Gift dilemma

About 17 years ago, a neighbour of mine employed “Violet,” a teenage au pair from France.

Dear Annie: About 17 years ago, a neighbour of mine employed “Violet,” a teenage au pair from France.

We became friends, but when Violet returned home, we lost touch.

Earlier this year, Violet found me on Facebook, and we corresponded several times, catching up on each other’s lives.

Violet told me she was sending me a small gift, and I received quite a large box that included chocolates and other candies, a bracelet, a fan, etc.

In June, Violet got married. Normally, I would have sent a nice card, but to reciprocate for her gift, I put together a box with expensive hand towels, assorted soaps and a small statuette.

I tried to keep the weight down, but it still cost me US$50 to mail.

Then, for my birthday last month, Violet sent me a package of assorted gifts.

Violet’s birthday is coming up, and I don’t know what to do.

Had her birthday come first, I could have nipped this in the bud by sending only a card. Now, I feel I must reciprocate.

Annie, I can’t afford to be buying gifts and shipping them overseas.

Even sending something small will perpetuate the cycle. Soon it will be Christmas, which means more gifts.

In my thank-you note for her birthday gifts, I tried to gently tell her that she shouldn’t be spending her money on me, but her English isn’t that good, and I am worried about offending her. Any suggestions? — No More Gifts, Please

Dear No More: Send Violet something simple that will fit in a birthday card — perhaps a handkerchief, a photograph of the house where she once lived or a hand-drawn memento — along with your best wishes for her birthday. A gift doesn’t have to be expensive to be meaningful. Regardless of how Violet reciprocates down the road, you are not obligated to respond in kind.

Dear Annie: I am 15 years old and have been dating a girl for the past three weeks. It’s the first time I have ever dated anyone.

How do I tell my mom? I am afraid she will ask me to break up with her.

I don’t have a close relationship with my mother, so that makes it more challenging and scary. Any tips? — Teenager

Dear Teenager: Most parents set rules about dating, including how old you should be to start. If you are underage for dating, you need to see this girl in the company of others and plan only group activities. It is important that you respect your parents’ rules so they can trust you.

The best way to talk to your mother is to tell her you are interested in a certain girl and ask whether it would be OK if you brought her to the house so Mom could meet her.

We think she’d love that.