Dear Abby:

My mother calls me every day to complain about my sister, with whom she has always fought. She goes on and on about her financial problems and lashes out at me when she's upset with other people.

I am only 20. I'm a full-time college student, have a full-time job, and I am deeply involved in a relationship. I am trying to understand my mother's problems, but lately every time I hang up the phone after talking with her, I cry.

I am young and trying to learn how to handle my own problems. I don't think I can handle hers, too. I have tried explaining to her how I feel, but she refuses to listen. My sister says I should hang up on Mother when she calls to complain, but I don't want to do that.

I've asked Mom to talk to Dad about her problems. They have been married 30 years. She says she doesn't want to stress him out. She doesn't realize the stress she puts on me.

I know my problem is small compared to most people, but in a few more years I'll be facing the harsh realities of life: mortgage, kids and bills. How can I ask Mom not to call me with her many complaints?

Stressed Out by Mom

Your mother is using you like the valve on a pressure cooker. When her frustrations build up, she calls you to vent. I agree it would be better if she talked to your father about her problems, but you appear to be her dumping ground of choice.

Since you can't change her, you're going to have to change the way you react to her. Tell your father that you've reached your limit and it's time for him to intercede -- or tune her out when she starts dumping.

Dear Abby:

My daughter is 12 and starting to want to wear makeup. She is quite a tomboy and would rather play basketball than do "girly" things.

She wore makeup to the movies last weekend, and her father was very upset. He ordered her not to do it again. She tells me kids are making comments about her because she doesn't dress like a girl or wear makeup. Abby, I don't see anything wrong with her wearing it once in a while. What's your take on this? Is her dad right, or am I being too easy? Is there a compromise?

Mom in New York

Get a cold compress for your husband, because I have news for him. His little girl is growing up, and right on schedule. Now, I don't know how much makeup your daughter wore to the movies, but for someone her age to wear lip gloss and a little mascara is not unusual. Moderation is the key.

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 www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, Calif. 90069.

(c)2004, Universal Press Syndicate