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by Abigail Van Buren

Material Teen Begrudges Her Friends' New Clothes

DEAR ABBY: I have been living with a terrible secret for the past five years. I don't love my older son. He is very difficult and has been since infancy. Don't get me wrong -- I'd jump in front of a bus to save him -- but I don't like him.

I have a degree in psychology and have taught child development. I have taken parenting classes and read every book that's available on hard-to-manage children. But I have yet to find something that can help me, and I feel terribly alone. My husband tries, but he doesn't understand what it's like because he is mostly at work.

I am involved in parenting groups, playgroups, etc., but the other mothers all seem to be doing everything "better" than I am, and I have never heard any other mom admit to having negative feelings toward her kid.

What makes it worse is I adore my younger son and feel a special bond with him. I know this must be awful for the older boy because I'm sure he senses it, no matter how hard I try to hide it. But I don't know how to change what I feel. Abby, how can I change things? I desperately want to be the kind of mother my son deserves. -- ASHAMED IN CALIFORNIA

DEAR ASHAMED: Nowhere in your letter did you mention that you have taken your older son to a child psychiatrist for any sort of an evaluation. Children who are "very difficult" can sometimes have a physical or psychological disorder. There may even be a support group for you comprised of other parents who are experiencing the same feelings that you have.

It is important that you seek professional help for both of you. Your son may have a disorder, but until you find out the cause of the behavior that makes him "unlovable," there will be no help for either of you.