DEAR ABBY: I'm at my wit's end. My cousin "Sheila" and I are very close. She lives around the corner and comes over almost daily to play with my 20-month-old daughter, "Megan." The problem is, Sheila says unkind things about Megan's behavior, such as, "Evidently those child-rearing books you read haven't worked," or, "If you can't control her at 20 months, how will you control her when she's a teen-ager?" The worst is, "You know, I have a love/hate relationship with Megan -- I really love her, but after a while I can't stand being around her."
Megan likes to squeal. She sometimes cries a little too loudly and doesn't always want to share her toys, but my husband and I try to discipline her. The rest of our friends and family members think she is well-behaved, and many of them think the problem is with Sheila. They say they've seen her encourage Megan to act wildly just to see what my husband and I would do.
I love my cousin, and Megan loves her, too. However, I'm not sure whether or not I should put some distance between us. Sheila is very sensitive, and the last time I spoke to her about this, she wouldn't talk to me for a week. Megan is attached to Sheila, and I am not sure I should jeopardize their relationship. Please help. -- MEGAN'S MOM IN CALIFORNIA
DEAR MOM: Something is wrong with an adult who derives pleasure from getting a child in trouble. If it continues, your daughter will never know where she stands with this immature and somewhat sadistic individual.
Tell Sheila to stop popping in and out of your home dispensing unkind and unasked-for observations about your child-rearing ability. If she wants to be part of your daughter's life, she should start giving Megan "unconditional love" -- or stay home.