Dear Come Correct:

My husband and I try to give a little something to every child who sends us a graduation announcement or notice.  It's just our way of saying "great!  Keep it up!"  But this year, we got an announcement from a high school senior who isn't graduating.  I know this because his mother is a relative and she told my mother.  He's sending out announcements anyway.  (Why?) Do I have to send a gift or check?

Miffed Aunt

Dear Miffed:

It's nice to acknowledge announcements, but that doesn't mean you have to send a present.  Most people do, but it's strictly voluntary.  If you know for certain the senior isn't graduating, then a graduation present isn't in order.  The present, as you mentioned in your letter, is a way of saying "Good job!"  You should definitely check to make sure the information you got is correct ("I'm a little confused--Anna told me David might graduate next year instead of in June...if that's the case, I should send him a present then, so let me know.")  Sometimes there are special circumstances--a student's illness has caused him to miss weeks of school or there's been family drama that's distracted him from his studies--and then a note of encouragement is nice ("David--I know it's been a tough year but you're really close.  Let us know when you finish up so we can celebrate with you.  Love, Aunt Myra.")  But the actual present should be sent when the diploma is received.

Best,

CC

Dear Come Correct:

Help! My parent's friends sent us a wedding knicknack that is so ugly we don't even know what it is.  We are NOT going to assault others with its horribleness, but how do we say thanks--and do we have to say what we did with it?  (It's under the bed...)

Freaked

Dear Freaked:

Just send a warm letter thanking them for their thoughtfulness and expressing your gratitude.  You don't have to go into detail about where you plan to put the, um, unusual artwork.  ("Dear Mr. and Mrs. Hopkins: Thanks so much for the God of Thunder carving--it is a total conversation piece!  And thanks for taking the time to send something so unique.  We're going to put it someplace special.  With gratitude, Sydney and Purcell.")  You don't have to mention the "special place" is under the bed.

Best CC

Dear Come Correct:

What I really want for graduation is a computer, but my folks can't afford to give me one.  I have saved up some money from an after--school job, and they will contribute a bit, too, but I still need more.  Can I ask family and friends for money as my graduation present, so I can buy my laptop? Could I use it for fun stuff, like a gaming system? (That's way cheaper than a laptop...)

Anxious Student

Dear Anxious:

People often give graduates checks or cash so they can put it toward college expenses or college-related extras.  You shouldn't ask for money, but if they say "we want to give you a little something for graduation, what would you like?" then feel free to tell them "If you'd like to make a small contribution to my Laptop Fund, that would be awesome. I'm saving up so I can take it to college with me in the fall, and every little bit helps."  People will ante up, because they will like the idea of helping to fund a work tool that will contribute to your college success.  (And student, there are many things you'll need in school this fall--from an adult's point of view, an X Box 360 isn't on the Must Have list, okay?)

Congratulations,

CC

Karen Grigsby Bates is a Los Angeles-based correspondent for NPR News and co-author, with Karen Elyse Hudson, of The New Basic Black: Home Training For Modern Times (Doubleday).

Etiquette Emergency? Write us at AskComeCorrect@gmail.com.  Remember that letters may be published unless you request that we not.

is a Los Angeles-based correspondent for NPR News and co-author, with Karen Elyse Hudson, of The New Basic Black: Home Training For Modern Times (Doubleday).