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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Years ago, when I first became a daughter-in-law, it was a good lesson in how NOT to be a mother-in-law. So when our son became engaged, I told his chosen one I considered her "in-law" status only a legality, that I felt I was gaining a daughter, and that wives should always come before mothers.

My husband and I offered advice only when asked and kept still when we saw them do something we thought was a mistake.

When our son had to travel out of town for additional job training, Dad and I moved into their home at their request. We had a great time with our grandchildren and made it possible for our son and his wife to have uninterrupted time for each other.

I am now a widow in my 90s and live in a lovely apartment my son and his wife built onto their home. They visit and help me whenever I need them.

When we drive places, I have always insisted on sitting in the back seat because I find it easier to get in and out of the car. (The kids often have things to discuss and I don't need to know everything.) Believe me, the back seat "ain't" all that bad!

My daughters live in Virginia and California and come to stay whenever my son and his wife want to get away. All of them keep me busy with my computer, getting my own meals, knitting and library books. My girls call daily -– California in the mornings and Virginia to say good-night. The kids here in town are in and out several times a day. When I tell each one how blessed I feel, my son always says, "Mother, you reap what you sow." -- GRATEFUL MOM/IN-LAW

DEAR GRATEFUL MOM/IN-LAW: In most relationships, your son is right. Love and respect are a two-way street. I receive so many letters about bad relationships that it's a pleasure to print one that details such an exemplary one.

And while we're on the subject, I'll reprint a favorite item that has appeared in my column before:


by Iola M. Irwin

-- Thou shalt love, honor and respect the new couple.

-- Thou shalt allow them complete independence.

-- Thou shalt speak only kindly and loyally about them.

-- Thou shalt not find fault.

-- Thou shalt not visit them too frequently, and never enter their home without knocking.

-- Thou shalt not expect them to visit you too often.

-- Thou shalt not give advice unless requested.

-- Thou shalt not mention how much you look forward to grandchildren.

-- Thou shalt respect their taste in home decorating, though it differs from your own.

-- Thou shalt petition daily the Heavenly Father, in whose love they abide, for their happiness.

To order "How to Write Letters for All Occasions," send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Letter Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)

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