A New Rite of Passage

(Originally posted March 31, 2010 on blogspot.)

It’s an exciting time in a woman’s life. Choosing colors and themes, invitations, the cake, the favors, the guest list, the travel arrangements for out-of-town guests… There’s so much to do, and so much passion goes into each decision. This is a day a woman will remember for the rest of her life, and the attention to detail is exciting, exhausting, and all-consuming. And today, I find myself in the throws of this celebration.

No, it’s not a wedding. I’ve been married for almost ten years.

It’s the First Birthday Party, and it is the new Rite of Passage for my generation.

Birthdays were always a big deal in my family. We had a party every year without fail. And not just a cake and a few presents either. My sister and I spent every birthday with twenty or so friends at Chuck E Cheese’s, or the skating rink, or the bowling ally, or at home with some elaborate activity like a video scavenger hunt once we were old enough to drive. (yes, these parties continued through high school) But we knew our family’s emphasis on birthdays was unusual.

Now, as we both head into the Mommy phase of the birthday party adventure, we have some serious pressure, because with our children and their peers, these full-blown parties are not unusual at all. They feel, quite frankly, expected. The first 365 days of life are no longer celebrated by having some family over and serving the baby some cake. No, Mommies today are expected to have elaborate themes with elaborate cakes to match. My sister had a beach party for my nephew, complete with message-in-a-bottle invitations. Another close friend was up all night before her son’s birthday painstakingly pouring a zebra-striped batter for her zebra-striped cake for her zebra-themed party. And I have already started with plans for the big day here, even though Lily’s first birthday is 47 days away. (Of course, now that I did that math, I’m a little panicked. Only 47 days! And her party is two days before her birthday! I need to get moving!)

So how in the world did this happen? Consider the fact that with reality shows like “Tori and Dean,” we’re now able to watch celebrities plan their eleborate bashes. And if it’s good enough for Baby Stella, it’s good enough for Baby Lily. And then there’s the fact that so many of us are college-educated-career-women-turned-stay-at-home-Mom’s. We’ve been in charge of big projects at work for years. The baby birthday party is a natural outlet for these now rarely used skills. And come on. A little bit- if we’re being really honest- is the idea that these parties are the perfect opportunity to show the world that we are the perfect combination of hip hostess, nurturing homemaker, and provider of baby fun.

So where does the pressure come from?We totally, absolutely, 100% do it to ourselves, and we love every minute.

Now, I need to get to work on those invitations…

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