Musings on First Birthdays and Outings: How Much is Too Much?

E is turning one this weekend! WWHHHAATTTT??? How has it been a year already? The old adage “The Days Are Long But The Years Are Short” is suddenly clear in its meaning.

As her first birthday approaches, and party prep ensues, I’m left feeling somewhat inadequate, as I can guarantee that no one will be re-pinning our Party City-inspired mermaid themed party, including an incredibly cheesy but super cute high chair décor set for the birthday girl. Part of me feels that I should be hand crafting adorable tissue paper sea urchins or artfully placing hand picked sea shells in vases. Then I remember that she is turning 1, and will probably be overwhelmed as it is by our small gathering, let alone by prospective hanging paper urchins.

As moms I think we often feel that our outward displays of love for our children, like birthday parties, outings, and heavy involvement in play groups, are the only ways the outside world can know how much we love our children and we therefore need to go all out and have the Pinterest perfect party, the most interesting outings, and be the ultimate play date planner. If we can’t proudly display our photos of family events and time spent with friends via social media are we doing enough?

In short: Yes. In my opinion, I would rather see a happy child enjoying a first taste of birthday cake in mom and dad’s kitchen than a child overwhelmed by 50 of their parents closest friends and family members in a well decorated but perhaps overwhelming party space. Similarly, I think watching a child completely engaged in an everyday activity is just as valuable of an experience as a child who is enjoying the zoo. Rather than focusing on what WE think is a good party, or a fun, educational experience, we need to rather look through the eyes of our children. If your child loves big groups and lots of noise and excitement, then absolutely, a big party or an involved outing can be wonderful. If they’re not, eh, you might want to think twice.

I had this thrown in my face just this last week when I took my water loving Baby E to the aquarium. In my mind, she would love seeing all the animals playing in the water while we enjoyed a lovely Summer day with friends. To E, the whole experience was nothing short of terribly frustrating. I was showing her all of these fun pools of water that she couldn’t play in, with fun animals that she wanted to touch but couldn’t. Each display brought on a temper tantrum, ratcheting up my anxiety of how we were appearing to others, and making her even more amped up. To top it off, she wanted nothing to do with the stroller and instead wanted to crawl everywhere. Not gonna lie, I definitely used food to control the situation, offering bananas, puffs and rice milk melts to keep her satiated during the rest of our visit.

E having far more fun playing with scraps of paper from my Mary Kay facial boxes than seeing awesome exhibits at the aquarium.

E having far more fun playing with scraps of paper from my Mary Kay facial boxes than seeing awesome exhibits at the aquarium.

 

I am sure that E’s first birthday will go off without a hitch, but I can also guarantee that no one will be running off to replicate it. We’ll have a gluten and dairy free smash cake for the birthday girl, some Summer time salads for our intimate group of guests, and some cheesy pink mermaids intertwined in blue and green streamers that will be trying hard to replicate the the sea. And it will be a wonderful celebration of Baby E’s first year.

 

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