now terminal. So my wife is facing the loss of her mother at almost the same time as the birth of our son. My wife asked what I thought about changing our son's name so the first letter of his name will be the same as her mother's. She told me it is customary to use the first letter from the name of a deceased relative when choosing a name for a child.

Common sense tells me I have no choice in this matter, but I don't want to change the name we have already chosen. Part of the bonding between me and my son has been talking to him in the womb. I fear the bond may be damaged if I have to name him something else.

What should I do? -- DISAPPOINTED FIRST-TIME DAD

DEAR DAD: Satisfy both your needs by giving your son a first name that begins with the first letter of your mother-in-law's name, but call him by his second name -- the one you and your wife chose in the first place. It happens all the time.

DEAR ABBY: I had to write when I read the letter from "Been Down That Road, St. George, Utah." She said that for years she and her children had laughed about the fact that being a step-grandchild brings with it the consequences of receiving fewer gifts and less recognition.

Exactly the opposite is true in my family. My mother-in-law, Cherylene, has gone to great lengths to include my daughters from my first marriage in everything. When my husband and I had two sons together, nothing changed.

I recall the time while shopping when Cherylene impulsively picked up a gift for the boys. She then spent time looking for something for the girls. When I told her it wasn't mandatory -- that the girls would understand, and that they needed to know life wasn't always fair -- she replied: "You're right. They do need to learn that lesson. But they're not going to learn it from me!"

The attitude in our family toward step-grandchildren has been one of acceptance and love. How sad that anyone thinks it must be any different. -- ELIZABETH IN PHOENIX

DEAR ELIZABETH: I agree. Acceptance and love usually beget more of the same. Children raised in an accepting, inclusive environment feel good about themselves and others. A child cannot pick its parents, and to discriminate on that basis is unfair to the child.

DEAR ABBY: My 16-year-old daughter has invited a young man to escort her to an upcoming formal dance. Who should pay for the tickets? If they go out to eat before or after the dance, who should pay for their meals?

If a young man invited my daughter to a dance, I would expect him to purchase the ticket and pay for her meal. But since the invitation came from my daughter, who foots the bill? -- NEW ORLEANS MOM

DEAR MOM: Since your daughter invited the young man to the dance, she is responsible for buying the tickets and paying for the meal. It would be nice if the young man offered to pay for his ticket, but if he doesn't, your daughter should ante up.

Dear Abby is written by Pauline Phillips and daughter Jeanne Phillips.

What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS, and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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