Are first year birthday parties really necessary?

January 20 |
Offbeat Families runs these advice questions as an opportunity for our readers to share personal experiences and anecdotes. Readers are responsible for doing their own research before following any advice given here... or anywhere else on the web, for that matter.
Birthday Cake
Photo by Will Clayton, used with Creative Commons license.

Emira, (author of The Boss of You: Everything A Woman Needs to Know to Start, Run, and Maintain Her Own Business), recently sent us a submission questioning birthday parties celebrating the first year of life. This is what she says:

One of the many beliefs that I held pre-mommyhood, which is now being right and properly challenged, centered around the first birthday party. Why, I naively questioned, would a bunch of adults want to sit around for an afternoon wearing funny paper hats watching a one year old try to stuff cake into her mouth? Who is the party for? If adults really want to have a party, don’t they want to maybe have a glass of wine and some adult conversation? And do one year old’s really notice that there’s a party going on just for them?

I did, in fact, have a whole theory/plan about what my one year old’s party would look like, when and if I ever got here. It would be a cocktail party in celebration of the parents, who had successfully made it through the first year of parenting in tact. It would be a chance for dressing up. There would be champagne. It would be glorious. The baby? Would be at home with a babysitter/loving grandparent asleep. There would be no paper hats and faces smeared with cake icing on the first anniversary of my baby’s birth. That ritual could begin somewhere around year two or three when the kid actually clued into the party thing.

I’ll admit, part of my concern about forgoing the first birthday party is — somewhat ridiculously — bound up in the loss of the photo opp. I worry that my daughter will look back on photos of her as a baby and wonder where the one of her smiling cake smeared face with the iconic “1” candle in the foreground is. We already failed to get a decent (read not blurry or very poorly lit) photo of her in front of her first Christmas tree, and I didn’t even think about braving the mall Santa.

I’m currently thinking I’ll probably try to have the best of both worlds. A small family party, complete with the cake, candle and balloons at her birthday. And then sometime later that week and evening out for her dad and I, with friends, to both celebrate our lovely daughter and to ensure that I get that well deserved glass of champagne.

To party or not to party — what do you guys think?