Dear Abby:

I am divorced and my 5-year-old daughter, "Liza," just started kindergarten. Her father, "George," remarried two years ago to a woman I'll call Beth. Beth has a 6-year-old daughter.

Now that Liza is going to "big school," Beth wants to come to all of Liza's parent-teacher functions with George (and in his place when he can't make it). George agrees with her.

I don't want Beth there. I am Liza's mother. It would be one thing if I weren't around and my daughter needed a mother to come to these things. I appreciate Beth wanting to do it, but to have her there would make me uncomfortable.

I don't want to hurt Beth's feelings, but as a mother she should understand. Am I wrong to feel this way? Should I approach them with this? Please advise.

Feeling Stepped On in N.C.

Before saying anything, consider that Beth is showing a sincere interest in Liza's education. That is a plus if custody is shared. Every child should be as fortunate as your little girl that all of the adults in her life want to make sure she excels in school. Please think this through. Your daughter's welfare should come first, and in this case, three heads may be better than two.

Dear Abby:

My 80-year-old mother-in-law, "Verna," moved in with my wife and me sometime back. We thought it would be better for her than living so far away and alone. Her husband of many years died about 15 years ago, and she is still depressed.

The trouble is, Verna has become reclusive. She hoards food in her room, rarely comes out, and spends hours just talking to her dog. She also believes that we feel she's an intrusion in our lives.

Abby, my wife and I talked this over before Verna came to live here, and we both acknowledged that although it might be difficult, we could work through any problems. However, lately the problems have begun to include imaginary issues such as saying we won't permit her use of the telephone. (It never happened!) Is it time to seek professional help?

Concerned in Texas

Yes. Any change in the behavior of a person your mother-in-law's age could signal a physical, mental or neurological problem. She should be evaluated by a doctor who specializes in geriatrics -- and while you're at it, the doctor should be told about her chronic depression and hoarding. One thing is certain: She won't get any better if you ignore the problem.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, Calif. 90069.

(c)2004, Universal Press Syndicate