DEAR ABBY: I'm responding to "Jeff in South Carolina," whose mother-in-law makes negative comments about her daughter's ex-husband. Jeff is concerned that his mother-in-law's attitude will confuse his wife's little girl. I think Jeff is right -- and I speak from experience.
My parents divorced when I was 7. I was crushed. What made it worse was my mother constantly bad-mouthing my father. He wasn't perfect by any means, but he is a good man and he loves me. Whenever I was with my mother, she made me feel guilty for loving him. It was as if I were doing something wrong and should feel ashamed. (My father never spoke ill of my mother, and now that I am an adult, I respect him for it.)
Abby, a person who berates a child's mother or father causes the child emotional pain. Perhaps if Jeff's mother-in-law sees this letter, she'll rethink her behavior and put the emotional well-being of her granddaughter ahead of her personal feelings. -- T.M. IN N.J.
DEAR T.M.: I certainly hope so. And because this is a common problem, I hope it will cause other parents and in-laws to also rethink their behavior. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: My brother and I were 15 and 17 when my parents divorced. Our parents felt we were adults, so we did not receive support or attention from either one. I would hear bad things about my father from my mother's family. They did not want me to love him.
The ex-son-in-law may not have been a gem of a husband, but he rates an "A" as a responsible, caring parent. At one time, I was a probation officer dealing with child support cases, and I can tell you from professional experience, he is rare.
Out of more than 10,000 cases per year in my district, only a small percentage of noncustodial parents take their responsibility seriously. Many couples use their children as weapons to get back at each other.
That mother-in-law needs her head examined. Jeff is a good stepfather. The child deserves the love, care and support of both of her parents whether they live in the same house or not.
It would be a shame for any child to grow up hating his or her father -- and not understanding why. Perhaps Jeff's mother-in-law should be banned from seeing her granddaughter until she understands the situation does not revolve around her. -- LOVING THEM BOTH ON THE EAST COAST
DEAR LOVING: That's strong medicine, but it might be effective.