Yawp's Yip Yaps


San Francisco, California, USA
October 18
Teacher, writer, photographer, baby mama, mix CD maker--not necessarily in that order.


NOVEMBER 9, 2010 5:23PM

The Smash Cake and Other 1st Birthday Follies

Rate: 3 Flag

Before having Baby I watched as friends ramped up for their child's first birthday. Cakes were made in interesting shapes. Plates, cups, and candles were purchased to match. Goody bags were constructed. Games were planned. Cute invitations were designed and sent well in advance.

Do not let the passive voice fool you; these mothers (primarily they were the ones entering the koo koo crazy town of birthday parties) frantically ran around trying to get things together. The parties were, of course, fabulous, reminiscent of Martha Stewart Living meets Sesame Street. I was, of course, impressed, then terrified. If I indeed had a child at some point, would I be up for all of this. I mean, my partner is a natural planner and generally loves to put events together. However, I could not see myself making a butterfly cake and butterfly goody bags and buying butterfly napkins...not me. I bought Baby a onesie that reads, "Young Punk." I'd prefer to throw our wishes for the next year into the ocean (using biodegradable paper, of course) after a picnic repast of organic fruits and cheeses. 

The trouble is, even though Baby won't remember the day, she will scramble to see pictures of it at some point, and there had better be some. My low-key, hippie-dippie ideas don't make for impressive, "you are so loved by many" pictures. Also, her pictures won't compare to my anxiety-about-the-future's vision of Baby's 1st grade friend Hazel's pictures, whose daddies had Buddy the Cake Boss ship a  seven tiered zoo motif cake from New Jersey.

I started researching. What is appropriate for a one-year old who can't walk, talk, jump, throw, paint, or pet animals without harming them? The possibilities are not exactly endless. Also, they cost. A lot. For about $400, we and twelve other people could have a room where older kids would be entertained by (insert theme staff here) and then be served pizza. The cake is not included. Baby would primarily do what she always does, which is crawl around, pull herself up, and babble. She'd just be doing it for $200/hour.

Then there's the cake issue. Up until now, we have been excruciatingly careful about what crosses her lips. Here in California not feeding your baby organic food is tantamount to child abuse while back at home in Chicago it is seen as putting on airs. We have mostly done organic, betraying our roots, and she has not had any refined sugar yet. So, on her birthday, I am supposed to let her grab hunks of white flour and sugar and shove them into her mouth willy-nilly? I mean, I know every party has a pooper and it might be me, but c'mon--she's one! Then there's the "smash cake" theory: nowadays, babies are supposed to be given a separate cake into which their whole face is welcomed. This is a photo opportunity, so if the baby is too prissy, then family members, eager to get the shot, might do a little pushing and prodding to get the baby to comply. Really? REALLY? Do I have to do this so that Olive's pictures don't make Baby come home crying, saying that we don't love her enough? I'll barely be ready for that when she's 13, much less three.

Like David Bowie and Freddie Mercury before me, I was under pressure. My partner and I entered into birthday peace talks. Baby babbled.

Turns out our apartment and budget made some decisions for us: we could hire no entertainment, rent no rooms, and seat few guests. The part would be an open house.

In terms of sugar, we settled on carrot cake cupcakes, Baby's with no-sugar whipped cream frosting. The cake, however, will have sugar. She will love it if she's any child of mine.

Bottom line, childhood milestones seem to be taking on a manic life of their own. Preschool graduations? $200 dresses to move from 5th to 6th grade? Huge trophies for small-people sports? The more we up the stakes, the smaller childhood seems to get. We all want to remember how simple things were, how pure. In adulthood, we covet ease and spontaneous joy and wonder. Though I understand the motivation and the pressure and the desire to make things especially special for my especially special baby, I will endeavor to just let her enjoy the love around her, the laughter, and the cupcake.

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birthday cake peace talks. I love that!
Don't let it get to you. I remember my daughter's early years as very stressful, but now realize that a lot of that stress came from my own expectations of what I had to do to be a good mom. Now I'm realizing that my daughter is much happier when I'm not being fussy and overplanning everything. In fact, for her birthday this year she made disparaging comments about the big parties I planned when she was young. All she wanted to do this year was go see a movie with two friends, and go out to lunch. And you know what? It was a lot of fun, and very relaxed.
Yeah........my birthday parties for my kids when they were one were mostly about all of my friends drinking white wine and the child being totally entranced with the ribbons. Healthy food was served, and the kids got a little cake, sugary, but as with all things in life, in balance.

It's a chore enough just keeping them alive, don't sweat the rest of it. There will always be idiots questioning your choices, I say hit them in the head with a large rock. Your instincts seem spot on to me, don't question them.

(And both my kids are grown now--they survived----and are happy and healthy and cool as hell.)

I'm a fan of your writing, kiddo. Love the humor.
I love your writing.
"Here in California not feeding your baby organic food is tantamount to child abuse while back at home in Chicago it is seen as putting on airs." ~r