My wife and I recently celebrated our baby’s first birthday by throwing him a party. The thing about one-year-old birthday parties is that they’re pretty much just for the grownups. I mean, you know it’s an adult function when one of the first items on your shopping list is beer.
To be fair, beer may not have been so far up the list had my wife been the one to create it–and she confirmed as much with an overstated eye-roll as she handed the youngest over to me. This was when I noticed the melon-sized lump pushing out the back of his pants (to non-parents, this isn’t butt cancer…it’s a poopy diaper). Knowing my wife, she had timed this on purpose. Really, I think she’s being unfair–she knows she’s not supposed to let me do important things by myself.
But I digress.
Hosting a one-year-old birthday party is trickier than it seems, because you have to balance the fun factor for adults with what’s going to be appropriate for a one-year-old (in our case, a toddler and a four-year-old, as well). The result for us was Pinterest on ‘roids, with balloons and more balloons and then my wife warning me not to blow up so many balloons because we’d have to keep an extra close eye on the one-year-old since a popped balloon is a choking hazard, and then dorky fun games that more-than-warranted me putting beer on the shopping list.
After all this came the cake-eating part. In our family, the child’s one-year-old birthday party is when we introduce him to cake for the first time in his life. Typically, this is when the parents and grandmothers line up with their cameras and start recording the catastrophe with the intent on showing it to all his friends at his fourteenth birthday slumber party. This is, of course, payback for all the poopy diapers, 4 AM crying, surprise thumbs to the eye, projectile vomits to the face, baby saliva in the beverage, among many other things.
The routine goes as followed: with camera phones recording and guests singing, the child’s grandfather stands at attention–fire hose in hand–awaiting the cleanup part of the birthday-cake-eating tradition. Next, the one-year-old sees the cake in front of him, shows but a moment of uncertainty before double-fisting the chocolatey goodness and then cramming into his mouth, onto his face, in his hair, ears, nose, clothes, etc. The grownups all laugh and smile and comment at the oh so adorable sight.
My child…being my child…didn’t follow the routine as he was supposed to. He didn’t give so much as a moment’s warning before getting into his cake-eating groove: gripping both sides of the plate, he hoisted it against his face like pie to a circus clown.
Meanwhile, the guests started in an awkward rendition of the Happy Birthday song as the mothers and grandmothers scavenged through their purses in search of their camera phones with freneticism I’ve only seen from feral cats in a water fight. Seven-and-a-half minutes later and the one-year-old had yet to show his face from behind the plate of cake. My wife worried about his ability to breathe in there, but I assured her that those chocolate frosting bubbles forming at the edges of the dish had to be a good sign.
Roughly nine minutes later and he finally put the plate down. Gasps echoed about the room at the sight of him—my son had officially turned into a California Raisin. From the top of his head, in all the grooves of his neck, he had managed to coat the stuff all over himself like a Kardashian beauty mask. It was at this point when my father said how surprised he was that the boy could have consumed it so fast, at which point I reminded him of the nature of a one-year-old’s eating habits. Unhinging and pulling back the table part of the high chair, the guests saw that the chocolate beauty mask had extended down the child’s entire front. At the very least, the boy seemed unfazed by the mess.
After hosing off my son and changing his clothes, it was time for him to open presents. Managing gifts at a one-year-old’s birthday party isn’t a simple task, either. For starters, no matter how much the parents try to dissuade guests from bringing gifts, most are still going to bring them. And God bless them for it! I’m certainly not one to complain when someone is generous enough to spend their hard-earned cash on my son; it’s just that nobody brings items you actually need, like diapers, or wipes, or money, or baby food or more beer because your wife only let you buy a twelve-pack for the party and now you’re almost out…but nor should they! To be clear, if someone’s going to bring my kid a gift, I want them to be able to bring a fun kind of gift, where they can enjoy the look on my boy’s face when he opens the wrapped box to find a shiny light-up toy that’s decorated with many, many (oh so many) zoo animals and plays on a loop the same seven notes of some mariachi song. It isn’t fair to make them watch the kid show more excitement over the used napkin in his lap than the box of diapers they gifted him.
But the reality is that those toys all have to go somewhere and, if you have three little boys all two years apart in age, you have a lot of the same kind of toys. I have often thought of starting up my own cooperative, where parents with kids that are close in age to mine could wrap up the toys their children no longer show interest in, as I do the same with my kids’ toys…we exchange them and…voila! A Merry Christmas everyone can get on board with!
Other parents have actually seemed to like this idea when I’ve brought it up, but I’m pretty sure nobody is taking me seriously…and since my wife has warned me not to overshare too many of my hair-brained ideas with our friends for fear of scaring them away, I’m careful not to push the issue.
A very happy birthday to my one-year-old!