First Birthday Parties

Disclaimer: this post, like all the others on this blog, is about what worked best for us. I am not dragging anyone who chooses differently!

My son’s first birthday party theme was chosen before he was born. It was genius. People who didn’t even have kids said so! A pun on his name + a very popular cultural event = maybe the best party theme ever. This soon-to-be event was spoken of many times throughout his first year of life, and my husband and I were delighted that our favorite college football team had a bye week the Saturday nearest his birthday. About two months prior to the event, I sat down to make the guest list…

…and I said, “Nope.” No part of me wanted to do it. I didn’t want to figure out who made the cut of invitees, I didn’t want to scrub my house to host people and I definitely didn’t want to clean up after them, I didn’t want to guess at an ideal start time to hopefully coincide with his naps that day, I didn’t want to fake smile my way through entertaining guests whose biggest common denominator was our son, a variable who was in no way guaranteed to like having that much family in his face (or who might show great preference to one or two of them and scream when made to take photos with others.) I wasn’t having any of it, so we didn’t have it. 

On his birthday, he celebrated with his friends at daycare, then his dad and I posed with him and his cake for a family selfie and filmed him half-heartedly poking into the frosting. We had my husband’s side of the family over for a birthday dinner before the date, and we took the baby to my family’s that weekend to celebrate with them. Done. He won’t remember any of it, we’ll remember it as being lowkey and meaningful, and I have 17 more years to use the theme, if I feel compelled to override whatever his preferred requests are in the future (if he got to choose right now, he’d have a Cocomelon birthday party and absolutely no thank you.)

I’m not here to convince you to not have a birthday party for your kid. This, like everything else in parenting, falls firmly into the You Do You category. If, however, you have an inkling that you might want to eschew tradition, I’m here to tell you that’s also very ok, and you’re not irreparably damaging your child by denying them a pivotal rite of passage. I’ve worked at bakeries and event venues in the past, and I’ve said this for years: first birthday parties are for the parents. There’s nothing wrong with that; keeping a kid alive for a full year is deserving of celebration– and a break! Squeeze that little nugget half to death, feel all the feelings about how much has changed in a year, then send them to Grandma’s house, if you’re able, to celebrate your big accomplishment in peace, complete with as much cake as you want.

Not having a party doesn’t mean people won’t still send gifts, but it does cut down on the (already massive amount of) clutter. I’m saying this from a high throne of privilege, from which I can see the sea of toys, books, clothes, and other gifts that truly generous people in his life have bestowed upon my son. Even if we’d put “no gifts” on the invite or asked people to bring toys for the local children’s hospital instead, you know we’d be left with more light-em-ups and whirly-gigs than we already have, even though his favorite activity is putting on and taking off the lid to a can of cooking spray.

If, when he’s older, my son asks, “What did we do for my first birthday?” I’ll tell him I got very emotional the night before remembering my nervousness and excitement at that time last year checking in to the hospital. I’ll show him the pictures of the simple cake I made him and remind him that I ate way more of it than he or his father did. I’ll tell him that we fawned over him and took pictures of him and he was the center of attention– oh wait, that’s been every day of his first year and well beyond because pretty much every day is your birthday when you’re a baby.

First Birthday List

My darling boy turns one this week! He needs and wants for absolutely nothing, but it turns out that generous family members don’t like “If you buy him anything, I’ll cut you” as a response when they inquire about what they can gift him for his birthday.

Since I wasn’t at all thinking about toddlerhood when I made my baby registry, I’m sharing a few things I put on his one-year-old nice-to-haves list in case they might help the real Natalie or any of you pregnant ones. There are no toys or books or clothes because those always seem to be gifted no matter what & he doesn’t need any (do you hear me, family!?! STOP BUYING HIM TOYS. HE LOVES EMPTY TOILET PAPER ROLLS!! I WANT MY HOUSE BACK FROM THE INSANITY!!!)

  • No slip socks. This kid’s got almost three months of walking experience, yet he still prefers to do it without shoes. As it’s getting colder, I want those adorable piggy toes covered up in the house, but he’s more prone to slipping and falling if wearing socks. Enter: socks with grips on the bottom!
  • Foldable learning tower. Hats off to the marketing genius who named this spiffed up step ladder a “learning tower” and made them a Pinterest Mom must-have. Basically it’s a stool with a cage around it that will hopefully help him feel more included in the kitchen/ outdoors/ wherever we’re doing stuff so can’t hold him but would be too dangerous to let him roam free. I used to sit him in his high chair in the middle of the kitchen while making dinner, but he’s recently decided the high chair is lava so hopefully he can grow with this while learning beside me. There are approximately 1,000 learning tower options depending on what features you want and your budget, so I’ll report back on if the brand I linked is great or garbage.
  • A baby sled. This kid would be outdoors 24/7 if we allowed him to be, so I’m kind of terrified for when the temperature drops and there’s snow on the ground for months. 1- I assume a baby (toddler?! gah) in a sled will be adorable and 2- schlepping him around in it will help keep me warm.
  • Diapers. Just because baby is born doesn’t mean people can’t still gift you whatever sized diapers they’re wearing. My son thinks pulling tissue paper out of a bag is the funniest thing that’s ever happened to him, so he won’t mind if it’s boring ol’ diapers underneath.
  • Suction plate & baby forks. My friends with toddlers have had a wide variety of experiences with suction plates and bowls, but serving him food on regular ones would be an absolute fool’s errand at this age. I currently serve all his food on the high chair tray, but does that seem lazy? At some point, should he realize place settings are a thing? He’s currently in the developmental stage of using his fat lil’ arm as a windshield wiper and knocking all available options to the ground when he’s done or feeling cantankerous, so maybe this will help. Oh, and he needs forks because I got a bunch of hand-me-down baby spoons from my cousin and only just realized he should probably be exposed to other utensils.

Next year, we’ll probably ask for experiences like a science center membership, but based on two recent apathetic trips to the zoo, he’s still a little young for those. Because of his obsession with the real lawn mower and watching his dad and any neighbors mow, we’ll probably add a toy lawn mower in the spring when the Easter Bunny comes around. And dude loves to knock over the broom and try to eat the dustpan, so I need to capitalize on this ASAP and get him his own mini version to start helping around the house. Congrats! You’re one! Get to sweeping.