Saturday, October 11, 2008

Birthday Parties for Babies, and Other Sources of Stress

As, promised, here comes more of my weirdness.
Many of you have already read how I feel about the commercialization of holidays. For those who haven't read yet, I hate it, and do everything in my tree-hugging hippy power that I can to "fight the man", man.

Well, Little Beans turns one in a couple short weeks. Birthday packages from my mother have begun to arrive (as well as Christmas packages, when she realized that when I told her the mail takes it's time getting here, I really meant it.) And I have to say that my mother is really great when it comes to gift giving. She comes up with incredible ideas, is very supportive of the whole educational toy kick our family is on, and hardly ever sends "junk" (you know, the cheap plastic stuff you end up throwing away a week after your kid gets it because it's already broken). This year was no exception, and Beans now has a neat, handmade activity book with lots of fun things to do, some coloring supplies, some finger puppets, and her very own monogrammed library bag (which my mom monogrammed herself on her new sewing machine).

Before I go on with my story, I want to say that I am proud of how "Alaskan" my daughter is becoming. She was smart enough to know that the caribou and snowshoe hard figurines from her activity book went in her mouth, and even said, "YUM, YUM!"
And Beans is so smart. She took one look at the Barn Owl finger puppet and said, "Hoo! Hoo!"

But, I digress. I was getting ready to discuss birthdays.
Well, as I was saying, Little Beans turns one in a couple weeks, so preparations are being made. By "preparations", I mostly mean testing out some homemade hippy cake recipes, to be sure they are edible to the general public. And by "general public" I mean myself, J, Beans, and maybe a couple neighbors who might stop by for dinner that week, then, ultimately, the fire station, because that is where I ditch all my leftover cake, cookies, and candy. Hey... the fire department is the best form of weight control I know. Those guys will eat anything.
Anyone married to a firefighter, paramedic, or cop knows that.

Anyway, those are my big "preparations" because, well...
Because I don't believe in birthday parties for babies.

I know, I know, I officially just stole my mom's former title of "meanest mommy in the whole world", but...

For starters, those parties are really just for parents and over-indulgent grandparents, not only an opportunity to show off how cute your baby is to everyone you know and extort lots of fancy gifts from them, but also a way for the year-old parents to brag, "Hey! We had a baby a year ago, and she didn't succeed in killing us! Hooray! Come eat some cake!"

That's right. In a couple weeks, J and I will have survived our first year of parenting little Beans, who has certainly tried her best to see if she could land one of us in a psych ward. Between colic, reflux, and a shrimp intolerance that has meant no shrimp scampi for mommy the entire time we've been nursing, followed by months (still endless) of sleepless nights, itchy eczema, and a stubborn attitude that can only come from her daddy, and now entering the "No, Don't!" stage of life... we have survived, at least this far.
And it's been wonderful. Because for all the sleepless months and no shrimp scampi, there have been sweet smiles, sloppy wet kisses, bear hugs, giggles, and watching her grow into a beautiful (if temperamental) little girl. And it happened all too fast!

(wiping little tears from eyes) ANYWAY...
back to how I'm the meanest mommy in the world.
My other argument against birthday parties for babies is this:
Beans does not even know, much less care, that it is her birthday.
Have you ever thrown a birthday party for a baby?
Do you know what happens?
Mom and grandmas run around like maniacs trying to match adorable little doilies to the cake frosting while dad and grandpa try to find an authentic Barnum and Bailey Circus Clown to come to the party. The cake, complete with life-like portrait of the birthday baby on it, cost as much as your wedding cake, and the caterer wants to know if by "finger food" you mean adult sized or baby sized. You invite so many people (gotta get good loot, ya know) that they don't fit in your house anymore, and decide you really ought to rent out Disney World for the occasion.
With all the details squared away and just perfect, you start you day by dressing your sweet little baby into an adorable and frilly little party outfit (even if it's a boy). Your child does not know they are supposed to cooperate with this process. They scream and howl. After the baby shreds the lace off the outfit and realizes that you are still going to make them wear the stupid thing, they do the one thing that is sure to rescue them for that fate... they take a giant leaky poop in the outfit.
Does this stop the birthday parents? Oh, no. Mom sends dad rushing out the door to the closest baby clothing store for something even more ridiculous looking than the first outfit.
The guests arrive and baby is stressed and traumatized by all these people cooing and coddling over them. Instead of sitting there looking absolutely adorable, baby is a grump and whiny, and will not let mommy out of the death grip that baby now holds on mommy.
Then, the Circus Clown arrives.
Wanna know what terror sounds like? Put a Circus Clown near a baby.
Now, baby is stressed, exhausted, and working on a life-long fear of clowns, and you start shoving presents, one after the other, in front of baby. No matter how much baby just wants to play with the box the first present came in, you force baby to shred the wrapping on all of them (while grandma keeps a careful list for all the thank you cards you will send out later), so that no one's feelings are hurt that baby didn't play with their present.
Then, if that's not enough for ya...
You start shoving cake and ice cream at the poor little kid, who is already wishing that he or she was 18 and moving away from you freaks.
By the time your guests leave, your baby is amped up on sugar, exhausted, and wishing you had never brought them into this situation.

And you wonder what I have against birthday parties?

As if THAT's not enough... several years of parties like these and you end up with disrespectful little kids who expect the Circus Clown to appear every year, only bigger and better than the last birthday party. And they start viewing the onslaught of gifts as "boring" and "not enough". By the time they are 16, they want a brand-new car, not mom's beat up Plymouth Reliant (which I was grateful to get, BTW!), and by the time they graduate college, they are expecting you to hand them the keys to their own brand-new house.

Thanks, but I'm not into raising brats. (No offense.)

Nope, Beans' little "party" is not anywhere close to the above description.
Here's our plan... (take a deep breath and feel the Zen Moment)

I mentioned working on a cake recipe. Mostly because I still want every bite Beans takes to count for some kind of nutrition. I will say this: as much as I prefer to stick to whole wheat flour, it's not making the cake taste so wonderful. So I'm working on a recipe using refined white flour. (Gasp!)
My made-up recipe involves strawberries, because Beans loves them. And some kind of reduced sugar homemade icing, that I am still working out the kinks on.
The most "birthday"-ish the cake is getting is that I do plan on baking it in a pumpkin shaped pan (for my little punkin!), and decorating it... because I used to have my own business doing cake decorating and it's FUN.
Skip the ice cream (for starters, it's freezing cold outside and unless I can find pumpkin flavored ice cream, which I'm craving, it's just not worth it.)
And, skip the fire hazard. I mean, candles. Who wants toddler spit on thier cake anyway?

The "birthday"- well, J has taken the day off. Which means maybe I'll celebrate my surviving Beans' first year by sleeping in. We plan on giving her the ONE present we bought her (I know. I'm mean AND cheap, right?) in the morning, so she has all day to play with it. Then we'll relax and have fun as a family, have a nice dinner (which means something Beans will eat instead of throw on the floor), followed by some cake. Then, we'll stick to our normal and boring routine and put Beans to bed at a decent hour, completely unstressed, other than the usual day's stress of not being allowed to flush mommy's cell phone down the toilet. Daddy and I will probably celebrate our survival of both the year and the day by falling asleep in front of another one of our "boring" education videos that we love to get from the library, and maybe even indulging in an extra piece of cake. (Hey, I am technically eating for three, between myself, the new nugget, and still nursing Beans!)

Doesn't that sound so much better than a birthday party?

I want to mention the ONE present, too. Um, first of all... I'm a busy lady. I just don't have time in my day to pick up more toys (that we don't need anyway). Beans has a handful of toys. You know what her favorite is right now? The cardboard box that my mom shipped her gifts in. J was sweet enough to tie a string to the box handle and Beans like to put her toys in the box and drag them around the house.
So... ONE more toy is about what I'm willing to pick up.
And because I want a kid who doesn't expect a ton of stuff every time a holiday rolls around. I want kids who appreciate getting something new.
And ONE more toy is about what I was willing to spend money on. Not because we are poor (we aren't), but because we are cheap.
OK. Not really. But I like my money sitting in the bank. Not strewn about my living room floor in plastic pieces, creating more work for me.

And speaking of being "cheap"... for the record, the money that most parents would have spent on that first birthday party and the loads of gifts that are "customary" to bestow on their little angels is ACTUALLY being swept into a secret savings account for little Beans.
IF she turns out to be a responsible human being and IF she's not a spoiled brat who demands Circus Clowns or a car when she turns 16 and IF she grows up understanding the value of hard work and earning something for yourself... THEN... her dad and I are planning on giving her a nice little nest egg to get started with, for whatever she wants to do with it.
That does come with the strings that I also don't believe in paying for college or weddings. From personal experience, I know that college is more appreciated when you work two full time jobs while putting yourself through school, and weddings don't get out of control when the bride and groom realize it really is much cheaper and less stressful to just go to the courthouse. *grin*

So... I'm off to develop a healthy strawberry cake for my soon-to-be-officially-a-toddler, and think about how many years I CAN put off the stress of birthday parties. Oh, and eventually, I should get around to wrapping the one present. Even though I know she'll just spend the day having a tantrum because I won't let her eat the paper.

Until next time,
Happy Moose Trails!


Anonymous said...

That's how my grandson was about his first b'day party ... he was not enjoying himself until someone his size showed up to smile at him shyly! ;)
well skip it then! ;)
I hope she gets lots of nice clothes. My daugther in 80 really liked her 1st b'day and the cake - :) But I guess that was just cause she was rather used to being around peoples. :)

Susan Stevenson said...

I hope all is well with you. Haven't seen an update.