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How to Celebrate a First Birthday

October 2, 2014


We celebrated the first birthday of our first born grandson last weekend.

My husband and I agree we can barely remember the first birthday of his mother, Tanya, our second born. Good thing we have photos to record the moment. I do know I made the cake.

tanyabday1Celebrating with cousins 1984: JoAnn, Cathy, sister Michelle squeezed in, Cindy, and the birthday girl, Tanya. I’m holding Tanya up.

After my post last week about carrying my camera everywhere, you’ll never guess what I did for Sam’s birthday.


This little sweetheart lives about five hours away. Big big event for grandkid, parents and grandparents.


Great blogging grandma I am.

By the time I discovered I had forgotten to pack it, we were way too far down the road to think of turning back. And my aging flip phone decided to lose all functionality other than making and receiving phone calls, so I couldn’t even take pictures with it!

So I had to rely on my daughter’s camera, which is a little slow in grabbing a kid’s fast action. But oh well. At least we were THERE! Living in the present and enjoying every every second of time we got to spend with all of them, and especially dear Sam.


In some ways, it allowed me to be more present and watch his little face light up and take in what he was absorbing and doing. I kept wondering what a one year old thinks about. How do they process their world?

But let’s be honest. I was also kicking myself a lot, since it is kind of part of my new hobby and avocation.

P1060467ExploringCakeTanya, top, 1984. Her son, Sam, 2014.

I was pondering the expression on Tanya’s face, 1984, and Sam’s, 2014. Tanya looks a little bewildered about this strange custom that somehow came into vogue sometime between the time I was born and when our children were born in the early 80s. Now some bakeries even give away the “smash” cake or include it with the purchase of a party cake.

BibPreparationA sheet draped over the high chair, towel on the floor, long sleeved bib on the kid: what are they getting me ready for now?

For the child, it must be like all of a sudden, after having his or her face endlessly wiped and cleaned and washed, the adults in the child’s life suddenly want him to get messed up. We declare a free zone and laugh at the poor little thing. As the kid gets into it, the adults laugh more, and the child eventually laughs too, but it is more like exploring Play-doh for the first time, or making mud pies, or building a sandcastle. It’s a new sensation. Not that funny for the child—but representative of all the explorations they will make in the year and years to come. My sister recalls her granddaughter refusing to get messy in her first birthday cake. She was a little neatnik who didn’t want to muss her hands. The custom or ritual is a little bizarre, if you think about it.

So whatever you do, let it be something they enjoy (I would NOT make a crying child mess their cake if they don’t want to! I would not take frosting and smear it on the child myself. Just sayin’.) After all, it’s not about the adults or the picture. It’s about the child. Providing a safe and encouraging space to discover their world and learn all they can is what it is all about.

AuntDoreenBubblesAunt Doreen and Sam enjoy blowing bubbles.

We just hope they understand why smooshing a cake doesn’t mean they get to play in their spaghetti or soup or cereal. Contradictory? Sure!

SamStanding2Car1Top pic: Tanya and Sam practice a stand while opening a gift, while Sam’s other grandparents, Ron and Sue look on. Below: Dad Jon pushes Sam on a scooter car, a great hand-me-down from other cousins. Don’t worry, he’s safely strapped in.

Now, opening the gifts, that was a new experience too. But there was no mistaking the delight and wonderment in Sam’s eyes as he investigated his new treasures.


Happy birthday little Sam! What a year you’ve come through! The most important thing about a first birthday—or any birthday—is celebrating love and life.


Celebrating with cousins, 2014: Here Sam hangs out with cousin James via Google on his birthday.


Did your children smoosh their cake? How about grandkids? Did you? What do you know about your first birthday? I’d love to hear!



From → Faith, Family Life, Food

  1. Loved this post all the way through! No, smash cakes were not in vogue when our children were little, but we have had experiences like this with grandchildren and grand-nephews and nieces. Yes, it is a little bizarre, but I think the wee ones understand that this behavior doesn’t transfer to other meals.

    You mention your regrets at not having your own camera. Just recently I unearthed an article in Newsweek (May 7, 2007 in My Turn section) that insists that our camera can come between us and what we document, citing the notion that the essential nature of an experience is changed by the act of measuring it. Maybe that’s more than you want to know, Melodie, but I found it fascinating – ha! As long as we remember delight and wonder, who cares really who is holding the camera. The photos are spot on in my opinion.

  2. Since trashing the cake only happens once, at first birthday, I’m not too worried either about transfer of behavior. I appreciate the mention of the Newsweek My Turn article, which I faithfully read and loved. I believe too that a camera gets in the way, very frequently. One editor (Christian Century) and FB friend Richard Kauffman talked recently about how many of us don’t feel we’ve lived an experience now until we’ve mediated it — posted it on FB or a blog. I try to steer around that. Thanks for the comment and compliment for the various ones who held the camera this weekend.

  3. Caro-Claire Wiles permalink

    We are about to experience another first birthday party this weekend for our 5th great grandson and I sure hope that I will have my camera ready to document the event
    We just came off a 3rd bd party for his cousin which was a bit more subdued He was just entranced with the cake his mommy had made with construction vehicles and bulldozers as he is all in to these right now
    His younger brother turned one back in April and his was also very different He had the cupcakes ready to be attacked but he just slathered in his high chair and proceeded to pose and smile for the next few minutes at everyone who was standing around him ready to see him eat!
    He never did!
    Just the poses for his own special photo op!
    What memories these pictures will hold in years to come
    I am glad you are enjoying you new babies too and getting pictures whenever you can (as long as you don’t forget the camera
    PS I have my big camera that I normally would use for a all the speails but I do also have a very nice little camera that is always in my purse and goes everywhere
    It takes excellent pictures too so I would seldom miss a shot even if I were to leave the camera bag at home

  4. Athanasia permalink

    Well I have been at parties in recent years with the smoosh cake. Never did that with our generation…baby had first piece cut out of cake for own, not a whole cake.

    My parents were actually gone for my first birthday. I was with Aunt Juli (my mother’s oldest sister) and her family, (who I stayed with), and lots of other relatives. My parents being both teachers took the chance to go on a trip around the country over the summer. They were in Quebec on my birthday and brought me back Madeleine in French and a little stuffed lamb . I still have both. A picture was taken for them of me in a high chair in the back yard with 37 assorted relatives around me. No smoosh cake.

    • We always just cut out a piece for the baby from the cake, too. Kudos to your parents–I think–for taking the opportunity for a trip: how cool to have Madeleine in French from Quebec! That’s a treasure, I’m sure. And cool that there was a party anyway!

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. How to Use Up a Small Batch of Red Raspberries or Other Fruit | findingharmonyblog
  2. A Very Special First Birthday Cake | findingharmonyblog

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