DEAR ABBY: My 19-year-old son, “Clay,” took his grandmother’s car while she was sleeping to run over to his friend’s house around the corner. He doesn’t have a driver’s license, and ended up wrecking her car, which is completely totaled.

His uncle and I want our mom to press charges against him, but she doesn’t want to. Clay is my son and I love him, but I think he needs to step up, act like an adult and take responsibility. Should we make her press charges? – DISGUSTED IN GALVESTON, TEXAS

At 19, your son is no longer a child. How is he going to learn about consequences if he isn’t forced to take responsibility for his actions? Although I’m not sure you can force your mother to press charges, if your son is living at home, you can insist that he somehow make restitution for the damage he caused.

As it stands, this young man has already broken two laws – driving without a license and car theft. (I wonder if he was also under the influence when he totaled the car.)

Perhaps you, your son and your mother can agree on an amount and a schedule of repayment.

DEAR ABBY: A friend recently announced that she’s pregnant. She has a stepson and another child with her husband. Last week, I received an e-mail from her giving me her sister-in-law’s contact information. In it, she said that she’s leaving it up to “us” to “work out the details” of the shower!

I was stunned because I wasn’t aware that I was expected to help plan the shower or to contribute to it financially. I provided the cake and half the food for her first one, and I was happy to do it. I didn’t know I was “expected” to do it again without being asked.

Is it the norm to have a second baby shower? And isn’t a baby shower supposed to be a surprise for the new mom? Am I wrong for feeling that her attitude is presumptuous? I don’t mind preparing food or the cake, but how do I tactfully tell her and her sister-in-law that I cannot contribute financially to this? – “RATTLED” IN ILLINOIS

Years ago, there was a rule of etiquette that one baby shower to a customer was enough. However, more recently, people have come to recognize that the birth of every child should be celebrated. It can be a surprise for the new mother, or not.

However, a shower is a gift – and for your friend to have expected one or solicited one is wrong. I recommend that you tell her in plain English what you are prepared to do and what you cannot. The food or the cake should be more than enough.

DEAR READERS: If someone you know aspires to a career in news reporting, and you’re wondering what would be a perfect holiday gift for him or her, a copy of Helen Thomas’ new book, “Watchdogs of Democracy?” would be an excellent choice.

Helen (a.k.a. “The Lady in Red”) is a trailblazing journalist who has covered the White House beat through nine presidencies and has much to say in this readable little volume.

One of the most fascinating conversationalists I know, Helen Thomas’ comments about what it takes to be a responsible journalist should be read not only by anyone who wants to be one, but also anyone who looks to the news as a way of staying informed.

Published by Scribner, the book is available in bookstores and on

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, CA 90069.

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