Why I Gave My Son a Box of Tissues for His First Birthday

by Nicola Prentis September 27, 2016

The morning my son turned one year old I was on my hands and knees scrubbing the floor to get ready for his birthday celebrations. I’d been planning everything for two months, my boyfriend was taking the afternoon off work (the rarest of things), and everything else was ready to go. I’ve never been much of a party person – I haven’t done anything to celebrate my own birthday for years – but I did want to mark my baby’s first big day and I knew just how I wanted the day to be.

We began the day with gift opening. My sister had sent over gifts which we helped the birthday boy open, but I was most excited about what I’d picked out for him, sure he was going to love it. I brought out the brightly colored box, helped him open the top and was rewarded with exactly the reaction I’d hoped for as he grinned, tugged the contents out, and scattered them all over the floor.

My gift was a box of tissues.

Regular tissues from the pharmacy that cost about $1.50.

My online searches for “baby’s first birthday” had turned up hundreds of incredible themed parties. A survey on babycenter.com suggested parents typically spend $200 or less, with 25 percent spending between $200 and $500, and 11 percent forking over more than $500. A few spins through Pinterest show how easily the costs could mount up.

That’s not all that those birthday Google searches showed me. I realized all this first birthday, themed party crap made me want to cake smash everyone on Pinterest. Then I noticed that the parties with Breakfast at Tiffany’s-inspired outfits or Hoppy Birthday rabbit-themed cake pops were from professional party planners, photographers, and cake makers. They were just advertising their services via their whimsical posts on social media.

I didn’t have to do this.

There was no need for star-shaped sandwich cutters and glittering Twinkle, Twinkle banners. A party that stayed under a $10 budget was far more likely to include things my baby actually enjoys doing and eating. Because what’s great about one-year-olds is how entertaining totally normal things are for them. I don’t want to speed up anything about babyhood. Until my son stops being entranced by holding his hands under a running tap, I’m going to keep life low-key so I don’t miss any of the fun of watching his joy at simple things.

Besides, if we’re honest, a big first birthday party is all for the parents. And why not? After 12 months of getting dressed being a big deal – let alone getting dressed up – parents deserve a party. I totally get why moms and dads might want to have a party for themselves, with their friends, doing adult stuff to celebrate the day they became parents. But, since we just agreed that it was all for our benefit, why pretend it’s for the baby at all? Go ahead and get a babysitter to take care of your and anyone else’s kids and have an adult party – with alcohol and without cowboy-themed party favors – that your friends actually want to come to.

At our house, tissues now piled underfoot, it was time for the other birthday activities on my list – things he loves doing but doesn’t normally get to. He ate breakfast off the newly-cleaned floor instead of in his high chair. I let him run around with no diaper on and mopped up the puddles.

And, despite the number of people asking me what cake I was making and telling me I’ll regret not having photos one day, a box of raspberries took the place of the three-tiered cake I should have been posting to social media. I’m sure, in the years to come, I’ll be much happier with the video of him making a tissue mountain than a “look how amazing this cake I made is” picture.

Next year, he’ll have some concept of what the day is so our non-birthday birthday celebration has been every bit as unique as the most elaborate theme I could have dreamed up.

Nicola Prentis


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