DEAR ABBY: My husband, "Todd," and I have been happily married for four years and together for six. We have a daughter (mine from a former marriage) and a beautiful little boy together. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Todd loves both children equally. Despite some tough financial times over the past two years, we are a happy family.
Our problem? Todd's mother. She's a negative, bitter woman who insists she "can't possibly" show our daughter the same love she shows our son. She sends affectionate notes to our son, none to our daughter. She shops at discount stores for our daughter and only the best shops for our son. She sent our son a beautiful handmade toy and our daughter a pencil -- yes, a pencil!
Please understand this isn't about gifts or the amount she spends. It's about the obvious disparity. Even worse, she's always saying that Todd couldn't possibly love our daughter the way he does our son. Need I tell you the damage this has already done to our daughter?
We are at our wit's end. Todd is ready to just walk away from his mother. I know we can't change the way she feels, but are we wrong to insist that she not show it so openly to our daughter? Help. Please. -- READY TO WALK AWAY
DEAR READY: You are not wrong. What you have described is emotional abuse on the part of your mother-in-law. Her blatant favoritism is heartless, deliberate and harmful to your children's relationship with each other -- not to mention damaging your daughter's self-esteem. If she fails to comply, you are also justified in limiting or restricting her contact with them.
DEAR ABBY: My mother passed away two years ago and I still have many of her things. I'm afraid that she'll think I don't love her or respect her belongings if I don't keep everything.
My question is, do you think she'll understand that I don't have a lot of space in my house? Do you have any ideas about where I could put her things? Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. -- WITHOUT MOM IN WASHINGTON
DEAR WITHOUT: Your mother left her things to you because she wanted you to enjoy them. Of course she would understand if you cannot use them all. She didn't intend for them to be a burden but a blessing.
Since there are more things than you need or want, please consider sharing the rest with other relatives who can appreciate their sentimental value. If that's not possible, donate them to a charity -- possibly one that raises money to fight the disease that took her. I can't think of a more worthwhile use for them than that.
DEAR ABBY: My long-divorced father was befriended by a well-to-do family from another country that has lived in the United States for a few years. They invited him to accompany them on a four-week visit to their country. While there, they talked him into marrying (on paper only) one of their sisters so that her child could get a U.S. visa.
The child has now arrived in the U.S. My father thinks he did a wonderful thing. I think he was used. What do you think? -- CONCERNED IN MINNESOTA
DEAR CONCERNED: I think your father committed immigration fraud. Please consult an immigration attorney on his behalf immediately. What I think is less important than what the INS will think if they get wind of his "good deed."
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