For Arlo’s first birthday, we had a big party / naming day at my mum’s house. But that was more for us. Our first baby was turning one – for the parents, that is a huge milestone.
By the time he turned two, we had long decided that a low-key, low-effort celebration was the way to go. He didn’t know what a birthday was, a big party would have gone right over his head, and to be honest, I think he would have been overwhelmed. So we celebrated at home, just family.
The third birthday was a bit more complicated. He knows all about birthdays. He has become accustomed to going to friends’ parties. But at the same time, he is too young to have many expectations about birthday celebrations, and probably wouldn’t notice if he didn’t have his own party.
I voiced my internal dilemma to Sam, knowing his response would be “No, definitely not. He DOES NOT NEED a big party”. But the predicted response soon morphed into a similar voice of uncertainty to my own. “….But what if he asks us when his party is or where his friends are? I’d feel awful”.
In the end, we asked Arlo what he’d like to do on his birthday, and his answer was, “I want a slide, and my friends will be there”.
And so it happened. We fell straight into the typical parental trap of spending money where it wasn’t strictly necessary.
Our house is too small to accommodate a gaggle of toddlers (let alone their parents too), so we booked the most reasonable party venue that we could find (which is a mean feat what with London venue rental prices, but that’s another story), and Arlo had a full-on, chaotic, toddler (preschooler now?) birthday party.
Arlo was really very ill in the lead up to his birthday. He was just recovering on his actual birthday, but weak and tired, so we had tears during the cake and singing of happy birthday. At this point it occurred to me that we were actually being really rather risky booking a birthday party for a preschooler during the autumn term when bugs are rife, and the possibility that we may have to cancel crossed my mind more than a few times. In the end, he was OK on the day, but still low on energy and strung out from a long week of being completely out of any normal routine.
He is still talking about his party. He knew it was a special event for him. He loved having his friends there. And really, it was all worth it just for this genuine moment of pure delight during ‘cake / happy birthday’ round 2.
So, does a three year old need a big birthday party?
The answer is of course not. But it’s quite a nice thing to do anyway.