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Dear Abby: Childhood trauma resurfaces for new mom

by Abigail Van Buren | May 20, 2023 at 1:00 a.m.

Dear Abby: In my childhood, my mother was controlling. She dressed me in ridiculous outfits that I found humiliating. If I had opinions about things, I was treated as being “bad.” It affected my mental health, which resulted in me hating the way I look.

I went through multiple eating disorders and addiction, and I had plastic surgery 15 years ago. After many years of therapy, I am now better emotionally. I also endured many years of infertility, but I am finally a mom, working hard to give my child a better life than I had.

My mother buys clothes for my child, and receiving these “gifts” fills me with rage. My son is too young to pick out his own clothes, but I know what he likes and choose accordingly. My mother buys clothes based on my son’s interests, but I resent her for it and want her to stop. It’s my turn to be a parent!

I feel guilt and shame giving away or selling clothes I don’t want, like I’m being “bad.” Despite therapy, my childhood trauma persists. How can I ask my mother to stop buying unwanted “gifts”? — Bad Kid For Life

Dear Bad Kid: Do not ask your mother to stop buying clothes — tell her. Also, tell her what you have been doing with them, and why. Then explain exactly how the way she raised you affected you. To do that isn’t being “bad”; it is honest and overdue. If she persists after that, donate the clothes, because another child will be thrilled to have them.

Dear Abby: My 50-year-old daughter divorced her husband 15 years ago because she thought she could do better. From what I could see, he was a good husband. She didn’t work and lived a comfortable lifestyle with two kids. Since the divorce, that lifestyle has gone downhill. She can’t hold a job because she gets offended and quits.

She had a house my husband and I paid the down payment on, but lost it by making the ownership joint with her abusive second husband. She no longer receives child support because her children are grown, so her finances are worse than ever. We bought her a car last year because she had no transportation.

How much should we continue to financially support her? We are well-off, but where should our obligation end for a daughter who makes bad decisions? — Put-Upon Mom In Georgia

Dear Mom: As parents of a 50-year-old daughter, you and your husband are likely in your 70s. You have two choices. If you wish to continue enabling your daughter, she will receive whatever is left of your estate, so she shouldn’t be homeless after you die if you leave it in a trust. If you don’t wish to continue your support, you may need counseling to help you overcome your instinct to rescue your self-destructive daughter, who is no longer a child.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069 or visit


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