DEAR ABBY: My mother has eight grandchildren. Four are mine; four are my sister's. One, however, is her obvious favorite. She spares no expense when it comes to my sister's oldest son, "Johnny." She buys him extravagant gifts, praises him constantly, and hands him large sums of money in front of the other children -- often making a big deal out of presenting it to him.
Last Christmas, she insisted that all the children come and sit around Johnny as she presented him with a $100 bill. When we're out together in public, she will say to perfect strangers, in front of all the children, "I love all my grandchildren, but I have special feelings for Johnny. We have a special relationship that I don't have with the others." My children are hurt by her actions and comments.
When the children were younger, I could disguise her favoritism, but as my children have grown older, they are very aware of her feelings and actions. When my sister and I confronted Mother about it, she cried, said she wouldn't listen to such "hateful lies," then stormed from the room. Is there a way to help my mother see what she's doing to our family, or should I just protect my children from her abuse by staying away from her? -- PROTECTIVE MOM IN TEXAS
DEAR MOM: You and your sister should have formed a united front and put a stop to this years ago. As it stands, your mother has already alienated seven out of her eight grandchildren, and understandably so. If you're asking for my permission to protect your children from your mother's obsession with their cousin, you have it. And your sister should follow your example.