Before I was ever even pregnant, I would dream about being a mom. These dreams always consisted of two things: snacks and parties. I thought about making fun snacks for my kids when they got home from school. I thought about the snacks I would bring after their soccer games for the whole team that would be tied together with cute ribbon that matched the colors of their jerseys. And I thought about the elaborate, themed parties I would plan. I thought about the organic, homemade cake I would make for our babies. I thought about the different games I would make up that would go along with the theme. I thought about the millions of little crafts I would do to make the party unique. This is my brain. I know some of you reading this probably think I’m nuts, but this is truly the things I would dream about and get excited for. Then, reality hits. The fun snacks become squeeze packs you quickly grab as you rush out the door. The organic cake becomes boxed funfetti cake. The truth is, it is so much easier to be the “perfect” mom from a distance. I think this is part of the reason it is so easy for us to judge others when we aren’t living through their experiences. It is so easy to say, when I am a mom, I will do it this way. I won’t do x, y, and z. And I will absolutely do all these things. And I can’t believe she chooses to do that! Everything becomes different when you are actually in it. I never understood parents letting their kids co-sleep with them. Now, I totally do. When you are exhausted and they are again waking up for the 5th time and its 2 am, you do what you need to do to get sleep for everyone. I never understood allowing your kid to use the iPad at a restaurant. While I am still trying to not do this one, I totally understand now why parents do this. You have to choose your battles. There are worse things.
I always want to be the best mom I can be, but some of the expectations and goals my 13-year old self dreamed up is much harder to follow through on then I expected. It just is not always going to happen the way I dreamed up in my head. That is just life. I tell this story to remind you it is okay if the first year birthday party is not perfect. It is okay if you used boxed cake. It is okay if you are scrambling to put all the decorations up as people are arriving. It is okay. I think the thing I forgot about when I dreamed up these mom expectations is that I will have my hands already full with babies and responsibilities. Sure, I could pull off a really great party with all the stops if I had unlimited time and wasn’t tied to nap schedules and feedings, but obviously that is not my reality, and I am assuming it is not yours either. So, when it comes to that big first year birthday party, no matter how you choose to celebrate, I hope you can give yourself some grace and really enjoy this big milestone, rather than stress out about that organic cake.
For those of you in the middle of party planning or beginning to think about it, I have compiled a list of five tips I learned along the way.
1. Keep It Simple
Some of you reading this, might be thinking, obviously, but if you are anything like me, you will find a way to make even the simplest things overcomplicated. I am pretty sure I chose Hudson’s party theme, which was “Hudson’s Rookie Year” when he was 6-months old. This gave me tons of time to overthink and make everything far more complicated than it needed to be. The reality is that this is just a first year birthday party. In the whole scheme of things that should be occupying head and heart space, this should not rank super high. There is nothing wrong with desiring to create a well thought out and creative party, but the danger is when you overcomplicate something that is meant to be light and fun. I really wish I kept things a little simpler for myself. You don’t need to do everything DIY. There is no need to make mason jars look like baseballs to hold the utensils. You can just put utensils out in the box. The simpler the better. Choose maybe one or two things that are especially important to you. Spend time crafting and investing into those things, and then make everything else easy and simple. For example, maybe to you, a homemade banner for the high chair is a special piece to you. Invest time, energy, and care into that banner and then buy a few other decorations that you don’t need to make.
Besides feeling the need to make a craft out of everything, I also tried to do way too much. There were the 4 banners, one of which I cut out a picture of him from every month. There were the cupcakes and the smash cake, which my amazing friend Hannah helped make look like a baseball. There was a time capsule for people to write notes for him when he turns 18. There was the party favor cookies. There was a guess how many peanuts in the jar game, which I made my poor husband count out for me. You know something is wrong when the night before the party you spend over an hour at FedEx printing and cutting out time capsule cards, and other random printables I found on Pinterest. This was too much. I made things too complicated. Don’t be like me. Keep it simple.
2. Setup as Early as Possible
This is a tricky one when you are having the party at another location outside of your home. As much as I wish I could of gone over to the park 2 hours earlier, it was just not fully possible since I had Hudson and that was during his nap time. I probably should of planned ahead and had my parents bring him to the party as I set up even earlier. It all was fine, but it felt more rushed and chaotic setting up, so I didn’t get time to take photos of how everything looked before people began to come. I wish I got more photos of how everything came together. If you also plan on having the party at a park or different location, I definitely recommend having a plan for someone to watch your little one so you can fully focus on getting everything together.
3. Limit Pinterest Intake
I love Pinterest just as much as the next person, but just like Instagram for me, it can quickly become unhealthy. I remember when I was initially planning Hudson’s party and beginning to pin things to the “H Turns 1” board, I would walk away feeling overwhelmed, stressed, and not enough. Maybe for you there is no issue with Pinterest, but if I am being fully honest, my people-pleasing, comparative heart can’t take Pinterest in large doses. Know yourself. Limit Pinterest when needed. I think I was on it a bit too much, and I tried a bit too many pins for the party. Pinterest is an amazing resource for inspiration and initial ideas, but be careful not to get too carried away with it all. The thing is, we see all these amazing displays and DIY crafts everywhere, but it is just ONE pin. They did one pin very well. I am sure their whole party was lovely, but I doubt they also did every pin they had on their party board. We can’t do it all! Don’t get weirdly comparative or overwhelmed, like me. Like my first point, choose 1-2 pins to recreate. There is no need to go Pinterest crazy. Use it as a start part for inspiration and then just focus on your party, not theirs.
4. Designate People to Help in Specific Ways
Our families are the best. They are so helpful in everything. They helped out so much by bringing food, setting up, and cleaning up. If you don’t live close to family, seek out a friend or two that could help give you a hand. I also would recommend being very specific with what you need help with. Ask them to bring a specific food type so you don’t even need to occupy headspace for that area. I would also have a set plan for day of setting up. This is one thing I wish I had done. I was so focused on all the little crafts I was doing for the party that some of the bigger concepts, like where everything will actually go, was not as thought through. Make a plan that includes exactly where you want everything. Then designate each of those tasks with the people that are helping you out. This way there is a clear plan and everyone has a thing to do.
5. Let Go of Perfection & Have Fun
You survived the first year! You have changed hundreds of diapers, endured sleepless nights, and poured out endless amounts of love. If you are anything like me, you have also cried a ton this past year. You have been down, exhausted, unsure. But if you also are anything like me, you have never smiled so hard, laughed as often, or been filled with as much joy as you have built an unbreakable bond over the course of this year with your little one. This bond did not happen over night. Like with any good thing, it takes time, patience, love. And you did it. You endured. You got up off that bathroom floor. And you have this amazing little baby that seems more like a kid than a newborn. Isn’t it amazing what type of change a year brings? All this is reason to celebrate! So whether you choose to throw a massive party or would rather just gather close family and sing over cake, celebrate and enjoy this huge milestone. It does not need to be perfect. It does not need to resemble Pinterest. Of all that I learned this year, the biggest thing is that I need to let go of all those expectations in my head. I need to let go of that organic, sugar-free carrot cake I was planning on making from scratch for Hudson. Boxed funfetti is just fine. The reality is, they don’t even eat much of the cake. So don’t make things too hard for yourself. Perfection is not possible. Let go of it. Have fun and celebrate your sweet little one who has changed your world in the very best possible way.