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Why I Blew off My Baby’s First Birthday

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.

RELATED: The Pressure of the Birthday Party

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.

RELATED: How To Survive a Toddler Birthday Party

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.

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