DEAR ABBY: I am 17 and baby-sit regularly for a family on my street. The kids are well-behaved and enjoy it when I go there to watch them. My problem is their mother never gives me notice when she needs me. She’ll ask if I can baby-sit that day, or even worse, that moment. Sometimes she’ll just say something vague like, “Sometime later today — I’ll let you know when I need you.”

I love the kids and enjoy looking after them, but I do not appreciate their mother’s inconsiderate behavior. How should I deal with her next “request”? — SEETHING SITTER IN NEW YORK

DEAR SITTER: The next time the woman calls at the last minute, tell her you’re sorry, but you already have something scheduled, and when she needs you to baby-sit to please give you more notice so you won’t disappoint her. And if she isn’t definite about what time she wants you to be there, tell her you need to know NOW so you can make any arrangements you need to.

DEAR ABBY: My wife and I were recently invited to a friend’s home for a screening of a movie in their home theater. About 15 other guests were also in attendance. We arrived on time and chose our seats by leaving our coats on them, then joined the other guests for pre-movie socializing.

When we returned to the room to watch the film, we found that a college-age couple had tossed our things aside and taken our seats.

Because there were no other seats together, we told them the coats were ours and that we had placed them on the seats for a reason. The couple left.

Later, another couple mentioned that they thought we had overstepped our bounds — that we should have said nothing because this was a private home. I had always been taught that one could set one’s items down, and that it indicated that seats were spoken for. Were we in the wrong? — WONDERING IN COLUMBUS

DEAR WONDERING: Everybody was “in the wrong.” The young couple should not have moved your things and grabbed your seats. Because you were all guests in a private home, you and your wife should have taken what seats were available (I mean, would it have killed you to sit apart for a couple of hours?). And last, the couple who corrected you should have kept their mouths shut.

DEAR ABBY: I have a special needs daughter who is currently on a waiting list for a service dog. She has been moved to the priority list, and I’m hoping she will receive her dog within the next two months.

While I’m thrilled about the opportunities the dog will provide her, it has also raised a concern. What do I say when people ask what her disability is?

I know that legally no one is allowed to ask that question — per the Americans With Disabilities Act — and I would have no problem telling nosy strangers to keep their questions to themselves. But there are people — like my co-workers and my daughter’s classmates — whom we can’t avoid.

If you see my daughter on good days, you might not notice anything “different,” although she has a number of significant health and emotional issues. What is the correct way to respond to the honest questions without revealing my daughter’s medical history to people who have no need to know? — MOM IN IOWA

DEAR MOM: Always be polite, but do not allow yourself to be pressured into giving specifics. Respond by saying, “Oh, I don’t want to bore you — the dog helps my daughter.” Then change the subject.

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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