My mother-in-law, "Sharon," and I had a wonderful relationship until I gave birth. Almost overnight, Sharon became extremely overbearing about how I should raise her grandson, "Charlie." (He is now 8.)
Recently, Charlie contracted a common childhood illness. Although I had been taking him to the pediatrician regularly, Sharon kept insisting that I wasn't caring for him properly. One afternoon when she was baby-sitting, she went so far as to take Charlie to his pediatrician and tell the doctor that I wasn't treating his illness. When the pediatrician didn't tell Sharon what she wanted to hear, she took Charlie home with her and gave him some medicine she had at her house. When I found out, I was horrified. (What if he'd had an allergic reaction?)
When I called Sharon to discuss the matter, she hung up on me. So I sent her an e-mail and told her how devious I thought she had been, and that she was no longer welcome to baby-sit Charlie at her house, although she could visit him at our home if she wished. No response.
Two days later our doorbell rang. It was a visit from Child Protective Services. Charlie's pediatrician had to be contacted as well as his school counselor. It was very embarrassing. After an investigation, the matter was dismissed.
Sharon has never denied that she called CPS, nor has she made any effort to apologize. My husband and I have no wish to speak to her until she does. Are we right to avoid her, and should we wait for her to come to us? We hate to be in a feud, but we worry that she may try something like this again if she doesn't see there are consequences for her actions.
Embarrassed in New York
Grandma may have thought she knew best, but she should have quit after consulting Charlie's pediatrician. For her to have given her grandson leftover meds without authorization from you or his doctor was child endangerment. If you wait for Sharon to come to you, Charlie may not see his grandmother before he reaches adulthood. And in your case, unless there are strict ground rules, that may be the safest thing for your son. Hang tough.
I have been married to "Sam" for 20 years. He is a wonderful husband and provider. When I married Sam, we had nothing; now we have a home and rental properties.
My family seems to be jealous of the financial success we have achieved. My siblings make snide comments and have pulled away.
It came to a head the other night when my youngest sister announced to the family that I had gone online and anonymously threatened her family. Abby, I have never been anything but kind to them. They have an open invitation to visit our home and swim, and I have even bought her children clothing and shoes when she was unable to.
I don't understand this, and I'm very hurt. Please help me to put this in perspective, because I am fully aware that money cannot buy happiness -- happiness comes from family and loved ones.
Wrongly Accused in Arkansas
Your sister may be jealous, may have mental problems -- or may just have a need to be the center of attention. Since you have been generous with her, it may be time to realize that loving relationships are reciprocal. If your relatives are put off by what you and your husband have accomplished, the problem is really theirs, and you can't fix it.
P.S. If your sister did, in fact, receive a threatening e-mail, rather than accusing you, she should have informed the police.
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