There’s a single baby in a high chair, bracketed on each side by her parents. They eat dinner and cake and sing “happy birthday,” followed with the opening of a handful of birthday cards. The family of three opens gifts on the floor. It’s 1987, and this is a video of my first birthday party. Minimal decorations, no guests, no theme, just two parents and a baby enjoying the day together. What’s wrong with this?
Quite a bit, apparently. Chalk it up to first-time parent enthusiasm or whatever, but birthday parties for babies, 1-year-olds especially, are getting increasingly more grandiose. And they seem to be way more about the parents than the baby, considering a 1-year-old, like a cat, generally enjoys the wrapping paper better than the actual gifts.
One thing that seems especially over-the-top is the birthday baby registry. I get having a registry for a baby shower: new parents are obviously in need of a lot of stuff they don’t have. Registries are helpful for letting others know what you need and what you don’t. But by the time a baby is 1-year-old, I’d like to think most parents have the basics covered. I’d also like to think that the people attending the party know your baby well enough to pick out a gift she or he will like. If not, why is that person on your guest list in the first place?
I remember reading a message board in which moms admitted to planning baby’s first birthday when baby was still a newborn. There are entire books on throwing birthday parties for infants. There are elaborate Pinterest galleries. And I have yet to attend a first birthday party where there were fewer than 25 guests. Seriously, people nowadays put more thought into their baby’s first birthday than I had put into my wedding.
Honestly, this stuff is cute, but as a rational adult I can’t quite justify using all of these resources on a baby. There are parents with children fighting to survive horrible diseases and families living in poverty and here we are, throwing massive gatherings for our special snowflakes. And as our children grow older and fatter and more spoiled, what are we teaching them each year on the anniversary of their births? That the world will always cater to them? That they deserve a hundred presents each birthday just for being here? And we wonder why American children are notorious for their sense of entitlement.
I must sound like a total scrooge. I swear I’m not against celebrations. I’m just determined not to be one of those parents who shells out the big bucks for an elaborate first-birthday party.