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Niece, 11, lacks table manners

Dear Abby: My 11-year-old niece, "Nina," has no table manners. I was surprised at her inappropriate behavior because her parents are well-educated people who were raised with good table manners.

I didn't say anything when Nina slathered clotted cream on her scone with her fingers, but I was disgusted. I did suggest she use a spoon after she scooped rice out of a communal bowl with her hand. Both of these incidents happened in restaurants.

Is there anything I can do when I must eat with this child? I know it may have been wrong of me to correct Nina in front of her mother, but we were all eating from the same bowl. Should I ignore her ignorance of basic table manners and keep my mouth shut?

-- Lost My Appetite in Houston

Dear Lost Your Appetite: By age 11, children should have mastered basic table manners. Is your niece learning-disabled? If the answer is no, you should discuss this with your sibling. Nina is at an age when she needs to know what's expected of her when she's out in public.

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Financing in vitro procedure

Dear Abby: Our daughter keeps hinting that we should give her money for her in vitro fertilization. We have concerns based on many issues, but the bottom line is we're not sure if she can handle motherhood.

Our daughter's marriage is shaky, and she struggles with many of her relationships in life. She is basically disabled by anxiety. Not only do we believe we should stay out of this, but we also think they can afford the procedure themselves. What do you think?

-- Undecided in Missouri

Dear Undecided: If you give your daughter money, it would be better spent on counseling and medication to help her overcome her anxiety disorder. A baby will not fix a shaky marriage. Because your daughter and her husband can afford to pay for it themselves, they should not be hitting you up to fund the endeavor.