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by Abigail Van Buren

Family's New Tradition Encourages Sibling Love

DEAR ABBY: Last year, our family started a tradition I hope lasts for generations to come.

Each June on the Sunday before Father's Day, we plan to celebrate "Siblings' Day." We picked this day because it's between Mother's Day and Father's Day, and the kids are out of school.

Our children made cards for each of their brothers and sisters, telling each other what they liked about them and how special they are. Then I took them one at a time to the toy store to buy each sibling a present with their allowance. I was sure they would not want to spend their own money on each other, but I was wrong. Not only did they want to, but they put a great deal of thought and effort into picking out toys they thought each child would want. When we got home, the kids excitedly wrapped their gifts.

On Sunday morning, the cards and presents were exchanged. I made a special lunch and baked a cake for the occasion. The good feelings among our children lasted for days and were a delight for all of us.

Abby, I hope your readers agree that this special tradition could benefit families everywhere. -- A.H.C. IN ATLANTA

DEAR A.H.C.: What a lovely idea. We hear so much about how destructive sibling rivalry can be. Your positive approach to building a stronger bond among your children will benefit everybody later on.

DEAR ABBY: I read with amusement the letter from "Looking for Help in Pennsylvania," who wanted family photos that included her husband's ex-wife taken down from her mother-in-law's living room wall. Here's how I handled a similar problem.

My husband and I have two married sons. In 1985, the six of us attended a family wedding, and while we were all dressed up, I asked the photographer to take a family picture. Thinking this would be a nice tradition, we had another group portrait taken the next year.

I started a "family wall" in our den with the two portraits, but when it was time for the next one, our younger son and his wife had gone through a nasty divorce -- so, of course, "she" was no longer in the picture.

One day, while looking at the first two family photos that included our ex-daughter-in-law, I decided they were too good to hide or throw away, so I pulled out some acrylic paints and painted over her using a floral pattern. In the first picture, I call the flower "Venus Man Trap." In the second, "Blooming Idiot."

Since that time, our older son and his wife have blessed us with two precious grandchildren, and our younger son has married a wonderful girl we all love. We continue our tradition of taking an annual family photo. It's a wonderful way to see how we've all grown through the years. Thanks to my artwork, the older pictures aren't offensive to our new daughter-in-law. -- AMATEUR ARTIST IN ROME, GA.

DEAR ARTIST: You are not only artistic, but witty as well. Your creativity came in handy when the bloom was off the rose.

To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Keepers Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)

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