A birthday – especially one as momentous as a first birthday – deserves a party. Of course, Sprout’s first birthday party was more for us than him, but getting through a full year as parents is also worth celebrating! It all turned out well in the end, but the party definitely confirmed that I am not a Pinterest mom.
I love hosting and having parties, but I’m not the fondest of preparing for them. Most of the time my main contribution is washing the loads upon loads of dishes that Chris dirties in his quest for culinary bliss.
But this party was fundamentally different from our former shindigs. Most of them have been in the winter and this was in the summer. We wanted to invite a lot more people than usual, so we could include not only our friends but also our relatives and church folks. As we can’t fit that many people in our small house, we rented the pavilion at a park across the street from our house. Because we wouldn’t be right next to our kitchen, this (thankfully) limited Chris’ culinary ambitions.
On the other hand, this party had higher expectations than usual by the sheer dint of being a kid’s party. Chris wanted to bake Sprout’s cake himself from scratch, which posed a new set of challenges. As a kid’s birthday party, I thought it would be nice having a theme and picked “bugs” as a broad and relatively simple one.
Then my mom and I started poking around on Pinterest; this almost never ends well. I gaped at overwrought parties that involved putting your kid’s face on custom water bottles or creating multiple complex, home-made desserts. While I felt a little bit of the mommy guilt, I was mostly astonished that people spent so much time and effort on a baby’s party!
In the end, we ended up only taking three ideas from the Internet: a caterpillar cake, a photo retrospective of Sprout hung on clothesline, and caterpillars made out of grapes. The caterpillar cake actually solved a key logistical difficulty – how to bake a big enough cake without buying a giant sheet pan. We did a retrospective slideshow for our baby shower, so the clothesline approach was a nice way to adapt that to the outdoor setting. And my mom, who is far more crafty than I, wanted to make the grape caterpillars. I convinced her not to make strawberry ladybugs, as I seriously questioned a strawberry’s structural integrity once you stick so many things in it. Feeling retro, I also decided to make worms and dirt, as there’s not much else that’s simpler than pudding, crushed Oreos and graham crackers.
For decorations, I bought plastic bugs and bug accessories (a net, magnifying glass), having them double as both embellishments and take-home treats for the few kids we had attending. I wanted to put out Endangered Species Chocolate’s Bug Bites as well, but they’re apparently a lot easier to find at Halloween than in June.
Despite the relatively simple plan, there was still a lot of prep. Chris decided to make pulled pork, pasta salad, and potato salad from scratch, all of which required multiple steps. While there’s nothing complicated about a cheese plate, cut vegetables or spinach dip, it all adds up. So the house was a flurry of activity the day before and day of the party, with both sets of our parents chipping in.
As much as my mom and I love each other, we can clash during stressful occasions. Unfortunately, this wasn’t an exception. Sprout had slept terribly the two nights before, waking up coughing from a head cold four or five times each night. Feeling worn-out, I wanted to help, but wasn’t exactly competent enough to contribute much. This was especially true in food prep, where I’m relatively slow. Unlike my normal checklist approach, my head was crowded with things that needed to be done and lacking a clear plan to do so. I was preoccupied with irrelevant things, fussing with the caterpillar cake’s legs for a good 10 minutes. This all piled on top of my general mommy insecurity of never quite being good enough, especially compared to the Pinterest brigade. As a result, I took my mom’s bang-it-out, ultra-efficient approach a little too personally. I was defensive, bickered, and got mad when she picked up tasks I had wandered away from. I knew I was grateful for her help, but wasn’t showing it. After a prickly conversation a few hours before the party, she took a walk around the block. I’m glad she had the level-headedness to do so, as it was very beneficial for everyone’s mental health.
Despite the rocky lead-up, the party all went really well, as they always do. The weather was glorious – blue skies, warm but not hot weather, a bit of a breeze. All of the food was a hit, especially Chris’s pulled pork. The caterpillar cake was awesome, with the writing perfect and the face adorable.
Sprout didn’t actually eat much of the cake, but he really enjoyed playing with it. He smeared some of the frosting on his mouth and kept picking up pieces and dropping them. He also ate some “worms and dirt” and seemed to enjoy the chocolate pudding.
My major contributions – the decorations and photo collage – turned out lovely. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, talking to different folks and passing around Sprout. Because our relatives were keeping track of him, I was able to talk to my friends without worrying about him, which was refreshing. I also enjoyed watching him interact with our visiting relatives, including Chris’s cousin and my aunt and uncle. The few kids at the party played on the playground and a couple of the families shot hoops on the basketball court. The only “organized” activity we had was cutting the cake and watching Sprout eat it, giving the whole thing a nice, relaxed summer feel.
All in all, the party itself was a great way to celebrate our first year with Sprout. I just hope next year I’m in a better frame of mind beforehand and am capable of being more helpful.