Hip hip hooray! A whole year down! Well done to you guys, because those first twelve months are some of the most testing, amazing, emotional and exhilarating of your life. I remember feeling such a sense of achievement at my son August’s first birthday party, and immediately after, I realised there was still decades of parenting ahead of me. But even so, it’s a serious milestone. As such, it deserves pause, recognition and celebration. Here’s how to do all three, with a nappy in one hand and a Mumm Cordon Rouge Brut in the other!
Gifts with good use
You’re going to want to buy your big one-year-old some presents, and so will your loved ones, so put the opportunity to good use and get some things that will carry you through toddler season (which is twice as long as baby season, FYI). With experience, I can recommend a walker, learning tower, ride-on scooter and toys that encourage independent play and fine motor skills. I like to call them “brain candy”. Things like stackers, shape sorters (this one is made of 100% recycled plastic) or make-believe toys that they’ll use for years, like a mini kitchen, or play house. Both are things I previously thought as excessive and pointless, but toddlers love emulating the adults in their lives. After the 10th daycare photo of August playing happily with an IKEA kid’s kitchen, I decided I really needed to make room in our home for play appliances. Farewell bar cart. Bath toys are also a great investment at one — it’s about the time when bathing becomes a little less strenuous on you and more playful for them — and, of course, it’s the perfect time to level up their wardrobe.
Celebrate small but special
It’s said that a first birthday should only have one guest, the second, two guests, the third, three, and so on. Just one guest is a bit mean (however, it might be perfect with your state’s restrictions), but keeping the guest list small is smart. It’s more manageable to cater for a few and not so overwhelming — for you or the birthday babe. Now, an intimate turn out does not have to mean low-key. August’s birthday was limited to five guests but we had party hats, festive outfits, a photo backdrop, dancing, cake and Champagne (for the adults, not the baby). Pick a time that works with naps, and do one food, en masse. We chose mid-morning and bagels. All types of bagels: poppy seed, blueberry, cinnamon, all types of toppings: strawberry cream cheese, chilli cream cheese, smoked salmon, all prepared by a bagel business. All I had to do is toast ‘em and arrange on pretty plates. If you’re opting for the afternoon, a pizza party makes things very tasty and very easy. Even if you don’t want a lot of fuss, do have a cake, do sing happy birthday, and do get a photo of you and your kid blowing out the candle together.
Warm and fuzzies
We’re not going to lie, you might be feeling pretty emotional about your baby officially entering toddler territory. Let it all out with a good cry, and scroll through the trillions of photos you’ve taken of them, but capture it too. You might want to write a letter to them, telling them everything you love about them at this moment in their lives. This could become something you do for them every year, and when they’re old enough, they can read over them. Virtual versions work too. I have a friend who set up a gmail account for her seven-month-old so she can email her from time to time with entries about her progress and cuteness. You could start an annual photo, snapping your little one in the same jumper, hat or dress each birthday. Or you could get them a “forever” gift. When I was nine, my dad made me a framed mirror and wrote a birthday message on the back. In a way, it was my first piece of furniture, and something that’s moved with me everywhere (apologises previous flatmates). For August’s first birthday, I took this idea, and bought him art. A framed photograph of an Italian beach by one of my favourite photographers. Unconventional for a one-year-old, but we’d been to the Italian coast in his first year, and my hope was that it would be a beautiful reminder he’d get to enjoy his whole life, hanging it in all his future homes . . . and musing over what great taste his mum had.
Treats are for parents too
Your baby will enjoy the balloons and the cake, but other than that, it’s a day like any other. For you and your partner though, it’s momentous. That’s why I always make a point of congratulating the parents at first birthday parties, they’ve earned it. With this in mind, parent and guardian, treat. yo. self. A night off, a fancy dinner, maybe even a little trip away! Do something to celebrate all you’ve been through keeping that little baby thriving for 365 days, and counting!