Dear Abby: I have a sister-in-law who I believe is abusing her children — but not in the way most people think of child abuse. Not a week goes by that her kids are not in a doctor's office or an emergency room. She seems to be happy or feel "important" when in an E.R. or talking to someone with a medical degree.
Other relatives think she's an exceptionally caring mother. I think she's sick, but I'm not sure whom to contact. She does not think she has a problem. Meanwhile, my brother sits idly by — or accompanies her on these outings.
Am I wrong, or should some type of authority or social service be notified? — Worried in New Jersey
Dear Worried: Child protective services in your community should be told what you have told me. You may be describing a condition called Munchausen by proxy — a mental illness in which parents sometimes present their children as sick in order to get attention for themselves. For the children's welfare, this should be investigated.
Dear Abby: My boyfriend, "Mickey," and I had a baby two months ago. Mickey made it clear from the beginning that he didn't feel ready to be a father. While I was pregnant, he seemed to be excited about the birth of our child. However, since our daughter arrived, Mickey calls her names, avoids holding her, and yells at her to "shut up."
I've tried talking to him about his behavior and have even offered to go to parenting class with him, but he refuses. He says he's already a parent and doesn't need "classes." As a last resort, I told him that if he continues to yell at her, I'm packing up and he'll never see us again.
Mickey's father was very abusive, and I'm afraid that history will repeat itself. Please help. — Single Mom in Lincoln, Neb.
Dear Single Mom: You are right to be concerned about your baby's welfare. Your boyfriend knows nothing about child development and has no interest in learning. Consult a lawyer regarding child support and get out NOW.
It is significant that your boyfriend is the son of an abusive parent. Mickey is already a verbal abuser; please don't wait until it becomes physical.
Dear Abby: I was just notified that my 30th high school reunion is in two months. I would like to attend and see everyone again, but in the years since graduation, I have unfortunately lost my hearing. I'm not embarrassed, just scared. (Hearing aids do not help.)
What do you suggest? — The Way We Were in Joliet, Ill.
Dear T.W.W.W.: Prepare a "hand-out" for your classmates — a brief, but interesting update of what you've been doing for the past 30 years. Explain at the top that you have lost your hearing. Give these to your old friends, and have a blank journal on hand that they can write in. Ask them to include their addresses (home or e- mail). It's a wonderful way for all of you to continue to keep in touch.
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