Celebrating the First Birthday

Celebrating the first birthdayIf your child’s first birthday is quickly approaching, party planning might be lurking in the back of your head. Birthday parties often are a genuine outpouring of love and joy with underlying motivation and pressure to live up to expectations mixed in.

Every family has different constraints they work with. For some, the budget causes stress; others may feel a need to “make up” for not being as present as they’d like (due to work, travel, sickness, divorce, or many other factors). Many families grapple with how to kindly refuse gifts upon gifts from doting family and friends. I’ve also heard some mothers talk about the need to live up to what their friends did for their children’s birthdays.

Pinterest offers endless ideas and variations on everything from decorations and favors to birthday cake design and thematic games. Attending parties that are catered or otherwise dressed to the nines also can set up an expectation among parents and children that all birthdays are decked-out parties.

Parties can create interesting tensions. The tendency to invite all students in a child’s classroom to his or her birthday party adds bulk to the guest list and presents to the pile. The celebration of milestones seems to have increased, even now celebrating finding out the sex of a baby still in utero or milestone developments after birth.

These things, along with other factors, give recent rise to what I call the “celibracation” of everything. We have many reasons to celebrate our children every day. This may feel especially true for families who waited for years to have their babe in their lives or have a loved one living far away, in the military or otherwise.

I think what kind of party you have ultimately comes down to motivation, which only you can know. Once you know your motivation for your party, you know what you need to plan. If you are a social butterfly, maybe the large guest list makes sense but the fancy décor is not necessary. If you are particularly crafty and love attention to detail, perhaps the theme and articulation of it is part of the way you express your love. If you want your child to feel special, especially when things have been hard this year for x, y, or z reasons, talk to your kiddo about what would really make them feel special. Maybe instead of catering for thirty, your kiddo just wants a special day out with you.

No matter what you decide, here are a few ideas that can tailor to your own family traditions for years to come:

  • Write an annual birthday letter that encapsulates the notable moments of the year. Involve the whole family if possible, giving siblings an opportunity to share a reason why the birthday child is loved.
  • Prepare for receiving by giving. Rummage through the year’s toys and belongings in your kiddo’s room to make way for the coming year. Depending on your child’s age you can find ways to incorporate a spirit of giving and gratitude before the birthday arrives.
  • Small decorations, big bang. Keep it simple but effective with décor. Filling a room with balloons or placing streamers across their door during the night is one way to start a birthday with a pow (or pop!). Decorate your/their vehicle with the age-old “honk for my birthday” sort of fun.
  • Have a special meal. It could be breakfast, lunch, or dinner, but let your birthday kid choose. If it’s a school day, wrap up each part of their lunch as a gift to unwrap.
  • Celebrate the real day. Maybe it’s easiest to have your get-together the weekend before or after the actual birthdate. Still make the birthdate special by having a cupcake or other treat.
  • Use a special dish each year. Instead of ushering in mega usage of disposable plates, let the birthday kid use a special celebration plate for the day. It could be a beautiful plate that looks of gold or a crafty handmade ceramic at the local clay-activity store.
  • Count down to the minute of birth! Build the suspense up almost like the celebration of New Year’s. Or you can countdown to the actual day on a chalkboard or poster—“3 days until Jimmy’s birthday.”
  • Consider gifts that aren’t purchased. Yes, this could be homemade items. Expand beyond that to consider giving a later bedtime or a “big kid” serving of cake as a way to mark the milestone of birth.
  • Match the pep of the party to your individual child. If your child needs quiet, stay low key. If your kid wants to invite strangers to the party, then maybe a more sociable gathering is a good fit. Children can become quickly overwhelmed by celebrations, so keep their interests in mind to ensure everyone has a good day. If possible, consider the needs of your child’s close friends. If there are those who have special needs, talk with parents to ensure your child’s friend will have a great time too.

Lynette Moran shares her life with her husband and two sons, ages 1 and 3 years. She has cloth diapered both since birth and enjoys all things eco-friendly and mindful living.

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