Birthdays are supposed to be celebrations. For children, they often signify growing up to be the little person that they hope to be. For others, they are an excuse to have a party. For some, they are another reminder of how far we have to go.
We celebrated Charlie’s birthday all weekend and I am pooped. He gets very anxious around his birthday and around Christmas. Many people would say that he is thinking of his birth family or bad memories surrounding these holidays, but at the surface it seems that he is so obsessed with getting new things that his excitement morphs into anxiety because his brain has such a hard time processing emotions. He has been with us for over 3 years and still has a very hard time articulating his feelings and emotions.
Also, the anticipation of getting presents (especially ones that are hidden somewhere in his house) is almost more than he can bear. He can’t even sleep. He tells me that he would feel better if they weren’t even in the house so that he can relax. He says he doesn’t trust himself to not find them and open them.
He even has a hard time acting grateful once he gets the gifts. He is excited when he opens them up and then an hour or so later, asks when he can look on Amazon to see what he can ask for for Christmas. Is he a spoiled brat? Are we ruining him? Or is he depressed and looking for happiness in toys and then panics when it’s not found?
I have been told that kids with ADHD get a dopamine fix with new things and so they always want/crave new stuff. This is a decent explanation, but it doesn’t make it less annoying.
For a kid that doesn’t act anywhere close to his chronological age, when someone asks how old he is turning, every birthday I find that I am reluctant to say. Today, I ate lunch with his 3rd Grade Class at school and the cafeteria worker told Charlie “Happy Birthday” and asked how old he is turning. When he said, “Eleven,” several of his classmates gasped: “ELEVEN?! I’m only Eight!” (He is the size of an 7 or 8 year old and acts like a 5 or 6 year old.)
I am exhausted from all of the anxiety leading up to his birthday, but we did have fun at his parties this weekend. It was really fun to see his sweet friends from school and how much they love him despite his weirdness and quirks.
All of this to say, I am very glad that he was born and very glad that he is mine, but I am kinda glad this birthday is almost over. I share all of these personal thoughts so that someone else who might be feeling the same way won’t feel so alone, or guilty about it. Charlie is a blessing, but he can be exhausting. I can love him and have no regrets about adopting him, and still find him hard to live with. Adoptive and/or Special Needs parents, you are not alone if you feel the same. And hopefully one day, birthdays will feel more like celebrations.