**This post is by Liza, who is sharing some gentle and supportive ways to celebrate a first birthday!**
The first birthday is such an important milestone in your baby’s life (and yours too). So how can you avoid the stress that often accompanies such milestones and ensure that both you and your baby enjoy the day?
In western culture (as in many other cultures) birthdays, especially children’s birthdays, are one of the most significant celebration days. When you think about that moment of birth when your child entered this world, there is little wonder that this is so. When we celebrate a first birthday we are celebrating the miracle of birth and the unique person who was brought into the world on that day.
A first birthday celebration is particularly precious because as we reflect on the previous year we think about just how tiny and new they were and how far they have come.
For me, the thought of organizing my son’s first birthday was overwhelming for many reasons and it also brought up a lot of strong emotions. How could my little baby be turning one already? Surely this couldn’t be so. I didn’t know if I was ready for my baby who I still nursed and cuddled and held on my lap, to grow up so soon. And yet there he was toddling about and now hosting his first birthday party. Along with the fear that my baby was growing up too quickly was also the anxiety that I somehow hadn’t done enough. Now that the first year was up, had I given him all the opportunities to learn that he needed as a baby? Did I remember to notice all the numerous little moments that I didn’t want to miss, such as his first words, his first smile?
The first step to a stress free day for me was in acknowledging my anxieties for what they were (worrying about not being a good enough mother) and separating these feelings from the task of organizing the party. If you don’t take this step and reflect on what it is that you are anxious about you run the risk of worrying about every little detail of the party, trying to make it “perfect” when what you are really doing is trying to compensate for your perceived failings as a parent.
The second fundamental part of organizing a first birthday, that often seems to be neglected, is in working out what your child would enjoy. Not what would make the greatest impression on your guests or please the adults the most but how would the birthday boy or girl actually like to spend his day. For instance, if you have a shy or sensitive child who doesn’t like large crowds and a lot of noise, think about a smaller gathering in a familiar place. Does your child like to eat? To sit? To play? To run? Do they like to be outdoors? Who do they enjoy spending time with? Think about all things before you decide on the venue and the guest list. Food also needs some thought; while it is nice to provide food that all the guests will enjoy, try not to provide too many things that your child can’t eat. For example, if your child sees everyone else eating peanut brittle but it is too hard for him to manage he might be upset that he isn’t allowed to have any.
Timing is important for the birthday party, try to plan it for a time when your child will be well rested and ready to enjoy the event.
Two hours for a first birthday is ample time, any longer and your child may start to get overwhelmed. A plan to follow may help you divide up the time and keep things moving so that your little one doesn’t get sick of it. For my son’s birthday which we hosted at home, the first hour was dedicated to play time for the kids and food was available for adults and kids to snack on. After an hour we called everyone into the lounge room to watch Finn (with some help) open his presents, then we brought in the cake and sung happy birthday. This gave the event a bit of structure but also allowed for a good hour of playtime and conversation for the adults.
On the day itself look out for your child and respond to their needs, they may become overwhelmed with all the attention. At one point during the party I noticed Finn was getting upset, all it took was five minutes in a quiet room with me and a quick nurse and he was busting to get back to the action again. Making sure that you have a quiet space that you can retreat to may be a good idea.
Once all the planning is done, do everything you can to ensure you can just enjoy the party with your child.
If you are relaxed, your child will most likely relax and enjoy it too. They will be looking to you to gauge how you react to parties, so show them just how fun they can be!
If you could pass on one or two tips on creating a wonderful birthday experience for your little one, what would that be? Share in the comments, we’d love to know!