Since when do I have to celebrate my son's birthday for others?

A thread I just read in the BBQ pit made me think about this just now. I recently went to dinner with a couple of friends recently, along with our son and their kid. They assumed that my son was under a year because surely I wouldn’t have let him turn 1 without having a big party! Actually, I did. I didn’t see the sense in having an enormous party for my child when a) he wouldn’t remember it, b) we were in the middle of a personal tragedy and c) were having people coming in and out of our house like it was a hotel.

My friends are now extremely irritated with me and my husband because I dared allow my kid to turn one without expending a ton of time and effort during an extremely difficult period to celebrate my son’s turning a year old. For what it’s worth, we did have a small family celebration with a cake and a camera, but that’s about it.

So have parties like this always been for everyone else? Does it even make sense to have a party for a one-year old if you don’t have a lot of friends with kids the same age?

I admit that this is kind of a lame topic, and I still stand by my decision not to have a big bash; however, I’m starting to feel somewhat guilty, like I failed a standard motherhood test. Just one of those nagging things you never felt bad about until someone told you you should.

We’re the same way. Birthdays are mainly family events, just us and the grandparents. When they are older they might want to do other things.

I’ve been to some kids parties where it seemed to be more about the adults than the kid.

My Mom quoted (and followed) a rule she had gotten from some pre-historic parenting book, (might have been Spock’s, for all I know), that kids should have no more guests than their age. The idea was based on how many guests that a child could attend during the cake and presents portions of the party rather than on one’s social “obligations.” Given that a guest list of 1 would be pretty limiting, I would say that there was no need for a public party.

Of course, this goes well beyond the whole issue of what flippin’ business is it of anyone else how your family celebrates birthdays and far, far beyond the temerity of some dolt who would criticize your choices in a time of stress and enforced hosting of guests.

(Is her kid’s birthday coming up soon? Was she mad that you had not set the ball rolling for the next seventeen years of reciprocal childhood social events?)

Not being a mother, perhaps I don’t have the best insight, but reading this I can’t help but think: your way of celebrating this occasion is yours to decide. It shouldn’t be ruled by some standard of etiquette. When your son gets older, he should have his share of input, but for now, you don’t have to dictate your way of life by your friends’ standards. Having different family traditions than your friends doesn’t make you any less of a mother.

Did your friends know about the personal tragedy you’ve been through? If they do, that seems like a rather insensitive thing to say. I can certainly understand that the tragedy would take precedence. You will have other things to celebrate with your son, when you aren’t weighed down by other circumstances.

We had family, by which I mean grandparents and a couple of aunts and uncles, for first birthdays and then usually just mom, dad, and siblings until the kids were about eight, and then we did a party some years and not others. Birthday child gets to pick the supper menu, even when it’s a bit weird, and we do presents and cake afterward.

Your friend is crazy out of line.


They must not be close friends or they would have known your child was turning “1” and that you were going through a tough time. Why didn’t they call and offer to help plan a party knowing you were going through something difficult? Or at the very least they should have come to dinner with a gift and apologies for “missing” the child’s first birthday.

But scolding you for NOT having a party? I would drop them from the friends list.

There’s no need to feel guilty about having a private family celebration, and frankly it’s no one else’s business how you celebrate or don’t celebrate! I would just tell them, “We had a family celebration” and leave it at that.

My daughter spent her first birthday in day care, and I think I may have sent in cupcakes to share. I’m pretty sure we didn’t do a family party. In fact, I don’t know if she had a birthday party before she turned 4. I absolutely don’t understand people who have to make everything into “events” - I blame it on too much disposable income.

I’m probably also a bad mommy because all of her birthday parties were at home. Not at bowling alleys or skating rinks or McD’s or any of that. We did make-your-own-pizza or decorate-your-own-t-shirt or sleepovers or sundae bar. The kids always seemed to have fun and my daughter is starting her senior year of college on Dean’s List - I don’t think she was damaged by my approach to birthdays.

Anyway, you know the answer - you are not obligated to meet anyone else’s demands for social events.

Ditto, ditto, and ditto. Believe me, birthday party inflation starts all too soon anyway, so you really ought to get a pass for number 1. By the time your kid is five, he’ll be having three birthday parties at a minimum. Cake by yourself is the perfect way to celebrate a first birthday. If you’re feeling expansive, have ice cream as well.

I think you should encourage your “friends” to join a social club of some sort. Seriously, who sits around thinking “Boy, I hope Jane has a birthday party for her infant. That will be SERIOUS fun! I can’t wait!”

What judgemental jerks, IMHO. What possible business is it of theirs?

I’m behind you, overlyverbose. I didn’t have a big party for either of my children when they were very young. There’s no point.

They got stripped down to their diaper and I put them in the highchair with a piece of cake to play with/mangle to their little heart’s content. The grandparents wanted to come over and witness it and give them a present, fine.

Afterward, the little one played in the bath until clean and that was that.

In short (too late), ditto what Left Hand of Dorkness said, your friend is crazy out of line.

Heh, I am going to my friends’ daughter’s first birthday party on Sunday.

However, I think your friends are assholes. More pointless guilt is not a welcome birthday gift for your child’s first birthday.

Did they throw ridiculous parties of their own? Maybe your decision made them feel like schmucks.

If so, they deserved it - not because there’s anything wrong with throwing a party for a little kid, just because their reaction was very rude.

Her kid’s birthday has come and gone. Strangely, I didn’t even realize I was invited until I got an irate call from this woman’s husband about two hours before the party demanding why I hadn’t RSVP’d. Unfortunately, I never got his e-mail, so I had no idea what he was talking about.

I think the issue is not that they think I’m a terrible parent, but that certain things are extremely important to them that just aren’t to my family, while other things are really important to us that aren’t to them. A good example of this would be when they looked completely shocked when I ordered my kid steamed dumplings at a restaurant. Why wasn’t I ordering off the kids’ menu?!? Um, because my kid has never had fried food and I don’t want to start now, that’s why.

These people have been historically kind of…off, even before they had their kid. But having a child seems to have completely unhinged them.

Do you really consider these people to be your friends? Did they know about the personal tragedy you were going through? Were they there for you during that tragedy, or were they sitting at home, drooling over the thought of cake and ice cream? It’s amazing how insensitive some people are. I definitely wouldn’t count these ass holes among my friends.

I used to consider them friends; however, lately they’ve been getting weirder and weirder. I didn’t call to let them know about what had happened, but my circle of friends in general was aware, so I assumed they were, too, but I absolutely could have been wrong.

Regardless, a constant source of confusion for me, particularly in parenting, is why the heck people give a crap what other people do. Just because something feels right to them doesn’t mean it’s right for me. It also doesn’t mean that what I’m doing is wrong…just different. Along with many other things, these people don’t seem to get that I don’t care how they raise their kid, nor do I want to raise mine exactly as they do theirs.

Nobody has to do that if they don’t to!

We’ve had birthday parties for each of our 3 kids when they turned 1, but it was just a few family members and a couple good friends with babies that age coming over to have a bit of cake; no presents or real fanfare other than singing Happy Birthday. The kids enjoyed it (hey, cake!), but I’m pretty sure they had no idea what a birthday was at the time. They certainly catch on quick, though… :wink:

Considering your situation, no way in heck should you feel any obligation to have a party for the kid’s 1st birthday, and your friends were silly to bring it up.

I had an eight kid party for my son’s first… about 4 kids more than I wanted, but my neighbours who were invited were all single moms and single grandmas so they had to bring the other kids too. I skipped birthday party for age 2 and 3, but next year will be school and parties and things. What sucks is its two weeks before Christmas, so no out side parties, and no one much feels like another social obligation. Im thinking of small family thing, then a birthday party with friends later in January.

Do what works for you.

The kidlet has never had a “typical” birthday party that involved other kids. They’ve always been low-key family affairs that generally involve his favorite meals, birthday cake and presents.

What’s sad is that I get a catalog of birthday-party stuff that is just embarrassing. I can’t see spending that kind of money for a few hours on one day, no matter how significant that day is. He doesn’t need a “theme” birthday, and if he wants one when he’s older, fine. We’ll go down to the local party store and get what we need.

But for now, the low-key family birthday is fine with us.


I always followed the “one kid per year of age” rule when Kid Kalhoun was a wee tad of a boy. Mostly, it’s a family thing. And I would just tell my friend to butt out if they couldn’t grasp the fact that a Big Honkin’ Birthday Party isn’t everyone’s bag.