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by Abigail Van Buren

Changing a Diaper Causes Family Friction at Baptism

DEAR ABBY: My sister-in-law "Brenda" often takes it upon herself to change a baby's diaper during social gatherings with family. She never bothers to ask the baby's parents if it's OK to do this, and they never solicit her help. For years, I found it a bit strange, but never said anything to Brenda or another family member.

Some time ago, my in-laws and immediate family were at my son's baptismal party. Several babies from my wife's side as well as my own were there. My wife's relatives aren't well-acquainted with mine. Before our wedding, neither of our families had ever met the other.

During the festivities, my wife's niece -- who was still in diapers -- appeared to have a full load in her back side. Her parents were in another room. Without informing them of the issue or asking permission, Brenda took it upon herself to change the diaper. The child's mother walked into the room and began to loudly scold Brenda for doing it without her consent. You could see the mother was upset and scared, since she did not know Brenda at all.

After the party ended, my family couldn't understand why the child's mother became so upset. They thought she was some kind of nut for reacting the way she did. I fully understand why the mother became upset. Given the fact that she doesn't know Brenda, and that one must clean the baby's private parts when changing a diaper, I don't understand why Brenda would take this upon herself. What's your opinion, Abby? -- STRANGE IN THE EAST

DEAR STRANGE: What your sister-in-law did may have been fine with her own family, but for her to have changed the diaper of a child whose parents she didn't know well (and from whom she didn't have permission!) was inappropriate. I don't fault the mother for being upset. Rather than blame her for reacting the way she did, it's time someone explains boundaries to Miss Brenda.

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