First Birthday Lesson (For Mommy)

My son turned one year old this past January.

I began planning his birthday party in October.

I decided on a theme (nautical), created a guest list, and set about to find a unique, fun and affordable venue for said party.

I asked friends what they’d done for their own child’s first birthday celebration. Some told me they’d baked a cake and invited over family and taken a few cute pictures. I dismissed these ideas and made a mental note that my little boy would have The. Best. First. Birthday. Ever.

I shopped Hobby Lobby for décor and party favors. I daydreamed about a cake that was organic and featured a specific palette of blue. I debated whom should be there, as, it turns out, my 10 month old didn’t really have a huge friends list. I made a charming little list of prompts for guests to fill out for my son to look back at one day (e.g. “My favorite memory of your first year is:____). I thought of clever games that could be played prior to cake and presents, and they were way more original than Pin the Tail on the Donkey.

And then I did the dumbest thing: I created a board on Pinterest and began perusing posts from millions of women around the world who had thrown elaborate shindigs for their little ones. Custom invitations, hundreds of dollars in thematic decorations, a professional photo shoot of their baby with his smash cake and cute antique signs announcing his first revolution around the sun. Wait…I have to have TWO cakes? And they both need to come from a local boutique bakery? Also, who’s going to make that massive sign and what the heck will I do with it after the photo shoot??

And my son should be decked out in special “I’m One!” attire? The anxiety was too much.

I started wondering how these Pinterest moms  A. had so much money to spend on a birthday that their child would likely never remember, B. knew enough people to justify catering the event with tiny sandwiches and fruit kabobs and C. found the time to plan and throw this get-together, while still bathing and feeding their infant??

While pricing huge iron anchors and wooden ship wheels one day, I finally got honest and asked myself “Who is this for?” My baby boy was sitting in the shopping cart, not so patiently watching me rifle through fishing nets that I was positive would look super cute as a table covering or backdrop behind his highchair.

With crazed eyes and clenched teeth, I told him “hang on, Mommy’s doing this for you!” but thankfully, I stopped myself before I continued to spiral down the crazy drain of Pinterest-induced expectations and comparison. I put all of my finds back on their respective shelves and whisked my child out of the store as quickly as possible, only to make him sit in our parked car while I practiced deep breathing and counting to ten.

When we got home that day, I decided to knock it off with the Pinterest party planning. I scrolled through my board which was now about 300 pins strong with “Beach Party Ideas For Little Sailors!”, jotted down a couple of free, easy, do-able ideas, and then decided to scrap my plans for MY fantasy birthday party.

And finally, I thought of little Silas, who would soon turn one. I thought of what would make HIM happy that day and I knew that none of those things involved gold embossed calligraphy or his mom blowing her monthly grocery budget on handmade toys. Nope. He would be thrilled to see the handful of people whom he’s known and loved since birth. He would be over the moon with his first taste of chocolate and the sight of a flickering birthday candle. He would be SO over all of the festivities after about two hours, on a good day.

So, I finally settled on the brilliantly simple notion that perhaps a birthday party should be reflective of the person whom is being celebrated. And with a small boy who prefers boxes over toys, Less Is Best. (There’s an argument to be made that for most of us, Less Is Best, I think.)

And so, it was with loving care that I spent a total of $5 on cake mix and frosting. I secured a very unique and affordable venue: The Station Café, a local burger place where our family has lots of happy memories. I trashed my guest list and quickly sent a text message invite to Silas’ close family. I wrapped his gifts in leftover Christmas paper and I freaked out in excitement when I found an adorable $4 “Hoorah, it’s my Birthday!” shirt at a consignment shop.

And you know what? That party was perfect. Silas had a meltdown when he wasn’t permitted to eat his birthday candle, his special shirt was coated in chocolate, and he played with a straw more than any of his new toys. None of it was Pinterest worthy. I doubt many women would add pictures of my screaming son and me stealthily sipping Chardonnay from a water bottle to their dream board.

But some things I never noticed on any of those inspiring Pins, were the faces crowded around a table, staring at a tiny child whom they adore. And my baby had that. He didn’t have a soiree that strangers would envy and try to duplicate for their own kid, but he had a really cool balloon that we kept in our house for a week afterwards. And he was happy. And loved. And celebrated. And there’s just nothing better than that. Or cheaper.


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