It all started innocently enough. In fact, I didn’t even want to have a 1st birthday party. I had sat through all of my niece’s and younger sibling’s parties and while they were entertaining for the child, the parents mostly looked either frazzled or bored. In one party, my niece cried because she was afraid of the piñata. In another party, my sister’s mother in law ended up in a fight because of the way my sister treated her granddaughter, my sister’s stepdaughter. Family parties have always been stressful for me. My parents are divorced, so it seems as though someone is always feeling left out, pissed off or just doesn’t show up at all.
When I was pregnant with my son I was pretty determined not to have a 1st birthday party. I had just survived two lovely showers while being 8 months pregnant in the middle of the summer. I was an emotional mess while pregnant and so I was in no mood to revisit the inevitable stress of party planning and dealing with family craziness. In the weeks after he was born I was so tired and stressed it felt like my entire existence had been hit by a train. The thought of ever being able to wear clean clothes seemed out of reach, much less throwing a party. I thought we would be lucky to make it to Roundtable Pizza and have some cake for his first birthday.
Another concern for me was the cost. After all, what kind of people would spend an insane amount of time and effort for a party the child would probably sleep through, not remember or appreciate? But something happened when that little human made his entrance into my life. I knew my defenses were weakening when after a few months that pizza and cake with “just us” idea started morphing into something bigger.
Then my partner - who is just as sentimental as I am about these things - told me something that made me question my reasoning. He said that this time in the baby’s life was precious and that this first year is like no other, and that I might regret not having that day with him and our family. Of course, his idea of party probably didn’t involve a thousand DIY projects that I had seen on Pinterest. (What did people do before Pinterest?) But his words convinced me we should go ahead and have the party, and so the decorating floodgates were unleashed.
We settled on a theme - Dr. Seuss's Oh the Places You’ll Go (check out my Pinterest board for it!) - and started gathering ideas. My partner is a graphic designer so that I knew that we could “play around” with invite themes and we (he) could do a lot of the work. Soon after that I found myself wandering stores looking for the perfect wasi tape to hand decorate every envelope for the invite.
I knew that we had deviated from the original small party plan when I found myself making a 170 pennant banners to decorate the picnic area we had rented at the park in our hometown. Then the guest list just grew and grew - The neighbor! My old friend from high school! My mom’s friends from work! Forget immediate family; we'd suddenly invited the whole world.
It was a labor of love, and we only pulled it off because of all the support that surrounds our little family. We had a welcome table, a gift table, a desert table, and art activity table, centerpieces, personalized favors, DIY party hats, DIY cake toppers, photo displays, birthday boards, a refurbished vintage high chair, and countless other DIY projects. My partner and creative BFF both helped make a lot of these things. I harassed my teenage sister to come help on weekends, and assigned projects to my mom. To make things even crazier my partner’s daughter has the same birthday as the baby! Yes, we were making two of many of these things and had to pull together a party that was also entertaining for a 9-year-old.
The party was amazing, and I don't regret it one bit. Everyone had loads of fun and it was great to have all of the people who supported our family gathered in one place. I don’t even regret all the work I created for us. In fact, this party made more confident in my kid party planning abilities. I was a woman that needed a project, I had been recently laid off, so a part me of missed the event planning that was normally a part of my work.I fully engulfed myself in the party to distract me from the hard work of finding work. I soon became quite militant about the whole thing and more importantly forgot that this budget was coming out of our household account and not someone else’s.
I admit the party wasn’t just for the baby and his big sister - it was also to celebrate my first year as a mother. After the many sleepless nights, some cake was long overdue. It was also to celebrate that his father and I survived all those weeks of exhaustion. To celebrate that our little blended family made it through such a big change and to celebrate the first year of life of that little man who made us into a family.
But I swear, we are not having a party next year!