To all my friends and family members who feel hurt that they did not attend my son's super-small first birthday party: please accept my humble apology. We kept it small on purpose. In fact, there are a number of reasons why I refused to go all-out for my kid's first birthday party, many of which came right down to the fact that I didn't think it would make my son's day any better.
Of course, every kid and every family is different, so that's not to say I don't see the appeal of going big with a first birthday celebration. I totally do, especially when there are lots of friends and family around who've been a part of a little one's first year. I could imagine it makes complete and perfect sense to include those people in a grand celebration. I could also understand a mother who wanted to throw an extravagant shindig because she had a difficult pregnancy, labor, delivery, and/or first year of parenthood. I mean, don't you think an expensive cake and a few cute pictures of your kid are at least warranted? I do.
However, in our case, it simply didn't feel right for my son, and specifically, for his personality. He's turned into quite the cheerful, excitable toddler, but at the time he was overwhelmed by even a handful of people singing to him. In fact, one small muffin with a candle in it was "too much." I still think we made the right choice, and here are a number of factors that made that choice make sense:
Because “All-Out” Is Subjective
To be totally clear, we did have a party. It was just just an intentionally very small and mellow party, and under no definition would I call it "going all-out." However, I'd imagine that other parents might consider any form of a party at all as "going big," which is totally fair. Still, our small-scale gathering hardly fits my own definition, so I stand by it.
Because My Son Didn't Understand
While my now 2-and-a-half-year-old has grown a ton since that first birthday (as kids tend to do) he still has some of the same personality traits, including a tendency to be cautious in new or hectic settings, and to take in new places and people quietly before opening them up and getting comfortable. So, a party environment would probably have been pretty intense for him, especially at such a young age when so much is confusing.
If I'd had reason to believe he would have loved it, I probably would have decided differently.
Because Our Important People Make Up A Small Group...
Our gathering included me, his dad, and his grandparents. As it turns out, our extended family is widely scattered, and since we were purposefully going for something small-scale, asking them to travel seemed totally unnecessary.
...And Anyone Else Would Have Totally Overwhelmed Him
While we could have included local friends, we ultimately kept it tiny since their attendance would have been more for us, than it would have been for our son. He'd been on baby playdates and interacted with plenty of other kids, but he was still very much in that phase of staring at other kids and not so much actually enjoying them.
Because Everything We Wanted Out Of The Day Was Small-Scale Anyway
This was a baby that gingerly dipped his fingers into the banana-frosted "smash muffin" I made, instead of a giant smash cake. It just wasn't in his nature to go big, and I'm sure that forcing a "big" situation on him would have resulted in lots of feelings (both his and mine).
Because We Didn't Want To Share Him
In the slew of pics my spouse took that day, you can see my son sitting on my lap for the majority of the party itself. I treasure those pictures, and the fact that I got to help him open presents, eat his treat, and wipe his tears when the candle was simply too much. Perhaps this is selfish of me, but he only turned one once. I was glad that it was his closest family that got to be there for it.
Because The Logistics Would Have Been Tricky
The house we lived in at the time was not a great house for entertaining. Just trust me on this. Ultimately, it was my in-laws that hosted our mini-celebration with presents and muffins, which was another reason it was nice to keep the guest list small.
Because Just The Thought Of It Was Stressful...
I'm going to be totally honest: had a huge party like the right thing to do for our son, I would have done it. Just, you know, begrudgingly. That first year of motherhood was hard (as all moms know), and I was struggling with anxiety around my son's first birthday, too. It was a relief when my husband agreed that keeping it small was the right call.
Because When It All Came Down To It, It Matched The Stage We Were In As A Family
My son just rounded the corner on 2-and-a-half, so his third birthday isn't too far off. He's a much different kid than he was when he was a year old, and I think this could be the year we really do something special for his birthday. I'm excited just thinking about it, which is how I think it should be.