DEAR ABBY: My sisters and I grew up in a horrible household with our mother. She was not only OK with the severe abuse and neglect we suffered, she encouraged it. Now grown up, my sisters have moved out of state and have no contact with her. My contact with Mom is limited although I live close to her. My sisters want her to know nothing about them, and they are very cautious.
Recently, one of them had a beautiful baby. I'm happy for her. Because of the abuse she suffered during our childhood it was difficult for her to conceive, so this seems like a miracle.
I was given the news on the condition that Mom is not to know about the baby, nor is anyone who talks to her -- aunts, uncles, children, grandchildren and our cousins. If I don't keep my promise, my sisters will cut me out of their lives, too.
I'm angry about it. I didn't hurt them, Mom did. I went through the same nightmare they experienced. How do I deal with all of this now? -- PRISONER OF THE PAST
DEAR PRISONER: Your sisters have dealt with the abuse they suffered by going away, leaving all reminders behind. You chose to maintain contact with your mother. You have many valid reasons to be angry, but please do not aim your anger at your sisters for wanting to protect themselves from someone who condoned and encouraged their abuse.
Because you are having difficulty with your emotions, contact Childhelp to find the location of a qualified counselor near you. The toll-free number is 800-422-4453 and its website is www.childhelp.org. With professional help, you will be able to finally work through the feelings you have been avoiding for so long and start your own healing.
DEAR ABBY: We have two sons, a toddler and an infant. I'm a stay-at-home mom who plays in the mud, sand and dirt with her boys. I wear my bathing suit or a T-shirt and shorts. Later, we'll take a bath or shower together. It's safer and easier for me to be in the large, deep tub with them. We have bubbles, sing songs and make silly hairdos with shampoo. The boys never touch my body or point to my "parts."
My husband thinks I should be more modest, but I'm the one who nursed them. I'm the one they watch on the potty to learn. My nudity is never sexual in any way. Do you think it's OK for my boys to see me in the buff? -- CAREFREE MOMMY IN SARASOTA
DEAR CAREFREE MOMMY: There is a difference between interacting with your very young boys and being sexually provocative. I see no harm in what you're doing. Be "modest" when the kids are a little older, but for now there's no danger of them building an unhealthy mother fixation.
DEAR ABBY: In the past you have asked readers to tell you their pet peeves. You know what really irks me? It's when a man I haven't seen for many years runs into me and has changed to the point of being unrecognizable -- lost most or all his hair, stomach sagging to his groin and totally out of shape -- and the first thing he says to me is, "Oh, you've gained weight!"
What can I say to these fools without slamming a mirror over their heads because apparently they don't own one? -- NOT THE ONLY CHUBBY ONE IN TEXAS
DEAR NOT THE ONLY: Try this: "Have you looked in the mirror lately?"