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by Abigail Van Buren

Teen Who's Hard to Handle Needs Firmer Grip From Dad

DEAR ABBY: I am living with a man I'll call Steve and his 17-year-old son, "Charles." We plan to marry in four months. I love Steve very much, but I can't handle Charles. I lived with my stepmother from the time I was 11 until I was an adult, and believe me, I know what it's like.

Charles' mother lives nearby. She's a heavy drinker, which is why she can't keep him, and he doesn't want to live with her. At first, everything went fairly well. I tried hard to get along with Charles, but he took advantage of me. I recently put my foot down, and now I'm the "wicked old witch."

Charles dropped out of school, stays out all night, has girlfriends spend the night, and his bedroom is so filthy the door must remain closed because of the smell. He works full time, and I feel that if he's not going to school, then he should pay rent and do his share around the house. That was the rule when I was growing up, and it worked.

Part of my problem is that I can't get his father to enforce any rules; when I try to talk to him, he either says, "Well, Charles is only 17" or, "I don't want to talk about it." It's putting a strain on our relationship.

Abby, I am childless, so maybe I am too strict. I was not raised the way Charles is being raised -- meaning no control at all!

I've loved Steve for six years and I don't want to lose him. Abby, am I being a "wicked witch"? -- TIME BOMB IN MESA, ARIZ.

DEAR TIME BOMB: Charles is screaming for help. His mother is an alcoholic, his father can't control him, and you are without parental experience. What you are attempting to do for Charles is correct -- but he may not appreciate it for years. Go to the library for books on stepparenting and blended families.

Also, make an appointment with a family counselor and insist that Steve and Charles go with you, and don't take "no" for an answer.

DEAR ABBY: My daughter's boyfriend gave her an engagement ring on St. Valentine's Day. They had been going together for three years, so it wasn't exactly a surprise to our family or his.

Well, her boyfriend's mother went ahead and put the announcement of their engagement in the local newspaper. Abby, my question to you is: Is it the business of the fiance's mother or the mother of the bride to put the announcement of the engagement in the local newspaper?

I am not going to sign my name because I don't want any hard feelings with my daughter's future mother-in-law. She is a very nice person, but she did this without saying anything to me about it. -- MOTHER OF THE BRIDE

DEAR MOTHER OF THE BRIDE: The etiquette authorities on whom I rely -- Letitia Baldrige, Emily Post and Miss Manners -- all agree that the mother of the bride should contact the local newspaper to publish the engagement announcement.

YOUR CHUCKLE FOR THE DAY: "The only reason I would take up jogging is so that I could hear heavy breathing again." -- ERMA BOMBECK

What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS, and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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