I don't mean to sound like a dickhead, but seriously, what’s the point of throwing a party for a one year old?
My boy’s name is Sid. He is literally perfect. He is better than your child, and better than you. He is better than every child that has come before him, better than waking up, better than health, better than heroin, or sunsets, or rollercoaster blowjobs. He’s the best.
You may think the same about your child. Objectively, we’re both wrong. That’s okay. Sid cancels out objectivity, and logic, too. It’s something all parents suffer from.
Thanks to Sid, I actually get how a wild-eyed and inarticulate Sonia Kruger can pop up on morning TV and “as a mother” call for a ban on Muslim immigration because she wants to “feel safe” when she goes out with her family on Australia Day. She’s wrong, but I get it.
Parenthood warps your brain. We must guard against its stupidities. In a way, it’s those same stupidities that convince us that first birthdays are for children. This is an affectation.
Your kid has no idea what’s going on
First birthday parties are too often all about the child. They should barely be about the child at all, because while a one-year-old may be showing signs of future genius, for the time being they’ve got no idea what’s happening.
Eventually — soon, even — when their brains have grown a bit more, they will develop certain key skills. Memory. Empathy, sense of self, and awareness of others. Maybe the ability to visit the ball pit of a local activity centre without taking a dump in it.
Until then, and definitely at their first birthday, they’re barely more than a prop — the carved pumpkin around which you might make merry at Halloween.
Your child’s first birthday is about you. And a little bit about your kid’s grandparents (20% tops). It’s a chance for them to cradle their grandchild, to tear up and sit numb with gratitude at the puke on their shirt and the soft, padded arch of the baby’s foot between their fingers.
But mostly it’s for you. To celebrate surviving the first year. You don’t even need to buy presents. At least not for your kid.
When Beyonce and Jay-Z dropped US$200K on daughter Blue Ivy’s first birthday party in 2013, it was mocked as an outrageous excess. But it shouldn’t have been – and not just because the couple’s net worth is around US$1.6 billion.
Their largesse included US$80,000 on a diamond encrusted Barbie, a toy that, unlike most of the crap kids get, probably wouldn’t be forgotten, broken or binned after two months.
Another US$30K was spent on gifts for guests. Not for the baby. For adults, who’d appreciate the presents, and not discard them to play with the wrapping.
Wake up and smell the beers
For Sid’s birthday, we went to the park. A predictable and cherished coterie of friends and family assembled to celebrate. I spent $120 on sausages. As a gift, I bought Sid a box set of Dr Seuss books, because if I’m going to have to read the same story a thousand times, I’ll pick one that won’t drive me to suicide.
Sid did not give a toss. Mostly, he was confused. That was fine. His first birthday was only tangentially about him. A celebration of how we got here without having maimed him somehow, or lost him down the couch, or thrown him out the window during a 4am tantrum.
After the cake and photos, we packed Sid off with his grandma and we stayed in the park for a barbecue, and five hours of piss-talking and beer drinking.
Those cherished friends are ours, not Sid’s. That year of achievement (he’s alive!) was a year in which we’d barely seen them (we’re alive too! Er, in a way).
In later years, when Sid can remember what’s what, and his sense of anticipation becomes real, his birthday parties will be about him. For now, they’re not. The ultimate first birthday present isn’t a box of Duplo or a day at the zoo, it’s a case of beer and a day at the spa.
Drink up while you can.