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Less-than-perfect families call for unconditional love

Dear Lois: I am writing in response to the mother who was concerned because her mother-in-law did not seem to show affection for a grandchild with a mild handicap. I want to offer encouragement to that mother because she said she believed that grandparents are important people in the child's world.

My husband and I have three children. Our oldest was born with Down's syndrome.

My mother-in-law invites, includes or talks about that child only as "the other daughter." After years of agonizing over this, I realized that our daughter, who is retarded, knows who loves her unconditionally. She has taken it upon herself to find "grandparents" who include her in their lives and to whom she can give love and have the love returned.

It is important to all of us to have unconditional love, so my advice to that mother is to find other "grandparents" in her child's life. _ Texas Mom

Dear Texas Mom: What you say is the most important thing for every grandparent and parent to remember _ that is, we may produce less-than-perfect families, but we must try always to give perfect love.

Uncommon sense

Dear Lois: A recent letter from grandparents expressed hurt because they were not invited to a school's Grandparents' Day. Let me tell you what we do.

It is a joyous occasion, with children trying to control their high spirits and excitement at having a grandparent or two on deck, but we have to remember that grade school gyms are built for the school population, and Grandparents' Day often doubles the normal crowd.

Since there is no way all grandparents can be accommodated, our family takes turns _ or, if one side is busy, the other is involved. There should be no need for hurt feelings if common sense prevails. _ Jack and Sophie Ridenour, Largo.

Dear Ridenours: Who ever promised that common sense prevails when it comes to families?

Frozen out

Dear Lois: I have only one grandchild, who is 9 years old. My son lives out of state and was never married to his son's mother, but he has faithfully paid child support.

The problem is that, when my grandson's mother gets mad at my son or me, she does not let me see him. I haven't seen the boy since Christmas although he lives about five miles from me.

What can I do to see him? I buy all his clothes, but I never get to see him. _ No name or address, please

Dear No Name: Talk to the mother yourself and ask her _ woman to woman and mother to mother _ if she will not permit you to see your grandchild. If she refuses, then consult the American Bar Association in your town for an attorney who, at reasonable cost, can advise you.

Beauty in bonding

Dear Lois: This is in response to No Saint in St. Petersburg, the grandmother who was so distressed because her daughter-in-law brought her 3-month-old infant to a family dinner in a restaurant and nursed the baby.

My heart goes out to the daughter-in-law. Having nursed my own child, I am well aware of the difficulties she will encounter with family, friends and strangers who have no knowledge of a nursing relationship. My advice to the grandmother is to learn all she can about breast-feeding. Once she does, I'm sure she will realize that her daughter-in-law is giving her grandchild the very best food that money can't buy and much, much more, then perhaps she can sit proudly while her daughter-in-law nurses and give her the love and support she needs and deserves. _ Proud Nursing Daughter-in-Law

Dear Proud: Once again you have proven that readers who respond from the depth of their hearts and their own experience provide straightforward, intelligent advice. Thank you for all the grandmothers who still don't understand the beauty of bonding.

Lois Wyse, a contributing editor to Good Housekeeping, has 18 grandchildren and 40 books on human relations, including Grandchildren Are so Much Fun I Should Have Had Them First. Please send questions or comments to Wyse Grandparenting, Parental Guidance, the Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731.