Is there a bigger milestone than the first birthday? For
parents, it's a hugely significant event, a marker that you have managed—despite the sleep deprivation, the conflicting and confusing advice and the
seemingly endless crying (yours, the baby's)—to do it, to take someone from
wormlike blob to tiny, talking person in just 12 months.
For my first daughter's first birthday, I pulled out all the
stops: a huge, thoughtfully themed party. Grandparents and friends flew into
town and I permitted no shortcuts. When my mom suggested using a cake mix to
create the laborious cake I drafted her to make, I accused her of not loving
any of us enough. I made my 72-year-old father stake out the exact location I
wanted in the park before dawn, and my husband and he had to go on a killing
spree to make sure the area was cleared of black widow spiders.
For weeks, in the
middle of the night when I should have been sleeping, I searched online for inspiration
and supplies. Basically, I was a crazy-ass perfectionist who decided to spend
her precious little time making crepe-paper flowers and pom-pom crafts. Every
negative RSVP was an affront because what could be more important than my daughter's
first birthday? A wedding? People can get married more than once—but you only
have one first birthday.
Oh, how things change.
You know what my second kid got for her first birthday? A
muffin. And her big sister ate most of it.
With the second child all I really wanted to do to acknowledge that success was to drink a glass of wine without anybody attached to my boob.
There was no big party, no pile of presents and no handmade decorations or locally sourced "green" party favors. I did not carefully consider caterers, make custom tablecloths from vintage sheets or bake enough kale chips to fill a bathtub.
And it wasn't just because I was exhausted from having two
kids just two years apart. The first time around, I needed the public acknowledgement
that my partner and I had done something significant. That, by golly, despite
the difficulties we'd kept someone very demanding alive and managed not to get
divorced, go crazy or lose our jobs at the same time. With the second child
all I really wanted to do to acknowledge that success was to drink a glass
of wine without anybody attached to my boob.
I love kids' parties—in fact, sometimes I like them better
than adult ones. The mood is less inhibited, the dancing crazier, conversation easier
(it's so manic you can drop one whenever you wish) and there is almost always
cake. But before you throw a huge kids' party, ask who it's really for—and I
don't mean that in a judgmental way. It's the old know-your-audience adage. If
you need to celebrate yourself (and why shouldn't you? This parenting thing
ain't easy!), then opt for margaritas and a
magician. Or maybe a party where you hire sitters to run the sack races while
parents sit at the grown-up table and actually get to talk.
Or, you can do what I did with baby No. 2, and just blow the
whole thing off, opting for a tiny, private celebration (a candle in a carrot
muffin and a homemade birthday hat) that ended in the most delicious way—with
all four of us taking a nap.