Parenting--Toddlers/Infants/Pre-Schoolers/The only child


Dear Leon

I am a 40 year old mother to my beautiful 2 year old daughter who will be 3 in early July. She was a product of a lot of hard work and medical procedures but I wouldnt give up til I had her.
My dilemma is around my perception of her isolation. She lives with myself and her doting daddy but we can't have any more children. She attends kindy 3 days a week (I have health issues so use these days to recharge) and I want her to have social contact.

She is energetic, smart and precocious and has an excellent memory.

Her paternal grandmother is very involved but my own mother is distant, preferring my twin sister and her three children to myself and Bethany. My sister lives close by but rarely sees my daughter. I was heavily involved in her children's lives until bethany was born when I still engaged with them and cared for them but it has become less and less.

My sister is not a nice person and is quite abusive to me personally, however is a great mother to her kids and on the occasions she sees bethany briefly, professes her undying love for her 'other baby'. For some time I felt it was my responsibility to encourage a relationship between my mother and my daughter and bethany fell in love with her nana...but it didn't continue. My mother just doesn't have the energy for bethany after often spending weeks at a time with my sister. She never calls, visits or even let's me know if she's in town literally a five minute drive away. I try to take bethany to her but she's always at my sister's place dealing with some crisis.

My sister is very vocal about her love for bethany and her desire to be close but I've been trying for the last 2 years to set up play dates with my nieces and nephews and there's always an excuse (usually that to get all the kids ready is just too hard even though I offer to provide all food, sunscreen, hats and even drive over to pick them up).

Last week someone asked bethany who gave her the pretty dress and she replied 'Nana. Nana's gone. I can't find her anywhere, nana's gone.' I went to my room and cried. Bethany has also said the same thing about her cousin. She talks about her cousins often even though she hasn't played with them in months.

My sister has asked four times in recent weeks to have a play date with bethany and then not followed thru. I didn't tell bethany of course because I know better. To date my sister has never had bethany for any time. She's nearly 3. I have no control of when or if my sister will follow thru. I have tried and fail to set up a contact schedule.

I adore my nieces and nephew. I am scared of my sister's abuse (to date of me only) and don't want a relationship with her personally. However these children are Bethany's closest relatives genetically and in age and ideally I would like them to be close but can't bear the thought of her getting close and then being excluded or abandoned. The saddest part is that all these kids adore each other.

Is it time I said enough is enough for my own sanity? I strongly desire complete separation from both my mother and twin as the pain is too much after 40 years of it. But Is it right to keep the children apart to protect bethany from abandonment? I know too well the pain of exclusion, it was a vital tool in my sisters arsenal of tactics with me growing up. Or is any contact with nana or the cousins, no matter how sporadic depending on my sisters moods, in the children's best interest?

As you can see I'm in a lot of pain over this. Any advice would be welcome and appreciated (be gentle please).


Hello Anne,

First, congratulations on having Bethany in your life. It sounds like you worked hard to bring her in your life. At first I was going to suggest that you don't rely on your sister, that you don't expect her to bring the cousins to your home, that instead, you set up a playdate at HER place, and you be the responsible one and drive Bethany over to see her cousins.

But, then I became concerned as I read further. If you truly believe that there's a chance that your sister will build a relationship with her (as well as the cousins) and then at some point pull away and break your daughter's heart, you have to protect her and not put her in this kind of situation.

i know that there is possible heart break everywhere, but if you feel that there's a good chance of this happening based on your history with her, it may be in everyone's best interest that you don't push it. Also, you don't ever want your daughter to see he abusing you. So, although she loves Bethany, if you feel she'll abuse you in front of your daughter, that would be detrimental and confusing for your toddler.

So, you need to weigh these pros and cons and look within to see if you really believe that your sister could pull away and/or if she would be cruel to you in front of your daughter.

I know it would be ideal to have your daughter interact with Nana, Auntie and Cousins on a regular basis, but she can be very well-balanced even without having those close-knit relationships with them. Forge friendships with other families and Bethany's kindy and set up playdates with the kids. These are her new cousins. Their parents are her new aunts and uncles. Neighbors and coworkers can be surrogate grandparents. I know it's not the same, but if you find people who are close to you, who love Bethany, she can know the same feelings she would have with her blood-relations, with others.

My mom met the man I called "Dad" when I was one. He raised me like we were blood. I didn't know he wasn't my biological father until I was eight. I loved him the same way I would have loved my real father. I'm not suggesting you lie about family. I'm merely pointing out that Bethany can forger close bonds with others the same way she would have with her relatives.

Good luck.

Leon Scott Baxter
The Book "Secrets of Safety-Net Parenting"  


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Leon Scott Baxter


I can answer questions about raising happy, successful toddlers (not babies or infants...sorry). The two are synonymous. I would love to help you help your child find his passion or strength, how to encourage your child and give her opportunities, and discuss the importance of failure, perseverance, and resilience. If you have questions about how to get your child to believe in herself or how to parent versus being her friend, I can help. I can answer questions about how to model the right behaviors for your child, and what those behaviors might be for your specific situation. I also can help you deal with excuses: excuses you may be making for your child as well as excuses he is making for himself.


I have been an elementary school teacher for seventeen years. I am also an author, known as "America's Relationship Guru". I was a contributor to "Chicken Soup for the Teacher's Soul". My first three books have dealt with the relationship between couples in a romantic relationship. I am currently working on a new book on raising happy and successful children. For the book I interviewed happy, successful children (Maddie Bradshaw, Caine Monroy and many others) and/or their parents. I am also the father of two girls (10 and 15). Their resumes include: business owners, authors, YouTube celebrity, fundraisers, and print models. They have appeared in commercials, music videos, have interacted with mayors, international politicians, and one was mentioned on Capitol Hill for her help in finding a cure for pediatric cancer. They have watched a Dodger's Game with Jackie Robinson's daughter, been a pen pal with Dom DeLuise, and one was an official toy tester, while the other was invited to pitch her idea to a toy company. They've had these successes while also dealing with anxiety disorders and OCD.

• • • The Santa Barbara Independent • The Valley Voice • Atlanta Parent Magazine • • Coastal Woman • Santa Barbara Parent Source • • The One World Initiative Blog • •

I received a Bachelor's Degree in Film Studies from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and got a teaching credential from Cal State Northridge.

Awards and Honors
• Named a Ben and Jerry's Citizen Cool • KLITE Community Hero • Certificate of Congressional Recognition in Teaching • Name is on the National Wall of Tolerance • Recipient of Realiastar's "Education's Unsung Heroes" Grant • Numerous "Best Dad in the World/Universe/Galaxy Certificates/Mugs/T-shirts/Hats

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