1st Birthday Parties in the Age of Pinterest

A couple of months ago, when I realized that Isla’s 1st birthday was close enough I should probably start thinking about, I went to the modern mom’s go-to spot for birthday party ideas: Pinterest.

And immediately regretted it.

What Pinterest reminds me is that I don’t have the time or the money or the time to devote to arts and crafts. To making food from scratch. To coordinating a magazine cover-worthy 1st birthday party…or any party. My days are so chock full of being a mom and being a worker bee and being a household-runner that most nights, I collapse into bed at 9 PM and just pray that I’m able to sleep through the night without being woken up at 2 AM by a nightmare about being on the Titanic just before it sinks and then a black cat attacking me when I’m floating out in the middle of the ocean in the dark (because this makes so much sense) and then being unable to go back to sleep again because of anxiety about work and money and how desperately I need to clean my toilet.

What Pinterest makes me feel is inadequate. I don’t know what being able to throw a bang-up birthday party has to do with being a good mom, but. When I see little Paisley’s Snow Bunny birthday theme with an array of snow-themed, hand-baked goodies on sticks and a tower of perfect-looking cupcakes to go next to the beautiful 3-tier cake/fondant sculpture against a fashionable gray-and-white chevron backdrop and hanging strands of snowflakes, all I feel is like the laziest, clumsiest, most inept mom on the planet.

The thing is, when I think back on my birthdays as a kid, what I remember is the box cake my mom would make and decorate herself. She was not artistic. Her cakes almost certainly would have ended up on Pinterest Fail if the internet had been a thing in the 80s/early 90s, but I loved them. I thought they were so cool. I remember getting to pick my own birthday party pack of plates and cups at Wal-Mart or the Dollar Store and thinking it was great that I got to pick my own. We had so little money, it was novel just getting to buy something I wanted from the store. I remember parties with my family, and jumping off a lawn chair into our kiddie pool while my cousins cheered, and going to eat lunch with my grandma at Luby’s, and some epic sleepovers with my friends that mostly involved dragging every last item in my massive Barbie collection down to the last lonely neon green plastic high heel that had long since lost its mate into the living room and my mom losing her $#!% when she walked in first thing in the morning to BARBIE EXPLOSION.

I couldn’t tell you what the decorations were or what food besides cake (and then I couldn’t tell you much more than: “it was box cake”) was served for any of my birthdays. I don’t remember caring that my decorations were all store-bought or that decorating itself was a 15-minute activity done right before a carload of girls showed up at our front door. I don’t even remember caring that most of those decorations were cheap and covered in tacky cartoon characters or that a million other kids probably had the exact same ones.

And I don’t remember anything about my 1st birthday, obviously. I don’t even think there are pictures.

Ultimately, I gave up on the idea of a Pinterest-perfect party for Isla’s 1st birthday. Not only because logistically, it’s not possible, but also because I don’t really understand why it’s important. If you love crafting and you love entertaining and you did the big 1st birthday because you love it, I think that’s great. But I feel like a lot of times, we do this stuff nowadays because we feel like wehave to. Because we’ve got all these pictures from other kids’ birthdays reminding us of the high standards of teh internetz, and we feel like anything less means we’ve failed.

We’re keeping it simple this year. Not because I’m a lazy mom (although I kind of am when it comes to party planning) or because I don’t think Isla deserves a great party, but because I think a simple party with friends and family will be a great party. We’re keeping it simple because I want to focus on what I think is important, which is not how everything will look in pictures or how many compliments I’ll get from guests on my homemade rainbow-on-a-stick confections. We’re keeping it simple because I don’t want to set the precedent that what matters about a birthday party is how great the decorations are or how intricate the food is or how creative I got with a theme, just like I don’t want to set the precedent that what matters is the presents. Those things can be fun, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t want that to be the focus.

I want the focus at Isla’s birthday to be Isla and the friends and family who have loved her from the very moment she was born. It may not make for Pinterest-worthy pictures, but it will make for wonderful memories I hope I will have and cherish for a long, long time.


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