The First Birthday: More than a Smash Cake

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First birthdays are joyous occasions, indeed. Many parents delight in watching their baby discover a sweet cake, maybe for the first time. It is the perfect moment to create that capstone memory for the baby book as the budding toddler smashes and smears frosting all over clothes and hair.

My own babes looked around in obvious confusion during the singing and then took a while to actually dig into the cake, much to the consternation of older, more impatient kids who knew what goodness we were all in for, if baby would just get started.

These were fun times to be sure. Nonetheless, I would like to suggest a few activities that deepen the experience of the first birthday by taking a reflective look at your new family’s first trip around the sun.

Tell the Story

First, a mother’s birth story or an adoptive family’s story of bringing the baby home is paramount not only to the story of this child’s life, but also to the parents’ story. The first birthday is a wonderful time to revisit the process. As a family, or with close friends, take time to retell the drama of baby’s arrival. Some parents, such as those whose baby arrived prematurely and needed time in the NICU, or those whose births or adoptions did not go the way parents had planned, may still need space to grieve a hard beginning.

A year, especially a harried year with a young one, is really not a lot of time to process some of the incredibly difficult things people go through sometimes as a family grows. Finding a safe space and a chance to revisit a hard experience can provide some release and help you really celebrate the fact that you’ve made it through the first year. And if all went just as you had hoped, then appreciate and celebrate your good fortune!

Revisit Baby’s Milestones

A year in review is always a fun way to mark the moment, hence the countless charts that appear every late December. You could display a baby book, or compile monthly pictures if you took them, or create a timeline of all the firsts baby accomplished in a year: rolling over, sitting up, first tooth, first haircut (unless your kids, like mine, are bald for the first two years), first food, first trip to Grandma’s house, first step if its been taken. Be sure to include your favorite memories too. It’s been an eventful year and good to recall all the moments you made note of as it flew by!

Reflect On Your First Year of Parenting

The first year mark is also a great time to acknowledge that you have now spent a year on an endeavor unlike any other. Find time to consider these questions:

  • What have you learned?
  • How have you changed?
  • How did your expectations line up with the reality of having a child?
  • What did you do that you never imagined you would?
  • What did you decide not to do? 
  • What perspectives have changed and how?
  • Were there defining moments that you will always remember?
  • What would you do differently if you could live the year over again?
  • And most importantly, what delights you about your child? 

However you choose to celebrate baby’s first birthday, making it both fun and meaningful can feed your soul in what is often still a tumultuous time of life. Take time to acknowledge all you and your baby have come through and take note of just how amazing you all are.

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