DEAR ABBY: How old does a child have to be before she is able to choose a relative to live with? I'm the one my granddaughter wants to stay with. Her home life is in turmoil because of her parents' nasty divorce.
Ever since her mother (my daughter) found out my granddaughter wants to live with me, she has forbidden her to talk to me, and me to contact her. Her mother is depressed and angry, but won't seek counseling. She doesn't talk to me unless it's to say ugly things.
My granddaughter said her mother never smiles anymore. We are very close and this hurts my heart. She's a good girl and should be able to be happy.
We live several hours away, and are more than willing to have her. She already has a room here, and our home is never happier than when she's visiting.
We haven't spoken to her in months, and we really miss her. Her younger sibling gets most of the positive attention, while she receives mostly negative attention. I have seen this happen many times. She tries so hard to please her mom. I don't know what to do to help her. -- HEARTBROKEN IN OKLAHOMA
DEAR HEARTBROKEN: It would have been helpful if you had mentioned why your daughter is angry with you and is preventing your grandchild from contacting you and vice versa. If she's in such bad shape that it is negatively affecting your granddaughter, your questions should be addressed to a lawyer.
If your granddaughter is in her teens, she might be considered mature enough to ask to live with a relative other than her mother. If not, and her mother's hostility is affecting her schoolwork, a trusted teacher or counselor at school might be able to see she gets the emotional support she needs.
DEAR ABBY: My husband is very outgoing. He loves chatting on the phone for hours, and talks with all the neighbors up and down the street. He's retired, so it's fine -- up to a point.
We have a set time for dinner, which is 6:30, and he knows it. Invariably he'll be on the phone or up the street when it's close to dinner. I always remind him 10 to 15 minutes ahead, which gives him time to be here to eat, but he'll keep chatting until he's anywhere from 15 minutes to half an hour late to dinner.
I put time and effort into preparing my meals. I grow my own vegetables and think of creative things to fix. He always comments how great the meals are, so it's not that he doesn't like my food. If it's not eaten promptly, it's overcooked/mushy/wilted, etc., so I go ahead and eat if he's not here. I'd like him to be with me when I sit down at the table.
I feel it's incredibly rude for him to be late. When I tell him that, he laughs like it's a big joke. Short of treating him like a 2-year-old and throwing his food away if he doesn't show up on time, I'm not sure what to do. Can you help? -- FED UP IN NAPA, CALIF.
DEAR FED UP: I can't force your husband to the dinner table and neither can you. To toss his dinner into the garbage would be too overtly hostile and a waste of food. Try this: Tell him dinner time is 6:30, but prepare the food as if it's for 6:45 or 7.
DEAR ABBY: I have been married to my husband for 16 years. His brother died suddenly, and he was devastated. We dropped everything and drove 1,000 miles to attend the funeral. When we arrived and went to be seated, he asked me to sit four rows back because the front row was "immediate family only." I felt I was immediate family, but didn't want to cause a scene, so I did as he asked. When I sat down, I received odd looks and sad looks. I'm not angry, but my feelings are hurt. Am I wrong? -- LEFT OUT IN THE EAST
DEAR LEFT OUT: If the spouses of your husband's other siblings -- and children, if there are any -- were also asked to sit elsewhere, then you should not feel hurt. However, if you were the only one told to sit in "Siberia," your feelings are justified.
DEAR ABBY: I recently utilized a national ancestry company to determine my heritage. I also provided kits to my adult children thinking it would be a fun exercise we all could share. Unfortunately, my good deed came with unexpected consequences.
According to the results, my youngest son isn't related to me. Apparently, unbeknownst to me, my ex-wife had an affair 25 years ago.
What do I do now? Should I confront my ex to verify the affair and learn the identity of my son's father? How do we tell my son? Should we? How do we handle our families? Keep it a secret? I would appreciate your guidance. -- UNKNOWN FAMILY TREE
DEAR UNKNOWN: Before making accusations or announcements, it is important that you determine the accuracy of the test to make absolutely sure the results are conclusive. If a second test verifies the first, your son should be informed because he has a right to know his familial medical history -- and HE should talk to his mother about who his biological father is.
DEAR ABBY: My husband and I have lived like nomads for the last few years. We have bought, sold and moved many times for all sorts of silly reasons. Our 5-year-old daughter finally started school, yet we don't feel at home here. We now realize buying and selling may not be for us, so we are renting, but we still aren't happy.
We moved here to be close to my oldest and dearest friend, whose kids are now grown, and to my sister, who hardly talks to us or sees us. My husband's sister and her husband's family love us and treat us well. They have suggested we should move by them. They have kids our daughter's age. The only issue is possibly not finding a good home or school. Private school could be an option.
Would another move be bad? Should we make a final move before our daughter gets vested in school and friends? It would put us within walking distance to several families we spend a lot of time with and who love us very much. We are afraid of judgment from everyone. Please help us sort it out. -- HOPEFUL NOMADS IN ILLINOIS
DEAR NOMADS: Forget about the judgments. You will survive them. The older your daughter becomes, the more difficult moving away from the people she knows will be for her. If you are going to move to an environment more compatible for you, your husband and your daughter, the time to do it is now, so her education and social relationships will not be as disrupted as they would be when she is older.
DEAR ABBY: I have been married to my husband for 22 years. We've been together for 26. We've had our ups and downs, and separated for three months back in 2008, but we went to marriage counseling and got back together.
I have recently realized that my husband is an accomplished liar and has been from day one. To top it off, he lies about stupid things, which makes me wonder what important things he's lying about. When I express my feelings about this, he swears he will never lie again, blah blah blah -- and damn if I don't catch him again! Is this marriage doomed because he can't stop lying? And how do I trust anything he ever says to me? -- UNTRUSTING IN MARYLAND
DEAR UNTRUSTING: Successful marriages are based on trust and communication. Yours is in serious trouble.
Most people who lie do so because they are trying to make themselves look better or are not proud of whatever it is they are attempting to cover up. However, those who lie about "stupid" things may be compulsive liars who can't control the impulse. If your spouse falls into this category, a licensed mental health professional may be able to help him overcome his problem, but there are no guarantees.
DEAR ABBY: My elderly mother, my daughter, her boyfriend and I are planning a trip to Las Vegas. Because of the costs involved, we are considering sharing a room with two queen beds. The plan would be for me and my mother to share one bed, and my daughter and her boyfriend to share the other.
My wife thinks this is weird -- that my mother and I should share a bed. I explained that it will be a queen bed, and I don't understand why she thinks it is strange. This will save us around $1,000 that a second room would cost. What do you think? -- RALPH IN OHIO
DEAR RALPH: Is saving the money more important to you than privacy, comfort and propriety? Your wife may have been thinking along those lines when she suggested the "boys" sleep with the boys and the "girls" sleep together. Before rendering an opinion, I'd have to know what your daughter, her boyfriend and your mother think about this arrangement, because unless you all agree, it might make more sense to request a cot or bring an air mattress with you.
P.S. If one of you gets lucky in Vegas, maybe you can afford a second room.
DEAR ABBY: After years of nagging about thank-you notes, this is how I'm encouraging my younger family members to acknowledge gifts: We have the child create a big thank-you note or draw a picture, hold it with a big smile along with the gift and take a photo, which we send electronically.
We made a rule that they can't play with the gift until the thank-you is done, and even little folks understand it. It's fun and immediate. They usually get a quick note of appreciation back, and the giver gets a keepsake of the occasion. -- NEW AGE GRANDMA
DEAR GRANDMA: That's a wonderful idea, not only because it utilizes technology, but also because it requires SOME effort on the part of the little ones. Good for you.
DEAR ABBY: My middle-aged younger sister is 12 months into a midlife crisis. She has divorced her husband and abdicated her role as a mother, preferring instead to be a buddy to her teenage sons. She has started sleeping around, smoking pot and drinking -- a lot. Needless to say, our family is very concerned.
This behavior is nothing like her. When she does take our calls, she lies about what she's doing. We have caught her doing it, and so far we have just held our tongues. I'm unsure whether confronting her about her behavior would help or hurt her.
I love my sister and always will, but I have lost a lot of respect for her, and our relationship has been damaged. Should I tell her I know she is acting reckless and being dishonest? -- HELPING OR HURTING IN THE SOUTH
DEAR HELPING OR HURTING: Yes! By remaining silent you are enabling her to continue.
DEAR ABBY: My husband, "Ken," decided to have his mother move in with us without first asking me how I felt about it. I don't want to be insensitive. I know she has nowhere else to go. The problem is, she's the most domineering person I have ever known. If she enters a room and doesn't like a picture, she'll move it or get rid of it without asking.
When I tried to warn my husband that this wouldn't be easy, his response was, "You just don't like my mother." I do like her, but I don't know that I can live with her. I feel like my marriage is hanging by a thread. Any advice? -- SERIOUSLY STRESSED-OUT
DEAR SERIOUSLY STRESSED: Your mother-in-law is acting like YOUR house is HER house. Set her straight. And if your husband tells you, "You just don't like my mother," tell him that it isn't that you don't like her; it's that you don't like the way she's acting and you will no longer tolerate it.
DEAR ABBY: When is it appropriate to correct someone's spelling and/or punctuation errors? Our pastor writes a message in our church's monthly newsletter and invariably makes several grammar or spelling mistakes. The church secretary also makes mistakes in our weekly bulletin and never catches the pastor's errors. In addition, the day care personnel at our church make mistakes in the written lessons for the children.
I have offered to proofread for our pastor and secretary, but they never take me up on my offer. I grew up in a time when accuracy mattered, but nowadays many folks think that if one can make oneself understood, that is good enough. I'm interested in what you would advise. -- FUSSY WRITER IN MARYLAND
DEAR WRITER: You were kind to volunteer to edit the bulletins and newsletters, but you can't force the pastor and church secretary to accept your generous offer. However, because young children model the behavior of the adults around them, my advice to the parents would be to remove theirs from any program in which the day care personnel are so poorly educated they can't use proper English.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069