Like weddings, Bar-Mitzvahs, and Sweet Sixteens, the first birthday party is one of those seminal events people go all out for, almost to the point of insanity. Not only in the party planning but in the gift-giving department. A lot of parents buy a really special first birthday gift to celebrate the enormous milestone of their child having made it to month number 12. Not me. Not for either of my boys, actually. I have a lot of reasons why I refused to give my kids presents on their first birthday (not even tiny little presents, you guys).
Am I a mean, awful, stingy parent? Nope. I threw both of my kids pretty big first birthday parties. The first kid had an especially stupid-big party, with a professional photographer, a caterer, a photo booth; in other words, the works. A ridiculously large first birthday for your first kid seemed to be the thing that all the parents were doing, I didn't want to seem like a Parent Who Didn't Care. However, let's face it: my kid was completely unaware of what went down that day. In fact, being so little, he probably was pretty overwhelmed by it all.
Am I a little selfish and were my kids' birthdays more about my own experience of the day and how I wanted it to be remembered in the photo books I would eventually spend hours making? Perhaps. But who doesn't have flaws? (Not you? Well, then I guess we can't hang.) Still, neither of my kids received special birthday presents from me on their birthdays. I just couldn't do it, so I didn't do it, and here are just a few of the reasons why:
Because It's Not Like They're Going To Remember This Day Anyway
Everyone makes such a big, honking deal about a kid's first birthday party, but we all know it isn't about the kid. It is about you, the parent. I know that my party for my first child's first birthday was very much about getting to put on a rad dress and show everyone how far I could go with a "mustache" theme for my "little man." Maybe, somewhere in the deep recesses of my son's memory is some happy thought associated with the day he turned 1, but I don't think he remembered the birthday or the hundred people who were there.
When my second son was 1, we did something a lot more low key. We had a joint birthday with his "birthday twin" cousin for basically just family. There was a music guy there, too, but no photo booth situation and no big theme to it. Much easier.
Because They're Not Keeping Tabs
So, my kids were still breastfeeding at their first birthdays. They were not composing musical scores or writing plays, and they certainly were not keeping tabs on who got them what gift. So they definitely did not remember that mama didn't buy them a present. I got to stay in the clear on that one until my son was about 3, before he noticed that I hadn't been buying him birthday presents. Now? Not so much.
Because I'm Throwing This Stupid Big Party
My mom used to say, "The party is your present," and even though every kid knows that that is the Worst Present Ever, I stood by that saying for my own children on their first birthdays.
Well, to be honest, the party was my present, because it really included my friends since my kids were too young to have real say on who their friends were at the time. Looking back on it all, a kid that young enjoys the simple pleasures in life. Being surrounded by a hundred people and a mountain of toys is not up there with those pleasures (at least at that age).
Because They're Getting Presents From Everyone Else
Seriously, I invited a hundred people to this party. That's a hundred people I'm going to be stuck writing stupid thank-you-notes to, all in the voice of my 1 year old. "Dear So-and-So: I love my new blue cardigan! I can't wait to wear it to the park with mommy! I'll look so sharp!" Ugh. I hated myself more and more with every forged signature of my son's name. Since my children would be receiving so many gifts from other people, I didn't see the point in joining the fray.
Because Where Is Everything Supposed To Fit Anyway?
I dreaded the first birthday party of both my sons because it was the party where I knew we would receive the most presents. Present quantities tend to go downhill after the birth of a baby, and the first birthday. But people really show up when it comes to that first birthday.
So, the question that kept me up at night was, where the hell am I going to put all this crap in my Brooklyn apartment? I still was the not-so-proud owner of a bouncer, a jumparoo, and a swing. The first birthday was a time when toys like shopping carts, wheelbarrows, bouncy animals to ride and wagons start becoming a thing. My apartment felt like it was under siege already. No way was I going to become part of the problem by adding to it with my own toy purchase. No way.
Because I Hate All These Plastic, Electronic Toys
Many well-meaning relatives went the default route by buying my children aggressively loud and obnoxious electronic toys that required batteries. These are the kinds of toys that come alive in the middle of the night, singing the alphabet song, or shouting, "Frog! Sheep! Chicken!" for no reason at all, except to scare the crap out of you and to wake your sleeping toddler.
Because, Ugh, Grandparents
Oh yeah, and did I mention the fact that my parents rolled in with a gift bag bigger than me filled to the brim with all the presents.
"We didn't want to limit ourselves to just one!" they said. Keep in mind, this was in addition to the present they brought my son every weekend when they visited. I know. I am so ungrateful. My kids are lucky to have grandparents that visit as often as they do (though my husband might not say he is so lucky) and who shower them with presents and attention.
Because Honestly, I Forgot
Here's the real reason I didn't get my children any toys on their first birthday: I forgot. I really did. I just didn't have my act together, what with hiring a musician to serenade my child, getting a professional photographer to document the day, making sure I had food that pleased everyone's various food allergies, and getting a cake for my guests plus a cake for the soul purpose of my child being able to smash it. So yeah, getting my kid a present kind of fell off the list. Also? I was kind of wrapped up in, you know, being a mom to my 1 year old.
Because They Would Be Just As Happy With A Roll Of Toilet Paper (Maybe Happier)
As many parents of 1 year olds know, they find endless joy in the simplest of objects: a toilet paper roll, a cardboard box, your reading glasses, the inside of the toilet bowl, just to name a few examples. Still, us parents search high and low for "the perfect gift," especially on that first birthday. It is bananas.
They don't really need presents! For the most part, they really just want to play with all the stuff you would rather they not mess with in your house, and with actual people. For each of my kids' first birthdays, they were happiest playing with the wrapping paper that came with their toys, and with the grandparents that stuck around to play with them after the party was over. Give the people what they want, I say!