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by Abigail Van Buren

Niece's Behavior at Wake Presents a Sticky Situation

DEAR ABBY: My mother passed away recently. My sister, who lives in another state, flew in with her 4-year-old daughter, "Nikki," to attend Mom's wake.

When the wake ended, Nikki began to place stickers on Mom's hands and one on her face. The stickers had been given to her by another guest before the service started. When my 18-year-old daughter saw what her cousin had done, she removed them, and Nikki threw a tantrum and refused to leave the casket. My sister spoke quietly to her, trying to get the child to leave, then allowed her to put at least two more stickers on my mother's hand. Finally, I gently picked Nikki up and took her away from the casket. My father is a mild-mannered man and, although he frowned in disapproval, he said nothing.

This has caused a huge rift between my sister and me. I feel a 4-year-old is too young to attend a wake. Nikki should not have been allowed to put stickers on my mother. My sister says I "undermined" her parenting and had no right to intervene. What are your thoughts? -- SADDENED IN NEW JERSEY

DEAR SADDENED: If one defines parenting as teaching a child appropriate behavior, your sister wasn't parenting at all. Although the child was well-intentioned, unless the stickers said "Return to Sender," they had no place at the funeral. My condolences to your family.

DEAR ABBY: I'm a 32-year-old single female. I have a child and am currently in a relationship with "Ty," who has two children of his own from a divorce.

This is a very difficult situation for me. I love Ty, but there's so much drama relating to his ex-wife and dealing with the post-divorce behavior problems of his kids, I sometimes don't know how much more I can handle. The ex constantly throws herself in my face, trying to be friends. And the shuffling of his kids from our house to hers creates issues.

I need advice on what to do. I'm unhappy, and it is getting worse. How can I improve the situation before I just give up? -- OVERWHELMED IN IOWA

DEAR OVERWHELMED: Before giving up, let me remind you that as a 32-year-old single mother, you will be encountering more and more men with "baggage" -- so you might as well learn to cope with it now. If you're going to have a future with Ty, it is in YOUR best interest to become a "friend" of his ex-wife. Should you marry him, a cordial and cooperative relationship will be better for everyone.

Look at it this way: Because Ty's children are acting out -- which is to be expected -- the most effective way to deal with it is to form a united front.

DEAR ABBY: I recently started dating a wonderful man, but there's one problem: On several of our dates he was dressed like he was staying home to watch TV -- wearing dirty pajama-type shorts, ripped T-shirts, stuff I'd barely wear even if I were home sick.

I have gently tried to suggest he wear something else, but he has no concerns about his appearance. Any ideas? -- BAFFLED IN BALTIMORE

DEAR BAFFLED: The wonderful man you are seeing is either eccentric or a slob. If you have "gently" tried to suggest that he make himself look more presentable when you go out and have gotten nowhere, you have two choices: Accept him just as he is, or look further for male companionship.

Abby shares more than 100 of her favorite recipes in two booklets: "Abby's Favorite Recipes" and "More Favorite Recipes by Dear Abby." Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $12 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Cookbooklet Set, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in price.)