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Originally published Saturday, July 6, 2013 at 5:04 AM

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Leave a legacy of love, not bitterness, for children

Readers chime in on family rifts, helping young people choose mates, and hurtful holidays.

Syndicated columnist

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Dear Carolyn

While I’m away, readers give the advice.

On informing young people they won’t be in a family member’s wedding party:

Fifty years ago, as a teenager, I was not included in a cousin’s wedding party, but another cousin was. My mother was furious at her brother, the bride’s father, and she communicated to me that my appearance at the wedding would be a complete humiliation for me.

I foolishly RSVP’d that I would “definitely not” be attending the wedding.

The result was a lasting rift in already strained relations in the family. I have always regretted such an unwise and immature reaction. Parents need to understand that it is their job to foster love and understanding, not bitterness and hate within their children. Children who find love in the world grow up with self-esteem and a sense of self-worth. Those who do not, spend their lives looking for slights wherever they go.

— Older and Much Wiser

On helping boys choose better mates:

Even when boys grow up, they tend to get, as I call it “struck dumb by the pretty” and fail to notice not only all the nonphysical traits a woman has, but also miss the red-flag character traits. So I’ve told my nephews I don’t want to hear about any new girlfriend unless they can name at least five things they like about her that don’t include “she’s really pretty.” This aunt is going to knock the caveman out of them if it’s the last thing I do.

— Aunt

Girls are hardly immune to appearances; I hope this aunt goes equal-opportunity.

— Carolyn Hax

On struggles with Mother’s Day baggage (or other-day baggage, if you extrapolate):

DEAR CAROLYN: You have a difficult relationship with your mother. Also, you are right that being a mother may not make you any more important than women who are childless.

But what kind of a mother are you — opposite of your mother? If so, then celebrate this. You broke the mold.

What is your relationship with your children? Is it good? Celebrate this.

Is your husband good to you, is he a good father, someone you are proud of? If so, celebrate with your husband’s family and thank your mother-in-law for how well she raised her son.

STOP dwelling on your past and CELEBRATE all you have to be thankful for.

— A Former Funker

Mother’s and Father’s Day isn’t about praising you for what you did the past month — or even year.

I am a 70-something male who has been mother and father to two girls since they were 9 and 11. That included dating heartbreaks, drugstore runs for tampons, and everything else for high school and college that went on for 25 some years. My wife walked out to do her youth right and get back in the dating scene.

How did that work out? She remarried and is now the poster girl for her industry. But the girls finally re-established what seems to me to be a reasonable relationship.

For better or worse, she is and always will be the only mother they will have and to some extent is a role model — at least for the good years and the good parts.

— J.

Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com and follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax. Find her columns daily at www.seattletimes.com/living

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