Dear Abby:

My mom baby-sits for my 3-year-old, "Jessica," while I am at work. Last night I arrived at Mom's to find that she had again left Jessica sleeping in the back seat of her van, still strapped into her car seat. Jessica had been there for an hour, and although the temperature outside was fairly mild, my little girl was red-faced and sweaty.

Mother says I'm overreacting because the van was parked in the driveway with the door left open. But I know of at least one incident last year when she left Jessica sleeping in the van, got distracted with something in the house, and didn't realize my daughter had awakened and been screaming for some time. For weeks, Jessica talked about being left outside alone.

I have asked Mom numerous times not to leave my child sleeping in the car, but her only response is to roll her eyes, tell me I'm making a big deal out of nothing, and continue to do it.

Maybe if Mom hears from someone other than me that it's not okay to leave a child unattended in a car, even in a driveway, she'll stop doing it. Thanks!

Overheated Mom in Massachusetts

Do not expect your mother -- who is in denial -- to listen to me. These incidents are recurring because you are allowing it to happen. Your mother has proven repeatedly that she is too easily distracted and too forgetful to responsibly supervise your daughter. Recognize that your daughter is in danger and make other arrangements for her immediately. To paraphrase an old saying: If something happens once, shame on the perpetrator. If it happens twice -- shame on the "victim."

Dear Abby:

My son works at a place where the employees celebrate birthdays by gathering for cake. One young employee seems bent on learning everyone's age. Although many people are reluctant to state their age, he persists with his questions to the point of embarrassment.

Abby, our son was a victim of downsizing and recently joined the group. His birthday is in early November, and he is dreading their "celebration" because he is over 50 and fears his supervisors will think he's too old for advancement. How should that young man's question be handled?

Mother of a Middle-Aged Son

When the impudent question is asked, your son should reply with a smile, "I'm old enough to know better than to tell you." If the questioner persists, your son can put him in his place, and probably gain the appreciation of everyone else who's been put on the spot, by saying: "I'm 29 again, and I'll thank you not to pursue this any further. It's rude."

Dear Abby:

I hired a cleaning lady who came well- recommended. At first I was pleased, as she did what needed to be done. Now I have discovered that some nice pieces of jewelry are missing. She is the only person, other than my husband of 54 years, who has been in the upstairs of our home. I have no proof that she took these items of jewelry. Should I talk to her about this, or should I just tell her I no longer need her? How should I handle this?

Mrs. B. in San Francisco

By all means talk to your housekeeper. Explain that you can't find the missing jewelry. (Speaking from personal experience, I have put an object down while my mind was on something else -- particularly reading glasses, which often seem to mysteriously migrate.) Ask her if she can help you locate the missing pieces of jewelry. If they don't turn up, it's time to call the police and file a report.

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 or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, Calif. 90069.

(c)2004, Universal Press Syndicate