Party Animal

by Alison Friedman in Madelyn & Friends, Mommy's Musings

Madelyn runs with an older crowd. A handful of her friends just turned one or are about to hit the one year mark, so this spring has been filled with birthday parties.

We enjoy chaperoning her to these parties because, really, they’re more for the grown ups than the babies anyway. The kids, including the birthday guest of honor, are absolutely clueless about the party and that their parents have done a lot of work to produce such a big shindig all in their name. As parents, we enjoy attending the birthday parties because it’s a chance to hang with the babes and other adults. It’s a safe haven that makes it socially acceptable to fill conversation with stroller comparisons and bed time routine suggestions. The moms love it because dads come to help with the baby and also meet the other dads.

But as the host of the party? Oh my! As we enter Madelyn’s final third of her first year, it’s already time to start thinking about her birthday party! But the pressure is on. It seems like it’s a total faux pas to copy other party ideas within the same social circle. The stress that goes into the planning of “What should I do?” and the costs that add up are already making me nervous. Finding a venue, nailing down food, providing a novel activity, sending the kids home with party favors… there’s just so much to think about. Gone are the days of the one-year birthday party that entails pizza and a pinata and a “theme” that’s threaded only through the Sesame Street paper plates and wall character cut outs. The first-year birthday party circuit is maybe even more intense than the wedding industry, and I should know! {insert shameless plug for The Wedding Yentas, a Guide for the Jewish Bride, here}.

And then there’s the pressure for the baby! It’s all about the smash cake. The parents wheel out the baby in a high chair that suddenly resembles a throne among the throng, and the expectation is that at the end of listening to a recital of “Happy Birthday” sung by the chorus of guests, the baby will smash a personal size cake, delight in its mush-ness, and shove a fistful in the mouth and light up at the new sugary sensation. The performance anxiety has got to be paralyzing. And confusing. Parents spend meal after meal trying to get the baby to eat healthy and enjoy green beans, yet suddenly, mom and dad change their tune and the baby absolutely must! eat! cake! So when the baby is kinda “meh” about the whole thing, everyone’s disappointed and the “Happy Birthday” recital is followed by an encore of “awwwww, man….” It’s so funny. Parents are so funny. The whole thing is just ridiculous. But guess what? Madelyn will be wheeled out on her high chair throne and be forced to eat dessert. It’s just how it goes.

Baby Alison at her first birthday party, June 1984.

If there's going to be a smash, it's going to be on the shared community cake at my first birthday party.

One of the parties we went to was a circus theme celebrating one of our favorite cuties, Gavin, and it really was a fun day with the other mommies in our group, the dads, and our babies. Gavin’s parents had a photo booth and we all enjoyed sitting in front of the camera and taking silly photos that we could bring home with us. It really was a great idea and I think some moms may have been thinking that they wish they’d thought of that or they can’t have a photo booth at their TBD parties because it’s already been done. But I say pish posh! One-year-old birthday parties have been enjoyed for generations and I think as long as it’s fun, it doesn’t matter if it’s been done. If it’s a good idea, mutual guests will enjoy it again, and new guests will have a blast, too!

Don’t get me wrong; I’m still thinking about Madelyn’s first birthday and cataloging ideas in my head. From the moment I finished decorating her nursery, my next thought was about how I might design her first birthday. And that was before her original birth day! Yes, I’m crazy, but I think all of us moms are. We just want the best for our babies, especially when we’re celebrating them. Acting crazy about the ones we’re crazy about isn’t so crazy after all.

Friedmans Gone Wild... in a photobooth.

It's like we're 13 again... except we have babies and we're almost 30.

The Friedmans and The Franks aka Ali and Stefanie bring their husbands into their shenanigans.

Shaye, Madelyn, and Brielle are the girls of our Mommy & Me group babies, and just like their mamas, girls just wanna have fun... in the photobooth.