When my daughter, Alison, was nearing her one year mark, my husband was insistent that we throw a birthday party, and shocked that I had different feelings. We were very tight on money at the time, and I couldn’t justify the expense of a party for a baby who wouldn’t even remember it. My mother in law hurried to back up J, (of course!) and offered to share the expense with us.
I discovered that first birthdays have their very own section at the party store, complete with decorations for the high chair, and #1 candles that cost $4 a pop. J and his mom got carried away. We had a personalized party hat (that she wouldn’t wear) a huge candle that wouldn’t light, and balloons and expensive decorations that covered every available surface.
Halfheartedly, I made the preparations, wincing every time I saw another receipt from the party store. I just didn’t see what the big deal was.
You only get one first birthday, everyone kept telling me, as though this justified the insanity of buying a toddler her very own cake. By that logic, we would be killing ourselves to throw a birthday party every year, and December is already a very hectic month.
When the day arrived, I was very nervous. What if she cried through the entire party? What if she was indifferent to birthday cake?
The day couldn’t have gone better. She was in a good mood, and drank up all the attention. She loved opening presents—and yes, was somewhat uninterested in her cake. However, as the day neared to a close, I realized that that wasn’t the point. The party really wasn’t for Alison at all.
It was for us. It was a heaving of one giant sigh of relief—we’d done it! We’d made it through the minefield that is the first year: the midnight feedings, the vomit stained clothes, the sleepless nights. We’d been through teething, and diaper blowouts, and through our first major parenting scares. We’d been tested, and we had passed. Our daughter’s first year had come and gone, and not only was she still alive (as J always jokes) she was thriving! We had really and truly joined the ranks of parenthood. There was no turning back now.
My second daughter is eleven months old. I have been eagerly anticipating her first birthday for several months now, throwing myself into every detail of the preparations and making most of the decorations myself. I will bake all of her cupcakes, and I am doing it with a heart filled with love. I have enjoyed looking back over her first year with joy at the little girl she is becoming, mingled with sadness over the baby I am losing. I have gone through her baby clothes and packed them up and put them in the attic—I am not ashamed to admit that I cried while I fingered the tiny clothes.
But this is a time for celebration, not sadness, and celebrate we will! After all, you only get one first birthday!