In the past few weeks, we’ve hit a huge milestone in our house. Our kid is one whole year old. Let’s face it – nobody really cares about anyone reaching the age of 1 except maybe the parents and grandparents. The kid usually doesn’t remember the celebration anyway. The party is for the adults to celebrate surviving the first year and that they can plan a party better than the mom next door.
I decided to be everything I despise and go on Pinterest, hoping for some creative ideas and frugal cost-savings, only to find moms who throw elaborate birthday parties that are way too inappropriate for kids. Does every 1 year old need professional photos done? A DJ? Favor bags that include gold jewelry? Mini-Porsches that are more expensive than the Jeep I drive now? I was feeling kind of lame by looking at different pages and the suggestions. I’m a party planner at heart, and feel like I usually throw pretty good ones. But this? I was out of my league.
I started looking up budgets and what was expected of us so we wouldn’t be social outcasts. There’s a whole list of rules by Lizzy Post, great-great granddaughter of Emily Post, world-famous rule-maker of how people should act, on birthday party planning. I found a few articles on how much to spend – and came across a 2017 marketwatch.com article that basically says one-quarter of parents spend more than $500 for their child’s first birthday party…before presents.
$500? For a 1-YEAR-OLD? Screw that. This momma is not spending $500 of cheese on a kid who is not going to remember this party. I looked at where the dollars can rack up and where I can shave them down. Let’s focus on the basics and build from there. We’re going to need a location. We need food and refreshments. And stuff to eat that food on like plates and cups. Then decorations. Then a cake.
Let’s touch on the ridiculousness of cakes. I recently went to a 1-year-old’s birthday party, where not only was there a very elaborate, gourmet, tiered cake from an expensive local baker for the attendees, but an entirely separate, very elaborate, tiered cake from said expensive local baker for the 1-year-old to smash. Nobody needs to spend a thousand dollars on flour, butter and sugar in lump form, only to have half of it left on the floor. For the parents splurging on gold-leaf in that smash-cake…why you smashing gold, fool? I’m sorry that your wallet is too small for your hundreds and your diamond shoes are too tight, but that seems wasteful.
We calmed it down and reeled it in. What did we end up doing, you wonder? We went rogue – a birthday party with (gasp!) no theme. We partied it OG and embraced the retro. It’s our kid’s birthday, that’s the theme, you ridiculous mommy-mother-moms. We gave invitations filled out by hand – none of this “ordered online” professional stationary. We handed them out to our friends and family when we saw them because we felt like it was a little more personal. Some balloons and streamers and colorful tablecloths. Not a character in sight, no hired entertainment, maybe a radio playing with some music, at a park pavilion on a hot summer day. We didn’t break the bank.
I made some fruit salad and had some sandwich trays. We had some water toys, giant bubble wands and water balloon games. People sat around and ate food and played games and talked to each other. After the fact, I’m not sure most of us knew what hit us with all of the person-to-person stimulation.
After about two hours in it rained. In fact, it poured. Forrest-Gump-in-Vietnam, sideways rain. The kids jumped in puddles and got muddy. Everyone was soaking wet. Not a single person melted.
Oh yeah…and we had a cake. We had cake from a grocery store that stained our tongues blue. It tasted way better than I imagine gold leaf would ever taste. Some of it was smashed and hit the floor and I wasn’t upset about it. And my kid had a blast and will never remember it. But I will.
Carley Lucas is a working mother of one hysterically giggly 9-month-old. She, her son and her husband live in Central PA and firmly believe a household of laughter is the best form of medicine for any situation.