My kids are the sort of kids who don't eat candy. Not because they don't like candy. They love it. More than anything. They love it so much that they would rather have some around that they can look at forever, for an indeterminate period of time, than eat it and have it be gone forever (or, you know, a week until I buy them more).
This happens for anything they like. While they're drinking fruit punch, they'll ask me, "after this, can you get me more?" ...to ensure the stock of rewards is not depleted. If it is, they'll abstain. They'd rather the thought of reward than reward.
This year, it extended into birthdays (mixed in, of course, with some lovely anxiety about change that goes unspoken and not understood by them). So that yesterday, instead of having two excited children awaiting their birthday party, I had more meltdowns on my hands than I'd dealt with in the past two months put together.
The refrain was simple enough. They didn't want their birthday party today. Of course, that wasn't it at all. Take away the party, tell them they don't have to go to their own party, and you're met with shrieks of dismay. No. They want their party. They just want it sometime in the nearish future...a point that never quite arrives. So that they can look forward to it. So that the experience doesn't blow up quickly like a firework, then disappear.
That they have a seventh birthday next year is no solace. First, a year is, like, forever, but more importantly, a seventh birthday isn't a sixth birthday, and therefore is invalid.
Basically, I just sat them down (separately since they broke down about it at different times), and tried a few different tactics.
The things that seemed to help were:
1) Explaining that every person on the planet gets one birthday a year, so they were neither special nor alone, and they couldn't escape the rules of the planet.
2) Talking about the anxious feeling as nervous hardness in the tummy. They seemed to understand this and appreciate that I knew what they were talking about. Telling them that they were actually separate from that feeling and eventually they would have control over that feeling, but they had to practice it.
3) Telling them that I, too, cried a lot when I was five. (this is true, although I don't remember it). My teacher apparently wrote that I was a good student, but I cried every day. Again, they felt not so alone.
Of course, today's meltdowns have a slew of other implications, but there is only so much crankiness I can deal with in one post.