Can you remember your first birthday party? No, me neither. It’s a very special day for us as parents, we kept a little human alive for a whole year – that’s pretty impressive and should be celebrated. But why do we go to all that stress and effort when, let’s face it, our child doesn’t really understand what’s going on? It is nice to make a fuss for yourself and for friends and family, and we all love to brag a bit on social media, but is it really worth the expense and stress?
Let them eat cake
For starters there’s the cake. I have fond memories of all the amazing cakes my Mum used to make. But actually, I don’t really remember them. I just look back at old photographs. There was the hedgehog one with Kit Kat spikes and I’m sure many of you had the one with a Barbie in the middle and the cake was her skirt. There’s no way I have the time or the inclination to make a cake that epic. Perhaps a fun job to delegate to Granny? In fact, I asked my Mum to make a cake for the J’s birthday and she agreed. I’ve since found out that she’s making a plain fruit cake and has asked her friend to make the proper cake. I think she has wised up to the hassle/pressure of icing and decorating.
On another note, we have tried really hard to keep the J from eating too much sugar and salt. I know at some point she will try cake/sweets/crisps and fizzy pop, but is it fair to make her a lovely cake, let her blow out the candles and then not let her eat any? I’d definitely get the hanger if someone did that to me! Should I make a separate baby-friendly cake for the children (when I say I, what I actually mean is get someone else to make) or is that just being a bit too fussy? I feel like it is way too fussy and I don’t have time for that shizz. Obviously when your kids are older they will no doubt be eating lots of cake. But a one year old? I tend to think that if they are only going to have a little taste then bake a full-fat, full-sugar, proper tasty one and let the adults enjoy it. We deserve it!
Who do you invite?
When you start thinking about who you would like to invite to your child’s first birthday party, the guest list can grow at an alarming rate. There’s your close family, friends who have babies/kids, NCT couples and their babies, new friends from baby classes/playgroup with babies, extended family (I’m talking our aunties, uncles and cousins), godparents and well-meaning work colleagues and all of a sudden you’ve got 100 people and need to hire a hall. Basically, it’s mine and Grump’s fault for being too darn popular.
Seeing as we don’t have the budget to hire a portaloo, let alone the village hall (totes my fault for launching freelance career and not having enough work…yet), we’ve decided to have a small gathering for the J’s birthday, with our parents, my brother, Grump’s sister and their partners (and the J’s new little cousin). I’m planning a chilled afternoon with a bit of cake and some presents (although my parents have informed me that we should also provide finger sandwiches and crisps, or we are just being rude).
Then, because all of my NCT friends are having gatherings/parties for their children and I felt like a mean old scrooge, I’ve decided to invite them all over for some cake (I bought this one from Sainsbury’s) and to play with the J’s toys, which I know she hates. She will probably sit in the corner sulking and giving them all evils, while five sugar-crazed one-year-olds run riot in my living room. (I’ve written this for dramatic effect – love you guys and your babies and the J loves sharing her toys too…).
Present and correct
Then there’s the present etiquette? If, like me, you’ve got lots of friends who have had babies in the last 18 months, who do you buy for? I’ve worked out that I have around 15 people I could potentially buy a present for if I was being mega generous. And how much do you spend on each child? One of my pals whose little boy is a few months older than the J told me that she had at least seven birthday parties last year. She set a budget of £10 per child, but that’s still £70! Now that she knows who she needs to buy for next year she is going to stock up in the January sales and get toys on 2 for 1 deals. That is savvy parenting! I probably sound stingy, but when you’ve been on maternity pay for months, or if you choose to be a SAHM, money is a little tighter than when you worked up in London full time and would happily spend £4.50 on a fruit smoothie from Crush and eat lunch at Pret every other day.
I have chosen a little plastic tea set for the J that was only £10 from ELC. She gets so spoiled by our families (I’m going on their generosity at Christmas) that I don’t feel the need to buy her lots of expensive gifts. However, after setting my budget of £10, I have since gone on to buy her a unisex puzzle (it’s got tractors on it and ‘boy’ stuff) and some 12-18 months clothes from Sainsbury’s, because I cannot say no to their cute colour-and-pattern combos. Total birthday spend: under £30.
Am I being a Scrooge? Maybe. Perhaps if we had more disposable income, I’d be up for a big party and lots of pressies. But I also don’t want a spoiled child. Or a hyper sugar-high baby who won’t sleep. I’m not having a go at people who go big for their baby’s first birthday. Good for you! I just don’t like the idea of parents feeling that they have to organise something for other children and keep other parents happy. This is your special day (OK officially it is your child’s special day, but YOU deserve a party). In fact, what about an alternative to the traditional first birthday party? How about a party for the parents to celebrate getting through their child’s first year? It could involve a long lie in, full English breakfast, a massage and drinking copious amounts of Prosecco with your pals and then dancing the night away to some old-skool classics, among other treats. I never got a ‘push present’ (to be fair, I find the notion of this slightly ridiculous. Surely the push present is the baby?), so maybe an expensive piece of jewellery. Oh wait, I’ve not been working for the past year and all our money has gone on Aptamil and Pampers… scrap that.
Whether you are going the whole hog with a proper party or just having something a bit more intimate with family, it is important to not to get stressed or overwhelmed and to focus on the reason you are celebrating. Your little bundle of joy is having their very first birthday. Hopefully a wonderful time that is the start of many great years to come. If you have the time, make a nice cake (and finger sandwiches, obvs), decorate your home/hall/function room with balloons and banners, choose a pretty card and fun present (or anything that will keep them quiet for five minutes) and take lots of photos, so that when your child is all grown up they can look back on their first birthday with fond memories.