It was the last thing that we expected to hear. After days of random and inexplicable behaviors, William finally said those words to Brian.
And, suddenly it made sense. We understood why just a few days before his birthday, William was refusing to do his work, drawing on his pants, and, generally, breaking rules. He was freaking out.
William doesn’t like change. In the first five years of his life, change meant he was going somewhere new to someone new. To someone who may or may not be nice to him, take care of him, and make him feel secure. When he left his last foster home to come to us, his foster father broke the news by saying “You gotta go.” I’m not sure if that’s exactly what happened, but that’s what he thinks happened. So, that’s all that really matters.
He acts out at the beginning of the school year, the end of the school year, and even before family vacations. So, once he admitted he was scared, it was so obvious. Most kids look forward to their birthdays. They are excited about getting older. But, William just feels more pressure and uncertainty about what being a year older means for him.
This was the first time he was afraid of a birthday or at least that he told us that he was. I don’t know what it was about 9 years that intimated him so much, but there it was. And, just like that (although he didn’t escape consequences), I wasn’t mad at him anymore. I was just worried.
We talked about the positives. Brian talked about how much he had enjoyed being 9. We talked
about how he was going to be turning 9, no matter what he did, so he should accept it and see the good in it. I reminded him that acting out and making it hard for people who care about him wasn’t right. Brian talked to him about all the things that made him special like being in chorus, being so smart, and his sense of humor. Things that were not going to change. And, above all, we asked him (again) to talk to us, just talk to us.
And, the acting out stopped. He said he was going to try very hard to have a good day at school, the next day, and he did. On the way to school, he told me that he was really happy that his birthday was on a Saturday and he could be home with me. He also said that he was now happy about turning 9.
And, the birthday was like a birthday should be. He woke up, extremely wired, too excited to eat the special breakfast that I had made him. He was so excited that I was exhausted by mid-morning. Just like it’s supposed to be.