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.