DEAR ABBY: I have a unique problem. My mother-in-law is too nice. She insists on taking my children once or twice a week so that she can have her own time with them – often taking them on fun outings for entire afternoons or evenings. I am not invited. Although she cannot refuse to let me come, any time I do, she makes me feel that I am intruding. I guess she likes to “play mom,” and my presence interferes.

While I appreciate the fact that she goes out of her way to develop a good relationship with my children, it bothers me that she demands to see them so often and at my exclusion. Am I just being selfish for feeling left out? In my family, the attitude was always “the more the merrier.” We have a good relationship otherwise. – LEFT OUT IN SAN DIEGO

DEAR LEFT OUT: Many people reading this column would fall on their knees and kiss the ground if their parents or in-laws treated their children the way yours does. However, because you feel left out, it’s time to have a frank talk with “Granny” and tell her that you would like to be able to join some of those outings without feeling that you are intruding, as you have been made to feel – however inadvertently – in the past. She may not be aware of the message she has been conveying.

DEAR ABBY: I believe my husband is headed for a nervous breakdown, and I don’t know what to do. He is having a midlife crisis. His hair is thinning very quickly, and he’s having a problem sexually. Things have gotten so bad that I’m contemplating filing for a divorce.

Can you please tell him that he is not alone, and that there are many men his age experiencing the same problems? Please tell him that there is help. – DESPERATE IN PITTSBURGH

DEAR DESPERATE: Of course your husband is not alone. And the proof of it lies as near as your television set, with its endless ads for Viagra, Levitra and other “male enhancements.” Add to that the testimonials for hair replacement surgery, and it adds up to many thousands of men and many millions of dollars for available treatments.

This is not the time to leave your husband. What you should do is urge him to discuss his concerns with his doctor, because what is “ailing” him can almost certainly be fixed.

DEAR ABBY: I have two active boys who are 8 and 2 1/2. We are going on a 12-hour road trip to a family wedding. I shared with my mother-in-law that I am dreading the long ride and am trying to think of ways to keep the boys occupied. We have a DVD player and are taking books, toys, etc. on the trip.

I was shocked to hear my mother-in-law suggest that I give the boys Benadryl to put them to sleep. This is not the first time I have heard someone say this. Is this common practice? My husband and I would never do such a thing. Isn’t that child abuse? – APPALLED IN FREMONT, CALIF.

DEAR APPALLED: I would certainly call it child endangerment. Children should not be given medications without a doctor’s prescription. If I were you, I’d start that trip at night, when the children are normally sleeping. And bring along lots of things to keep them entertained. I would also schedule stops at regular intervals so they don’t get cabin fever. But drug them? Never.

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

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