The march of infant parties goes on despite baby's oblivion
I made a vain attempt to get together with two married couples in my Rolodex this weekend, but to no avail. Both couples were busy with a ritual that dominates the social calendars of families from one end of Pittsburgh to the other.
I'm talking about the infant birthday party, a celebration virtually unheard of a decade ago that's suddenly become as familiar as regurgitated peas on a new mother's shoulder.
And all this premature celebrating begs one burning question: why are otherwise rational adults spending money, hiring caterers and shopping for new tablecloths for an event honoring a guest who's too young to know the difference between a tablecloth and the well-gummed end of a security blanket?
I'm certain our generation's parents threw birthday parties for us during the 1960s and '70s, but they generally waited until we were 5, 6 or maybe even older to start pinning the tail on the donkey. I'd like to imagine my brain is dense with fond memories of these early social gatherings, but if you're like most stressed-out, overworked adults, events -- including childhood birthday parties -- that took place before the age of 10 are often blurrier than a 40-year-old Polaroid.
But just because a kid hasn't given up drooling or biting their own feet hasn't stopped the determined march of infant parties. One of the many cloying, treacly Internet sites devoted to the subject suggests "making or buying a creative cake. Your baby will love looking at the cake as much as eating it," the piece reads. Well, they may enjoy looking at food, or tossing it at grandma, or mashing their face, hair and clothes into the icing.
There's also tips on taking photos of the infant and the birthday cake well before the guests arrive, which is wise considering how the kid may be sacked out from exhaustion or crying after staring into camera flashes all day. Other sites list suitable "entertainment" for the little tax deductions, including clowns, balloon sculptors and life-sized cartoon characters.
But parents who insist on arranging lavish entertainment might want to take a page from that other useless observance of married life, the bachelor party. Any man who's organized a few stag nights knows that the strippers must be hired early on in the festivities. Otherwise, the wasted, bleary-eyed groom-to-be will never remember what happened that night, reliving it only through the cloudy memories of friends.
Just like a baby's first birthday party.