Some of the most reliable triggers in our house for causing havoc, and from what many other moms have discussed with me being the most common “monsters” in their homes too, include holidays and birthdays. These became feared “beasts” in our home as the calendar clicked away.
Any holidays where kids are the main “beneficiary” ie: Christmas- (Santa…”Will he like me as well as…”, “Will the reindeer like me as much as…”, “Did I pick that out for Daddy?”, “Did I help wrap those presents?” “Did I hang that ornament…?”), Easter- (“Will the bunny like me as much as…?”, “Will I find as many eggs as…?”, “Are they prettier than…?”, “Did I color my eggs prettier than yours / his…?”), Holloween- (“Did those people think I was cuter than the other princess?”, “Did you give that little girl candy?” “You need to give me the same candy you gave her, Mommy!”)…I could go on and on. As they say, “For every season…”
Birthdays!! Holy cow, birthdays, even someone else’s, are the queen mother of all OCD triggers for little kids!! Talk about stress and worry producers!! We have been known to avoid them altogether (misc. friends’ parties), and plan on suffering the consequences. Sometimes you just can’t “go there”, knowing how long you will be dealing with the fall-out. It’s a small sacrifice knowing how deep their feelings run and how many people are likely to misinterpret their behavior as “acting up” or being “spoiled” at the actual event, unaware that they were allowing their feelings to display on their faces (exchanging silent glances). Sometimes you just want to “save them” from it and protect their little reputations. With birthdays there’s just always something huge for them to worry about.– “Did I pick that out for …?”, “Did I help wrap that present?”, “Did she like what I gave her best?” (To scratch the surface…) These concerns were always voiced to me personally, privately, and immediately! And, as always, the expression on her face said it all. She had her “picture-face”, then the face that showed her true “worries”. I will always have that “troubled” expression etched in my memory, as it was very common on her sweet little face. And there are bound to be games (an entirely different can of worms that deserves it’s own separate post).
Obviously, you can’t avoid having birthday parties for your own troubled little birthday girl/boy, so (at least, in our case), less seemed to be better. I found that having several parties with the different groups honoring her separately seemed to be a little easier on her. That’s not so say that it will necessarily be easier for you, since this is such a sized-to-fit disorder. My only comfort was that I only had to deal with this particular issue once annually. I have to admit that I didn’t brave the little girl party every year. I did, however, have the family friend/family party every year. Some years she had even decided on her own that she only wanted the family/family friend party, and would forego the little girl party. This happened for a number of years. I also found it seemed to be easier on her for me to plan her “kid” party somewhere besides our house. This would practically eliminate the “worries” about me giving so much personalized attention to other kids (even her own friends, which was a huge issue). I could just “hand the party over” to the fine McDonalds’ (or other kid-friendly option) party professional (then taking, of course, only photos including the birthday girl). Then, when it’s over and you head back to “birthday central” (that would be home), you’ve got one party under your belt! I did, one year ONLY, make one virtually fatal mistake. I planned the kid party and the family/family friend party on the same day (A veritable “kiss of death”.) The only thing worse than a small child with OCD on her birthday would naturally, be an exhausted, over-stimulated child with OCD on her birthday (A very bad idea indeed.)
Anyway, the more you can identify triggers, the more you can help work-through them. Of course, the goal is to give your child the tools to see there is no need to fixate on these issues; that birthdays come and go for everyone. Some of these particular triggers, as the birthdays roll on, due to the need to be accepted socially around classmates, etc., your child will seemingly outgrow (or internalize and hopefully, make peace with over the years). As I’ve said, I’m only a mom, but this is my take on it. Happy Birthday to us, every one!! …More on TRIGGERS (excuse me…), later.