When my oldest son, James, turned 1 it was so surreal planning and throwing his birthday party. I couldn’t stop thinking, “Aagh! I’m totally somebody’s Mom! And they’re going to remember these parties when they’re adults! Oh my gosh I better not screw it up!”
I went all out, made a big cake shaped like a car, oodles of food for adults and kids, decorations, the works. We invited EVERYbody. It was a crazy chaotic day. Kids of all ages running helter-skelter around my house, piling on top of each other in the little ball pit that I had envisioned would be so cute with the little 1-year-olds.
We sang Happy Birthday, James devoured his cupcake, the cameras flashed, wrapping paper flew and before I knew it, the house was quiet. The birthday boy was zonked out in his crib — probably still with icing caked to his cheeks — and my husband and I were flopped on our couch trying to make sense of what just happened. Holy Birthday blowout, Batman!
We were parents now, and we had just thrown our first ever official birthday party. It was awesome, but boy did I learn some things by the time I threw our second son’s first birthday party.
I feel like there are two categories when it comes to a child’s birthday party — either it’s for the adults or the kids. I can see the appeal to either one. With James I think we were trying to do both, and it was crazy. With Luke, I decided to make it all about the kids.
I scoured Pinterest for weeks coming up with lofty ideas and then scaling them down to our budget and realistic capabilities. I also knew that this party was primarily going to entertain our older son and his friends, because let’s be real, 1-year-olds don’t do much.
The party was a blast! I kept the tradition of making a big cake, but everything else was fun and easy to put together. Everything was definitely kid-oriented and we stuck to inviting kids that were closer to my kids’ ages. It was still pretty crazy, still pretty surreal but definitely more enjoyable. We also hired a photographer so I didn’t have to worry about missing precious moments or always keeping my camera handy.
With each birthday party, I learn something new. And I totally snoop and take notes at the other parties we go to, applauding the hard work that I know those parents did to make it all happen. What a fun job to create lasting memories for our kids. I just hope one day mine don’t look back on these parties and think, “So how come Mom had all that free time to plan Pinterest-worthy parties, yet we had pancakes for dinner every other night?”
Priorities boys, priorities
Mandy Watts is a stay-at-home mom who lives in Crownsville with her husband, Justin, who runs their family business, and their two sons, 2-year-old James and almost 1-year-old Luke.