I am not a party planner. I find venue searches frazzling. Designing invitations stresses me out. Collecting RSVPs creates a perfect storm of anxiety and exasperation that make me an absolute joy to be around (just ask my husband). Still, for my older son’s first birthday, I wanted to overcome my anti-entertainer tendencies and throw him a great party. And I think I did. We had a nautical theme.We had two (!) bouncy castles. We had cupcakes with ocean frosting and swimming Teddy Grahams. People had fun. My son had fun. I had fun. But I found the whole process kind of overwhelming.
We simplified for Ben’s second birthday. We used all the decorations from the year before (we are on a resident’s salary!), picked up a few $10 pizzas from Costco, and had a some families over to play with our new mud kitchen. And you know what? People had fun. My son had fun. I had fun. The whole process was still kind of overwhelming because my baseline hovers around 32% stressed out, but it was better than the previous year.
Our younger son turned one recently, and I felt a little guilty about not throwing him a big party as well, but what we ended up doing was much more special. Instead of getting caught up in themes and decorations, I focused on building traditions. I wanted to celebrate in ways that were unique to our family, that my kids would look forward to with excitement and look back on with affection.
Before the actual event, I decided to involve Big Brother by making something special for Little Brother. We light a candle at every meal, so having one sibling make a candle for the other sibling’s birthday would be a fun tradition. It just so happened that our Happy Hedgehog Post envelope included a candle rolling kit that month, which was very convenient for me! As we placed the wick and added a star decoration, Ben and I talked about how sweet and funny Peter is, about how grateful we were that he’s joined our family (okay, I did most of the talking; Ben is two!). I like this activity because it presents an opportunity for my boys to think of everything that’s special about the other, and to create something for him. I know that these two have plenty of conflicts ahead of them, but for at least a few moments every year they will focus on what they love about each other.
After coveting one for months (okay, years), I finally bought a Waldorf birthday ring. I’m so glad I did (good news: HHP sells birthday rings!). In addition to his birthday candle, I placed a King One, a birthday gnome (from the pattern I received in Toadstool Forest’s Weather Gnome Kit), a house, a sun, and an octopus on the ring. I know many people only add one decoration a year, but I decided to be a little more loose with things. I figure we can add or subtract ornaments that reflect my kids’ changing personalities, life events, and interests. I didn’t want to be pinned down by a number (I am a total Waldorf rebel). Anyway, the house represented bringing baby Pete home. With my husband’s job, I know we have at least a few moves ahead of us; we will definitely use this ornament again. I included the sun because Peter has been such a happy, cheery little guy. In fact, he had a pretty easy first year, except, that is, for getting dressed. Changing his diaper and clothing this kid take ninja-like reflexes and the cunning of a fox. It’s as if he magically sprouts additional limbs and becomes, well, a writhing, slippery octopus. In all honesty, it’s my least favorite thing that he does, but the octopus ornament was a way to celebrate even the trickier moments of Peter’s first year.
The birthday ring was all set up for breakfast on Peter’s big day. We lit the meal votive that Ben made, and then the birthday and life candles. I sang the birthday song I learned when I worked at Camphill Ballytobin, and we ate sticky buns, which have become our Official Special Occasion Food (Christmas? Sticky buns. Candlemas? Sticky buns. Tuesday? Sticky buns). I tried to get Pete to wear his birthday crown. I failed and his brother stole it. Oh well. We talked about each ornament on the ring and how much we love our youngest Hitchcock. All in all, it was a special morning.
We hosted another family for dinner; it was a nice, low-key affair, which was about the right speed given my husband’s current work schedule and having two little ones. I know we have bigger celebrations ahead of us and that some years we will be so caught up in moves and job searches that parties will have to be small. Either way, though, we have some nice new traditions. I love our sibling candle, birthday ring, and special family breakfast. Tradition, after all, is more important than how many people we have over. A birthday crown means more than a bouncy castle.
Psst! Have you ordered your March envelope yet?
We are almost sold out and orders close 3/6!