Why You Don’t Have To Throw A First Birthday Party (If You Don’t Want To)

Cheryl Small Photography

You read that right.

And not only do you not have to throw a party but it’s plenty OK not to.

It took me a long time to come to this conclusion but the absence of big celebrations haven’t suddenly made me public enemy No.1 or a terrible Mother. The world as it turned out, didn’t end. But whilst Ored and I were both wrestling with the indecision in the weeks months that lead up to this momentous milestone, that’s exactly what it felt like and suddenly I felt myself bending under a pressure that I hadn’t yet experienced as a first time Mama (and it sucked).

The problem was that everything-and to some, extent everyone– was making me feel like we should be throwing a party. If it wasn’t friends, family and neighbours asking us “When’s the party?” Or “What’s the plan?” then it was a whole world of social media selling us a dream of super popular babies with glamorous/quirky/super cool themed parties were seemingly both sides of the family get on (I could dream) and neither parent has bags under their eyes from late night cake frosting/gift wrapping/assembling paper decorations.

And maybe if circumstances were a little different we might have had some kind of gathering, but with my family spread all over the country and a distinct lack of ‘Mummy Friends’ (I’m the first in my group of friends to have a baby and I find it hard making friends with others when the initial thing we have in common is sex) it seemed like less and less of a party. Not to mention the M word (I’m talking money) which now we’re on a single income means unfortunately, we do sometimes have to times about the cost of things.

But despite all of this I just couldn’t shake the overriding feeling that Little Ored wouldn’t actually enjoy a huge fuss. I mean I’m sure he would’ve of on some level, for an hour or so maybe, but I have no doubt in my mind he would’ve grown tired of the attention very quickly and spent the entire day wanting to be held exclusively by his parents. Cue a fight with the grandparents to comfort him when he cries for us and the whole thing seemed less about fun and more about obligation (and to everyone but the one person who it should be about- our son).

The decider? Simply thinking about what Little Ored would want to do which was the only thing that really mattered. So we thought long and hard about it and in the end we decided NO party. And once we’d made the decision and were committed to it, we felt relieved.

So what did we do instead I hear you cry? Using the money that we would’ve spent on a party, we instead used to book a cake smash and oh boy was it worth it. Not only was it a fun morning for all three of us but Little Ored had an absolute blast devouring/devastating the cake and our photographer Cheryl Small, was able to capture some beautiful memories that we’ll treasure forever.

Afterwards we had a quiet lunch and then headed home for some playtime, all three of us -which is somewhat of a rarity- with the various presents he got from friends and family. And that quite frankly was the fun, stress-free Birthday we imagine our laid back Little Ored would’ve wanted.

And so for every other parent daring to do the unthinkable- be bold, be brave and skip the birthday party if it’s not for your little one and you!

 

Photo Credit: Cheryl Small Photography 

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A Letter To My One Year Old

I wish I could tell you to slow down. To pause for a moment whilst I catch my breath (and catch up). But your endless energy, knowing grin and curiosity wouldn’t let you even if time would.

So here we are, basking in the afterglow of what was your first birthday this time last week. How has it already been a week since your birthday? How has it already been a year? The past 365 days have been an absolute whirlwind, and they have been the best I have ever known. In that time you’ve morphed from a helpless yet content baby into an olive eating, book loving, shrieking and pointing toddler- seemingly in the blink of an eye.

I remember holding  you for the first time, surprised by how small and how light you were in my arms. I remember not being able to sleep the night you were born as you lay next to me, for the sheer adrenaline coursing through my tired body. I was excited but most of all I was completely and utterly in love.

And so with those memories so clearly etched, despite sometimes feeling like a dream, I can’t quite believe that we are now here. Encouraging you to take your first steps. Deciphering yells whilst eagerly awaiting the day you start to say your first real words.

I had no idea whether Motherhood would suit me. I was never maternal but I’d like to think of myself as caring and loving, and as it turns out that’s all that really matters. Still, I was nervous. Imagine starting a new job without any kind of training! But I had nothing to fear. Motherhood has unequivocally been the making of me and that’s all down to you.

Thank you for making the last year as stress free as possible. Even in the womb you were chilled (I will always remember the sonographer asking me to shake my belly to try to get you to move) and along with your sweet nature, you’ve eased me into motherhood without ever making me feel overwhelmed. Not everyone gets to be so lucky.

That’s not to say I didn’t use Google every time you had a temperature or refluxed after a feed, but there’s a lot to be said for trusting your own instinct even when your instinct as a first time parent is practically non-existent at the start.

I look at you now- strong-willed, determined with an unapologetic mischievousness – and I can’t quite believe you are the same person whose head I was worried I wasn’t supporting properly, or who spent his nights sleeping in a baby box. Now you wake me up in the mornings by crazily crawling around in your cot as if to say “Come on Mama, it’s a new day!”

But it’s bittersweet. I already feel you becoming more independent and self-assured, quick to get cross if either of us tries to help you  because you’re adamant to learn on your own. And even though you are still very much a boob man, I know there probably isn’t long left on our breastfeeding journey (I’m letting you decide when you’re done) not to mention the preparations we’re making to move your cot into your own room in time for the summer.

No one told me that a birthday could be so emotional. But also full of promise. What wonderful, exciting adventures lay ahead of you…

Every day you surprise me with something new. Like when you blew raspberries against Papa Bear’s shoulder (for a solid 5 minutes) or when you problem solve a new toy super quick. Not to mention how impressive your dexterity is. And with that comes an overwhelming pride and joy in watching you grow.

Of course it’s not only you that’s grown in the past year. I no longer fumble with nappies and become flustered when undressing you at the Doctor’s. I’m a pro at navigating public transport with a pram and somehow we’ve created our own language in which I know from a look, cry or shout what it is you want (a good 90% of the time anyway).

I had always thought of myself as patient and empathetic but these are qualities you’ve only heightened. I no longer have time for negativity or anger or to let tiredness dominate the day. And when I see it written down like that, I’m kind of blown away by how much you really have changed my life.

In you I see the best we can be. And I see an already kind, bright and beautiful baby whose future hangs above us like the night sky. What stars you’ll map and align we’ll have to  wait and see, but oh how they’ll be lots and oh how they’ll shine brighter than we could ever have imagined!

And that fills me with more excitement for the future than sadness for the year that has now been and gone.

To you our loving, ever-smiling, head-bopping, beautiful son. How lucky we are.

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International Women’s Day- An Open Letter To Mothers Everywhere

womens

Women. We are smart. We are strong. We are brave. We are kind. We nurture and protect. We design and invent. We dream. We love.

We make up 50.2% of the world’s population and yet in every democratic nation we are still grossly underrepresented in positions of political power. In developing nations, we are unable to leave the house without a male escort, go to school or have the freedom to say no to FGM or to an arranged marriage.

It may be 2018 but the fight is far from over. Still we must fight to be heard. To be recognised. RESPECTED.

In the wake of #timesup and the #metoo movements, as well as the centenary celebration of the women’s vote in the U.K., today- International Women’s Day- felt supercharged. Unapologetic. Demanding.

We are done waiting. The time for change is now.

And whilst we as women need to stand in solidarity with one another, to raise each other up when the world around us tries to tear us down, it is the Mothers I write to in particular.

Why?

Because you are raising the next generation. You are nurturing the minds of young men who can must grow up knowing that NO really does mean NO. You are shaping the thoughts of young women who might must be courageous enough to realise that their worth is beyond their biological attributes.

When advertising and the media tries to break your daughter’s self esteem and then sell her products to fill the void, you will be able to step in and show her the importance of self-love.

When she thinks her value is based upon looks or on whether or not she has a boyfriend/girlfriend, you can set her straight and remind her of all the incredibly smart, talented women that have made the pages of history in their own right and not for being somebody’s wife.

When society tells your son to “man up,” that empathy and emotion are strictly for ‘girls’, you can teach him that these qualities are a sign of strength, not weakness, and that they go beyond gender to unite us all in being one thing- human.

When the world tells him that his worth is measured by financial and material success, you can gently remind him that the only worthwhile thing in life is happiness.

Those of you on Instagram will know that I’ve recently read Grayson Perry’s ‘The Descent Of Man’ which is a must read for anyone interested in gender roles, masculinity and the patriarchy. In it he argues (rather solidly, might I add) that gender roles are by and large learnt, instead of an innate sense of biology. Which means that we, as mothers, as parents, have got a head start in raising the change we wish to see in the world.

The future is female.

Happy International Women’s Day!

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