Baby’s first birthday: Who’s the party for?

November 15, 2011

Holidays, Parenting

So the other day I got an email from my MIL, a wonderful woman.

A wonderful woman who sometimes confuses the heck out of me.

The email she sent was to say she’d found a particular high-chair that she thought might be good birthday gift for G, to have at her house for when G visits, and by the way, since she wouldn’t be here for his birthday, when could we get together to celebrate it?

Context:  G’s birthday is in early March.  Yes, March NEXT YEAR.  It will be his first.  My MIL is a snow bird and goes to adult-summer-camp-in-winter down in Florida for the first three months of the year.  This means that she will not be around for G’s first birthday.  I hadn’t really thought about it to be honest… right now I’m just trying to figure out Thanksgiving, and oh-my-god-it’ll-be-here-too-soon Christmas.

I’m digging the high chair idea, and let her know that we were actually in the market for a portable one for the express purpose of using it at her place, other homes we visit, restaurants, etc.  What a great gift idea, I said, wonderful and thank-you!

And there’s where I got stuck.  About the whole when-to-celebrate-G’s-birthday issue.

See, I haven’t quite figured out how to communicate with my MIL yet, nor she with me.  We like each other, a lot.  But somehow I think we both feel like we often don’t speak the same language.  And I think we’re both always afraid to somehow say or do the wrong thing.  We’re just so amazingly different.  She’s from a large family who talk to and about each other all the time.  I’m from a small family who doesn’t communicate often, and we don’t talk about each other ’cause there aren’t enough of us for that to really work.  She’s loud and high-energy, most likely from having been a teacher of teenaged students for many years.  I am quiet and mellow, practically anti-social.  She speaks quickly and often disjointedly.  I speak more slowly and deliberately.  She’s on the neurotic side of the worry spectrum.  So am I, but about different things.  She’s got a huge heart and doesn’t have a mean bone in her body.  I’d like to think the same about myself (at least, on my good days).  She raised a wonderful son, and I happen to love him.  Here’s all this good will, and yet still so much trepidation and conflict.

So here I am with this email, and I need to respond so she knows I’m not ignoring her.  But I can’t figure out what to say?

Mostly because I have no idea what she means by “celebrate” in re: G’s birthday.  Does she mean just coming over and letting him unwrap a gift, or perhaps us all going out to dinner, or does she mean a full-on invite-the-family-and-close-friends-for-cake kind of thing?

Also, the email seemed to imply that this “celebration” would be soon.  Somehow that just strikes me as utterly wrong.  I could totally understand celebrating when she returns home in April; we could marry it up with Easter when the entire fam gets together anyway.  But before Thanksgiving even??  The mind boggles.  At least, my mind does.

So I sat down with M to talk about this.

Poor M.  Whenever my MIL or I are unsure about communication, we ask M for insight.  Which means he feels like he’s stuck in the middle and it drives him mad.  And honestly, can you blame him?

In this case, I asked if he’d thought about what we’d do for G’s birthday since I hadn’t devoted one iota of thought to it yet.  Neither had he, so we attempted to talk it through.  Did we think we’d want a party?  If so, who would we invite?  And really, for a first birthday, who’s that party really for anyway?  Certainly not G in that he will be in no way old enough to appreciate such a thing, and may even be a bit overwhelmed by all the people (though that’s probably me just being neurotic and worrying about something that isn’t really an issue).

OK, so is the party for us, for me and M?  And if so, do we actually want a party?  For me, the answer turns out to be yes.  I would like to celebrate the birth of our child.  I don’t need anything big, and I don’t particularly want gifts (or at least, I don’t want people to feel obligated to buy them – if it makes them happy to buy them, then that’s fine).  M feels mostly the same way.  But for me, this party is definitely tied to the actual event, and for M it is not.  Who cares, he says, if mom wants to celebrate it early?  And he’s right, isn’t he?  It’s no skin off my nose.  It’s not like I’m being forced to not celebrate the birthday on the actual day.

Why am I so violently opposed to celebrating G’s birthday (4 months) early?  Why can’t I just relax?

Have you experienced something like this?  Is this something all new parents go through to one extent or another?  Or am I just a total nutjob?


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7 Comments on “Baby’s first birthday: Who’s the party for?”

  1. Lance Says:

    I have a blended family, of course, so the only 1 yr old birthday I’ve ever thrown is my now 8 year old daughter known on the innerwebz as Bug. She was getting over being very sick. All she wanted to do was eat cake and go to sleep. My ex invited dzoens of people, planned a bunch of crap. I convinced her to throw it at home because of my daughter’s sickness. My kid was miserable.

    Before the age of 2, the parties are for the parents to impress other people. Your baby won’t remember jack squat until they’re 3 or 4.

    TYou’re crazy, but not because of this.


  2. Kasey Vance Says:

    We had a party for Madie…had around 50 people there, at our house…it was nuts. Madie had fun though. Will she remember it? No. Did she go to bed at 5:30pm (normal bedtime), well before most people left? Yes. Do I regret throwing it? Nope! Granted your brother was in the category of, she won’t remember it, so why do it. My argument was that I tell her how much I love her hourly, I love on her and kiss her…will she remember it? No, but I still do it. Silly argument, maybe but oh well, I’m silly. lol I am her mom and I wanted to celebrate her turning 1, and I did. And since the turn out was great so I decided to do the same thing for her 2nd birthday. That turn out was absolutely horrible…and I got 3 rsvps out of the 50+ people I invited. I had gotten enough food for the people I thought might come…and a lot of it went to waste. It was at a park and Madie had fun, cuz it was a park…duh. lol I vowed then that her 3rd birthday will be celebrated by me, Daniel and her, most likely at the happiest place on earth. No more parties for awhile for her. =)

    On the subject of celebrating it 4 months early…that wouldn’t be an easy thing for me to do. I feel there is a reason we celebrate things on the day, or very near the day at least.

    I have found that becoming a mother makes us all a bit crazy. =)


  3. Monique Says:

    I love that you wrote this! Those weird conversations-like-negotiations where you worry something will go wrong and suddenly it’s a hostage situation or someone is going to jump off a ledge … I can relate. =) Anyway, I’m a big believer that The Parent is The Parent and The Parent gets to decide things like when birthdays are celebrated and if or how you are going to use big-ticket baby/toddler items and etc etc etc. Grandparents get to suggest and advise and offer support and be a shoulder to cry on or lean on or a trampoline to bounce ideas off of … but at the end of the day, baby is going home with The Parent, and Parents decides what works for the family. So … yeah, I’m not making sense. Just go with your gut, and do what makes your house a happy one.


  4. Laura B. Says:

    Hey there! Found you through Mommynanibooboo… I have the same communications problem with my mother in law! My family is direct. She beats around the bush. Even her son admits she speaks in code. So much gets lost in translation that I now operate on the very literal interpretation of her inquiries, otherwise I’d go mad.

    Anyway, all this to say I had many of the same quandaries about our daughter’s first birthday last April… in our small town, kids’ birthdays are a BIG DEAL. Parents rent the fire hall, feed kids candy and hot dogs, then the birthday child opens dozens upon dozens of cards and gifts. It’s all rather overwhelming, and I was determined to avoid the gift-grab. My MIL worried about breaking from the local over-consumerism tradition, but we held firm: small celebration, at home. Seven people in total: Sylvia, mom, dad, and two sets of grandparents. Sylvia wore a party dress and ate a carrot-cake cupcake, but otherwise it was just like any other day for her. The adults had great fun playing with her few gifts, and she got a few hundred dollars from other relatives to go in her education fund.

    I agree, the first birthday isn’t really about the kid anyway… It’s YOUR day too, and you ought to celebrate however you wish!

    Does your MIL Skype? Maybe you could get her signed up so she could see your son on his actual birthday? I know it won’t be the same a being there in person, but I do think a party 4 months before THE day, amidst Thanksgiving and Christmas, is all a little over the top.

    (Also, her buying a chair for her house, and you wanting a portable rig to take to restaurants, etc, sound like two very different things… perhaps send her a couple links of what YOU had in mind….)

    Good luck! And Happy Thanksgiving!
    Laura B.


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