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Girl Talk: Grandma's Cold Shoulder

Q. My son is the fifth grandchild (and fourth boy) on my husband's side. His grandmother rarely asks to hold him, but fusses over her granddaughter. It breaks my heart. Is it a waste of time to tell her how I feel?

A. Having two boys myself, I've also observed this inequity of attention. For some reason, baby girls have the power to make most adults sing their praises, while baby boys rarely elicit rhapsodies in blue. Maybe the older generation still clings to the notion that coddling boys does more harm than good. Or maybe boys' clothes just aren't as cute. I honestly don't know.

Your mother-in-law may not realize she's being stingy with her affection. But telling her that you've noticed she plays favorites will only make her defensive. The result: Every time she gives your son a snuggle, you'll wonder if she's just doing it for your benefit.

A better way to get her to spread the love is to lay it on yourself. Tell Grandma how much she means to you and your son. Say that you notice how he lights up or seems so calm when she holds him. (It helps to hand him off after he's eaten.) It also doesn't hurt to reinforce the message with shirts or bibs that say "I love Grandma" and to send her pictures of her grandson. In a way, these are ploys  -- but they can help your son get his fair share of attention.