DEAR ABBY:

My boyfriend and I have been living together for nine months. We have decided to host Christmas dinner at our house and invited 20 people - 10 from each of our families. His mother, unfortunately, is having a hard time accepting that her 27-year-old son is growing up.

She says that she feels "awkward" and that their family has had its traditions for many years. (My boyfriend has spent every Christmas Eve and Christmas night at his parents' house since birth.)

I come from a family that is adaptable to change. Any suggestions for dealing with this potential future mother- in-law?

- Free Spirit in Phoenix

DEAR FREE SPIRIT: First of all, don't plan on your boyfriend's parents attending your Christmas dinner, and don't take it personally if they don't. She may be unwilling to change their Christmas tradition.

If and when a wedding date is set, or your boyfriend makes clear to her that your arrangement will be permanent, the three of you can then come to an agreement to alternate these holidays so you and your parents are able to also host these gatherings. This is how new families establish their own traditions and in-laws aren't made to feel that one side is favored.