Ava is 11 months old now, which even my dodgy maths tells me means she’ll be 1 year old in just under a month.
The first-birthday-party invitations have been sent (if you can call setting up a Facebook event “sending invitations”) and cursory discussions have been had about what we’ll do on the day.
Her birthday is a Thursday, so Dylan, his American cousins who will be staying with us, and I will pop a cork on the comfort of our couch on April 4. Her party (and I use that phrase lightly) will be the following Sunday.
Now, I’m not one for lavish celebrations, being a very lazy person who hates bowing to peer pressure. So there will be no official photographer (not one I’d pay, anyway), no theme, no goodie bags, no decor and no finger foods. There will not even be a toilet. Or a changing or breast-feeding area (these two are essential to any successful first-birthday party, apparently – more on this later).
Essentially, we are going for a picnic on the Common, with some bottles of champagne in a cooler box, and our guests will meet us there. They will stay for as short or as long as they like, share some bubbles, enjoy the nature, and then move along when they’ve had enough (or when the champagne runs out). They will also bring their dogs. This was an essential inclusion for us as our friends are at the puppy-acquiring stage (they say that we “jumped the gun” by having Ava, but, in our defence, we passed Go and collected R200 first – ie, also acquired some puppies).
But according to Baby Centre (actually, Baby CENTER – somehow I ended up “with” the US version while I was pregnant, and changing over is like trying to cancel a Virgin Active contract: not humanly possible), I have disobeyed all the essential rules of throwing the first-birthday party for your LO (which, FYI, is mommy-forum-speak for Little One, the gender-neutral term for “child”, as opposed to DD – darling daughter – or DS – which I’m sure you can guess … this is about as far as I got in decoding the jargon of the dark and twisted maze of mommy-forums before I retreated in haste about 11 months ago).
Baby Center says you should:
- Cater to babies with varying numbers of teeth by providing all different kinds of finger foods, including pasta spirals, blocks of cheese and peeled bits of soft fruit
- Have a private, quiet area for breast-feeding moms
- Have a clean, private area for nappy-changing
- Keep pets away from the party
- Take diligent notes as to who’s given which gifts, as baby will probably rip labels and cards off as soon as she gets her hands on them
- Supply milk, water and diluted fruit juice in sippy cups, and
- Give board books as parting gifts to guests
As much as pasta spirals have been a hit at baby-gatherings I’ve been to with Ava, there is simply no chance that I’m going to spend Sunday morning cooking pasta or peeling bits of fruit. Also, I only have one sippy cup, and it goes everywhere with Ava – I’m hoping the same is true for the baby-guests. And I’ve never understood the idea of giving guests presents. It’s supposed to be the other way round. Surely. And finally, guests have been asked to bring donations to a children’s hospital rather than toys for Ava, so hopefully I won’t have to take any notes at all. All in all, and completely unwittingly, I have resoundingly defied the rules of traditional first-birthday parties.
The result (*crosses fingers*): a gloriously relaxed affair in a beautiful meadow surrounded by trees and family from afar and dear friends, celebrating and being communally grateful for the fact that Ava exists, and has enriched our lives for 365 – and a bit – days.
Now I just have to hope that the babies who attend are dog-friendly (in my experience, babies can inflict more distress on puppies than vice versa – within well-behaved-socialised-dog reason, obviously), that their parents will be content to change and/or breast-feed them in their cars or behind a tree, and that toddlers can easily be escorted across the road to the Farm Village loos in time.
The one nod to tradition will be the cake. There will be cake. Fittingly, in the shape of a tree. Ava likes trees more than pretty much everything, including bears and bunnies and ladybirds and all manner of other typical one-year-old-girl cake shapes.
What Baby Center did, very helpfully, alert me to was the chance of my LO (sigh) grabbing the candle instead of blowing on it. Who would’ve thought that blowing out candles isn’t something kids are born with the ability to do – much like burping or rolling or all those other things I assumed we’d all been able to do from day one.