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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My live-in girlfriend, "Penny," and I are in our mid-30s. We have two young daughters from previous relationships. My problem is Penny's mother, "Marge," who insists on being included in everything we do. We can't make a move without Marge demanding to know what we did, where we went, who we met, etc. She even wants to know what we ate if we go out for a meal!

Penny's mom invites herself on our shopping trips, to the movies and dinners out. If we do something without letting her know, we'll come home to multiple messages on the answering machine from Marge, using the excuse that she "worries" when she doesn't know where we are.

What I don't understand is the fact that this woman has a husband at home. Why she can't leave us alone, I'll never know. It's to the point that I am rethinking my future with her daughter, because I don't want to hang with "Mom" all the time. Please advise. -- THREE'S A CROWD IN SOUTHERN IDAHO

DEAR THREE'S A CROWD: It appears that Marge's life has become so centered on Penny that she has no other social outlets. It is interesting to me that she and Penny's father do not seem to have a social life of their own, and makes me wonder what she could be running from.

Penny and her mother could benefit from counseling together. While a close mother/daughter bond is important, you have described one in which the mother has become obsessive. Both of them need to understand that this behavior could cost Penny her relationship with you.

Please don't end the relationship yet. Your lady needs to learn how to set boundaries, and she needs your support now more than ever.

DEAR ABBY: My daughter's preschool teacher sent the following letter home last week. If you think it would benefit your readers, would you please consider printing it? -- A PARENT IN TEXAS

DEAR PARENT: The message in that letter is powerful. I hope other parents will heed it. Read on:

"Dear Parents: Today I attended the funeral of my 3-week-old niece. She died of suffocation in bed with her mother, her father and her 2-year-old sister.

"I don't need to tell you the shock and sorrow this tragedy has caused. As parents, we can only imagine such a nightmare. It will take a lifetime of healing and God's grace to get past this.

"Although my niece's death was tragic, she didn't die in vain if, through her death, other lives can be saved.

"I know it's popular and natural to gather your children into bed with you -- whether for their safety and security, for bonding, or just to get a good night's sleep. We've all been there.

"So, it isn't out of judgment or criticism that I write this note but only out of caution -- a warning. Be careful. It CAN happen. It happened to my family. Please, don't let it happen to yours."

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 $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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