Gift-Shopping for a Special Child

By Annie Lane

November 25, 2019 3 min read

Dear Annie: Christmas is coming up, and I like to give each of my friends and neighbors a little something. There's a very nice family nearby; I usually give the adults a box of candy and their older child a smaller box of candy. Their younger child has Down syndrome. Last year, I gave him an ornament. This year, I'd like to do something different, but I don't know what. He will be 3 at the end of January. I don't want to do anything out of the ordinary because I think that could be offensive. Any suggestions? — Ms. Santa

Dear Ms. Santa: If you don't want to do anything out of the ordinary, maybe ask his mom what his favorite animal is and get him a nice soft plushie that he can cuddle with. If you want to get something for his family, perhaps you could make a donation in his name to a charity that helps children with Down syndrome. Whatever you choose, I'm sure it will be appreciated, as it's usually the thought that counts.

Dear Annie: This letter is for the grandmother who's concerned about her children being raised by a mother with OCD. My sister and I grew up in a household with a very OCD mother. Her OCD controlled her life and ours. The good news is that, while we're generally clean and tidy adults, we are normal and nowhere near OCD ourselves. The problem was the extreme control and the ways in which she wasn't functional enough to keep our meals or our extracurriculars on time. The OCD took over her daily activities.

The best thing that that grandmother can do is get the kids out of the house, have them over for sleepovers and take them to do fun stuff. Before too long, the kids will see that their mother isn't normal and will reject her behavior.

The grandmother should keep an eye on the kids to make sure they're not being abused if they fail to follow their mother's rules. She should also watch for signs of anxiety. My sister and I are fully functioning adults and have raised our own healthy families, but our mother's OCD did leave its mark on us because we were controlled so much. She's still alive and still has OCD, and now she is bitter and isolated. It's sad, but we are coping and succeeding in life. — Doing Well Despite It All

Dear Doing Well Despite It All: I am very sorry for what you both had to endure in childhood. Perhaps it's not too late for you and your sister to encourage your mother to seek treatment for her OCD. It sounds like both of you were aware of your mother's shortcomings and made a conscious effort to do better with your own families. Congratulations on doing well despite it all.

"Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie" is out now! Annie Lane's debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to [email protected]

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