On Saturday, I brought Sprite to a one year old's birthday party. We had a good time and a lot of Sprite's school friends were there, but I noticed how elaborate the whole shebang was, and the expense the birthday girl's parents went through to celebrate their daughter's first year. The cake was a perfect (HUGE!) replica of her invitations. Balloons and streamers all over the pavilion shouted for all that she was being celebrated. The food was mountainous. The camera was set up on a tripod, aimed at her seat of honor, recording hours of people walking right in front of her seat. (I would hate to sit through the playback on that one.) She, herself, looked pretty clueless as to why these people were congregated and sat in her adorned high chair, more confused than sociable.
That was when it hit me. Who was this party for? Her or her parents? Why did they spend so much money and time feeding other people and putting the entire thing together for it to go largely unnoticed and more than likely forgotten immediately by the guest of honor?
I'm going to throw myself under the bus here. (Would that be considered mental suicide? Whoa, way off topic. We'll jump that bridge another time.) When Sprite turned one, I flip-flopped between throwing her a party, having a small barbecue at my parents' who live on the East Coast (where everyone in our immediate family lives), or just coming over for the weekend and having a little cake and coffee (mm, Starbucks..oh, sorry!) get together for everyone to just see her.
Sprite had no idea what was going on (I read her diary. Unless she was faking it, she really was not clued in.) and would not know it was her birthday so would she really be missing anything?
In the end, I chose to go the party route. We threw a party at a park close to our family (and two hours away from our home) and had almost 50 guests (almost all of them either family or close enough friends in which they are considered family anyway) come by to greet the birthday girl and share in her day.
I remember thinking about that party every day for a month. We did custom invitations (by way of Snapfish) to let everyone know of the impending celebration. I ordered platters from Publix, Costco, and a local pizza shop to make sure everyone had a choice of food. I had a big box of goodies for the kids coming in lieu of goody bags, but there were candy bars, puzzles, little games, bubbles, you name it. My sister (who is an amazing baker) made 50 cupcakes and arranged them artistically with candy flowers to capture the garden theme I wanted to convey. Yes, I even had a theme!
I had plates and matching silverware. Juice for the kids, soda for the adults. Veggie platters, fruit platters. Balloons, tablecloths, banners, oh, my! This kid was covered.
John was wise and stayed away from the party planning. His involvement was budget. I couldn't go over a certain amount. $300.00 was his total.
I did stay under budget by canceling plans for a face painter and possible arrangements for a bounce house, and even I thought the Donald Trump impersonator was a little much, and the party went ahead as planned. We all had a great time, but the birthday girl looked less than impressed. She looked closer to pissed when I pressed her hand into her cupcake to capture the "Oh, look how my little darling made a mess of herself with birthday cake!" moment with my camera. She held her hand out to me with a look that said simply, Clean this. I didn't get my messy cake face picture after all. She then proceeded to fall asleep about 2 hours into the party ( She could have tried a little harder to keep up with us for the rest of the four hour fiesta, but negotiations broke down after the cake incident.) To keep her involved (on display), we set her pack-n-play in the middle of the shelter so everyone could see her, but she decided her rest was more important and snored the rest of the afternoon out. The nerve.
We never opened presents, choosing instead to bring them back to my folks' house and open them later that night when Sprite was in a better mood and not feeling so cramped by people.
As I looked around at the mass of gifts, most of which she really didn't need, I got my reality check. This party was for us, not her.
Now, John will probably throw his two cents in and say how I masterminded this campaign and all he did was say, "Can you keep us out of the poorhouse on this one?"
This party was to celebrate the fact that we had kept our little one alive for one freakin' year! That was something to be celebrated! And look, she still has her fingers and toes! And you all thought I couldn't keep a HAMSTER alive! Hah! And ohmygoodnesswouldyoulookatthat, she's taking some steps! Celebrate me and my accomplishments! Yeah, she's the birthday girl, but I made her! Me! Me! Me!
(Wow, getting ahead of myself there. Taking a step back..surveying the damage. Yep, pretty bad.)
(Okay, moving on.)
I don't fault anyone for throwing their kid a first birthday party. I'm just observing and remembering what we did for Sprite, only my rose-colored glasses have been removed. And I am going to put them away until the next child is born and I conveniently forget the torment I put
John Sprite through and make the new kid go through the same thing. (It's only fair.)
This year, much later this year, Sprite will turn 2. We will throw her another party, but more geared towards her. We will invite her playgroup friends (about 10 in all) over for a toddler tea party and cake. The entire thing will be under 2 hours and there will be no face painter or Donald Trump impersonator.
I'm still ruminating on the bounce house though.