Happy birthday to you, this smells like a zoo

June 30, 2011 by Kara Moore
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In five weeks, we’ll celebrate my baby’s first birthday. Just how we will celebrate it has been weighing on me lately. How big should a first birthday party be?

I’m for small birthdays on principle. I don’t want to set an impossible standard of gift-giving, for one thing. And I don’t ever, ever, ever want to spend an afternoon supervising a group of small people in Chuck E. Cheese’s. I realize it’s probably an inescapable fate, but I’m going to try really hard.

But this kid is loved, and we want to celebrate her. It’s just a matter of figuring out how best to do that.

We attended a lovely first birthday party last month that I thought was very well done. It was a gathering of family and friends at home with barbeque and birthday cake. The birthday boy’s parents said “no gifts” and were totally disregarded.

Our house isn’t really big enough to hold even just close family and friends comfortably, so that puts me in a position to figure out somewhere else to have it. My parents’ house? A park? A rented room somewhere? You see how quickly this kind of thing can ramp up.

And what about food? Am I feeding adults, or are we just having cake and ice cream? I mean, whose party is this? I think that’s a serious question because the baby isn’t going to have a much of an idea of what’s happening, so that kind of makes it my party, right?

Clearly I have been over thinking this. But friends have been asking me for months now if I’ve started planning her first birthday party yet, so I’ve had time to obsess. And I see lots of blog postings about birthday parties. Ohdeedoh has a whole series on kids’ parties with themes and decorations and favors that put my best aspirations to shame. This post on Unclutterer is closer to how I feel about kids’ birthdays.

So far, I plan to have a round, layered yellow cake with chocolate icing and sprinkles, and I’ll cut a slice for her to “smash.” Because I really like yellow cake with chocolate icing and sprinkles, and I can easily make this myself for very little money. I kind of don’t get the smash cake thing. I don’t judge it, I just don’t get it. (Other things I don’t get: tattoos, garter tosses). I plan to decorate with balloons, and possibly make a balloon banner. I’ll use Paperless Post for invitations (I like this one). Still haven’t decided about food and location. I’m starting to think our house is the best place even if it isn’t quite big enough.

So tell me, moms, what do you think about first birthday parties, and birthday parties in general? Am I being too austere?

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12 Responses to “Happy birthday to you, this smells like a zoo”

  1. KatyNo Gravatar says:

    I am a believer in the non-birthday event. Approve!

  2. bradmcNo Gravatar says:

    Birthdays No. 1 and No. 2 are your last chances to make it the birthday party YOU want — or to even make the party a family-oriented affair at all.

    After that, it’s all about what the kid wants, which is appropriate, I suppose.

    The main thing is, you need to get lots of pictures of her with cake smeared on her face.

  3. jessicaNo Gravatar says:

    Just had to comment on this one: My son was born during the Great Swine Flu Hospital Lockdown of 2009: No visitors were allowed the entire time we were in the hospital, which meant that no one outside of my husband and my mom (and my dad, who literally breached security to sneak in for just a minute) got to even meet my son until he was at least a week old. It was so … lonely … that I wanted EVERYONE to be there for his first birthday party!! :)

  4. AlisonNo Gravatar says:

    My son will be 5 in 2 weeks. We have only had parties at home with family and close friends involving dinner, cake, presents and a pinata(for the older kids). That is what we are planning again for this year. So, I am all for your plan.

    • Kara MooreNo Gravatar says:

      I love pinatas! Alas, I won’t have any people the right age for one this time. I’ll hold onto it for future parties though.

  5. Travis HogbinNo Gravatar says:

    Kara, I agree with you. I don’t believe in birthday events, even for myself as a grown up. When I was growing up, my family never went over the top for my birthday and I didn’t really ever want for something big and ridiculous. I just liked hanging out with my family and overeating cake and ice cream. I saw a post about this on the Young House Love blog the other day. Their daughter (I think) just had her first birthday as well, and they seemed to keep it (somewhat) low key. Those two make everything look disgustingly simple, though, so take the simplicity of the even with a grain of salt. Whatever you decide, I’m sure it will be fantastic.

  6. AnnamarieNo Gravatar says:

    For my oldest daughter, I went all out–a complete Luau, lots of friends and family, which resulted in a lot of WORK AND WASTED FOOD. For my second daughter, we had a much smaller birthday party and it went much better. Also, for future birthdays–the Clay Center is GREAT! Only $75 for non-members, and you can only serve cake, ice cream, and juice/water. So the cost is so minimal compared to feeding everyone! Good luck, keep it simple and I suggest decorating with some of your treasured photos of your babe–people love seeing them displayed!

  7. BeckyNo Gravatar says:

    I have had Emma’s parties at our house, with only family and a few of Emma’s friends. I just have cupcakes, chips, fruit, veggies, and chicken salad sandwiches. I usually have some balloons and streamers and that’s it. I am not interested in the over the top birthdays either.

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