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Reality Check: Not-So-Great Aunt

Q. My sister, who's single and has no kids, treats my 1-year-old like a menace when we visit. How do I get her to embrace him?

A.
Admit it: 1-year-olds are a menace when they go visiting other people's homes  -- particularly a home where a childless adult and her fragile objects live. And tough as it is to contemplate, you just have to accept the possibility that your sister might not ever "embrace" your child  -- not everyone is good aunt material.

But you might also consider that many people who don't have children just aren't sure how to act around them, and their discomfort can appear to be coldness or even active dislike. It could also be that your sister simply isn't suited to babies but will turn out to be a veritable Auntie Mame when your child reaches school age.

In any case, until your son is a little older (past the stage of being a dervish) minimize conflicts and maximize the potential for bonding by having your sister visit your house. Her place isn't childproofed, nor is it reasonable to expect that it would be, and why should either of you have to fret about what your 1-year-old might knock over, break, climb all over, fall off, or otherwise destroy? You might find soon enough that your sister doesn't hate kids, just their messes.

If you free her from worrying about how to get grape-juice stains out of her white carpet and monitoring exactly how many teething-biscuit crumbs have ended up behind the cushions on her new leather couch, your sister might even get down on your well-broken-in rug and make a block tower with her nephew. If so, slip out of the room to get your camera so you can take a picture of the event. Give it to her in a frame the next time you must visit her house with your son in tow, and keep your visit brief and your son highly chaperoned.

But whatever you do, be patient. This relationship could take years to build, but your child may eventually win over his auntie.

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