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Dear Abby: My 9-year-old stepson, "Bryan," is turning into a feminine little boy. He knows all about girly products and what is on sale at the mall. Bryan's mother treats him like a baby. All they do at their house is sit around and watch TV. She has no friends, and neither does Bryan. He does not get involved with anything; he is exactly like his mother.

When Bryan is at our house, we try to get him involved in activities, but the boy is lazy and doesn't want to participate. Then he tells his mother that his father yells at him. My husband does yell, but only to get Bryan off his butt to do something.

How can we make Bryan less feminine and involve him with friends and activities?

-- "Wicked" Stepmom in Pennsylvania
Dear Stepmom: It is a parent's job to help a child be the best that he (or she) can be. That does not mean the father remaking the child in his own image, and that may be what the boy is resisting. Bryan is not particularly "masculine," and he's not interested in what you and your husband are trying to force him into. Your insistence on trying to make him fit your mold may be what is driving him away.

Instead of yelling at him to get him "off his butt," if you need his help with chores, say exactly that. ("Bryan, I need your help with something.") And since he isn't interested in the usual "boy things," perhaps it's time you and your husband expose the boy to art, music, dance, to see what does turn him on.

If none of the above does the trick, then some professional counseling for the three of you to establish a healthier level of communication is in order. You may be able to help Bryan be more social, but don't count on changing the core of who he is.

Don't exclude grandma

Dear Abby: My wedding is scheduled for the fall of next year. My parents are paying for the whole thing. My problem is my grandmother. She has never shown any interest in me and doesn't know me from a hole in the wall. She has been verbally abusive to my father throughout his entire life.

I do not want this woman at my wedding, but I know my father wants her there. Who should decide whether the mean old bag will attend?

-- Hates Granny in Maryland
Dear H.G.: My advice is to be a lady and be gracious. Your father has his reasons for wanting his mother to come to the wedding. Please find it in your heart to grant his wish without giving him further heartburn. On your wedding day, you will be so busy with your wedding party and your husband, you'll hardly even know the woman is there.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips. Write Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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