First Birthday Party Theme: Surprise Party!

by Jennifer van der Kwast
A toddler in a light blue shirt and shorts and a birthday hat sitting on the floor and eating cake f...

Although I know, deep down, that throwing my daughter a party for her 1st birthday is the worst possible idea, I’ve decided that I simply cannot allow this milestone to go unheralded. There will be cake (a health hazard at best, a fire hazard at worst). There will be tons of strangers who will try to hold her, hug her, carry her or find some alternate way of irritating her. And there will be alcohol—lots and lots of alcohol—because I’ve earned the right to celebrate. I mean she. She has earned the right. Isn’t that what I said?

I’ve done the research and have learned that the best 1st birthday parties are small intimate affairs, preferably held at a location familiar to the baby and at a time that in no way interferes with the structure of a baby’s daily schedule. Of course, this sounds perfectly reasonable, but now is no time for reason. First birthdays, like New Year’s Eve celebrations, are a time of optimism and delusion. So I’d like to politely ignore all the well-intentioned advice that has been offered in favor of hosting a blowout bash that is sure to be a disaster in every possible way.

If you, too, are a selfish parent who is smitten with the fantasy of 1st birthday party glory, you may benefit from the obsessive amount of party planning I’ve done on your behalf. I hope the details provided below may offer a little inspiration. Because isn’t spending too much time organizing and preparing, only to have your best laid plans completely destroyed by the whims of your unpredictable child, what parenting is all about?

An invitation to our LO’s surprise 1st birthday!

Occasion: Baby’s 1st birthday

Theme: Surprise party!

Time: Sometime between naps. So maybe 1 to 4. Or 3 to 6. Or 3:30 to 6:30, just to be safe? Any later and it might interfere with bedtime. Can I just call you and let you know 15 minutes before the party starts?

Location: How do I put this delicately? I don’t want you in my home. Since our darling bundle of joy has entered our lives, we’ve been living in the kind of squalor even the most creative real estate agent would have trouble sugar-coating. “It’s the kind of place that needs a lot of imagination,” I can hear the agent saying. “And Lysol. Lots and lots of Lysol.”

Also, more importantly, if the party sucks, I want the option to leave if I feel like it. So I will probably be hosting the event at a nearby restaurant or cafe, or better yet, a bar.

Logistics: I’ll figure out the logistics of getting the birthday girl to the location. I’ll probably tell her I’m exploring a new jogging route. Ha! She’ll never know! But in any case, when we arrive, please do not jump out and yell “Surprise!” This will scare her and make her cry. She will also probably poop herself (but this has nothing to do with being scared or surprised).

Guest list: Everyone! Please feel free to bring your husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, lovers and others—significant or otherwise. Children will be admitted on a case-by-case basis. Ideally, we’d like to keep the ratio of adults to children at 15-to-1.

I’ve gone back and forth on whether or not to include my husband’s ex-wife and decided, quite generously, that she may attend, but purely in the role of extra baby chaperone. I know, I know. Sometimes I am too kind.

Gift suggestions: Our daughter loves wine. It’s true! Her favorite hobby is pulling wine bottles off of the wine rack (this, she gets from me). She seems to prefer bottles of sauvignon blanc and dry riesling. Go figure.

Party games: Baby most enjoys playing Hide-and-Seek the TV Remote and a Food on the Floor Scavenger Hunt. There might be a bonus game of Bang on the Computer Keyboard. First one to delete an important document wins!

Reminder: If you talk to our daughter at all in the next two weeks, DO NOT MENTION THE PARTY BECAUSE YOU WILL RUIN THE SURPRISE.

Also, if I bake a cake or buy decorations, or do anything else that smacks of party planning, it might look suspicious. So it’s probably a better idea for someone else to take care of that for me.

Parting thoughts: Do note that our sweetheart will remember none of this event. I suspect she won’t even enjoy it all that much. More than anything, this is an opportunity for her father and I to congratulate ourselves on our exceptional parenting skills. One year down and our little girl has yet to show any signs of emotional dysfunction (well, bed-wetting, inexplicable crying and erratic mood swings aside). We rock!

Thanks, and hope to see you there!