DEAR ABBY: I have waited 36 years to marry. Most would say I was the quintessential bachelor. When I was younger, I never thought I'd date anyone with a child. I didn't want to deal with the "baggage" I thought came with dating a single mother.




Needless to say, I have been dating a delightful woman who has a 4-year-old son with whom I get along great. We've dated for a year and a half, I love her, and it's time I propose.




The three of us are a little team, and I'm wondering, when I ask her to marry me, should I involve her son and buy something for him &

and if so, what?




I was thinking of a custom-made charm for a chain (remember, he's only 4). I would like it to be something he can keep with him the rest of his life. Your advice would be greatly appreciated.




"" BACHELOR IN DOVER, N.H.




DEAR BACHELOR: Your sentiments are endearing. Because you are a "team," it would be wonderful to involve the child in the proposal. You might include him in the "surprise" for his mother, or even propose becoming a family to both of them.




However, at 4, the boy is too young to entrust with a piece of expensive jewelry &

and by the time he would be old enough to wear and appreciate it, a charm might not be in fashion, so I don't recommend it. The promise of your love and support is gift enough.




DEAR ABBY: I just found out that my mother has become engaged. I don't have a problem with it except for the fact that her fiance, "Harry," is younger than my brothers and me.




My father has passed away, and I do not intend to call Harry anything other than his first name. When I refer to him in conversation, should I call him my stepfather or my mother's husband?




"" "STEPCHILD" IN VIRGINIA




DEAR "STEPCHILD": You are all adults. Therefore I see nothing disrespectful in referring to Harry as your mother's husband. That's what he will be.




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.