My baby girl turns one next week. For the very first time, we’ll be able to measure her age in actual years, not just months. Like, whoa. We’ve made it a goal to keep her first birthday celebration simple. I’ve talked about it on my blog, with friends, and with my husband. I’ve hashed out all the reasons why it’s important to me to have a celebration, but not go crazy-Pinterest-mommy over it. What I haven’t said, however, is that I actually feel guilty about that.
Before you go all preachy on me, know this: I realize that it’s silly to feel bad about not giving my kid a Pinterest-perfect first birthday party. That’s not what’s important in life. I know, I get it.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t feel like we’re missing out on something. Call it selfishness, call it a sign of cultural degradation, call it plain ridiculous: I feel like I’m missing out on creating some special memory by not buying my newly-minted 1-year-old a pretty dress and a fancy toy; by not putting together a themed party complete with favors and an elaborate dessert table; by not paying a photographer to take smash cake photos. Despite feeling convicted to search for a simpler way to celebrate, I actually worry that I might regret it at some point down the line.
I know in my heart that the elaborate spectacle of an event isn’t right for us. I know my little girl won’t even remember it when she grows up. I know my urge to overdo it stems largely from a desire to impress our friends. I know there are better things we could do with that money, people we could help. I know all that, and I know they’re very good reasons to keep it simple. But…
But our friends did it for their kid. But it wouldn’t be that hard. But I’m good at party planning. But the pictures would be cute. But it would be a chance to work with handmade shop owners. But I could feature it on the blog. But she only turns 1 once. But the first birthday is a big deal. But , but, but.
There are a thousand “but”s racing around in my head. And nearly every one of them is a result of that fear of missing out. Of not keeping up. Of being left out and left behind.
The fear (FOMO, if you will) drives so much of what we do these days. Pinterest, while a wonderful tool, has wormed its way into our consciousness and made us feel like we’re bad moms if we don’t measure up to the perfection we pin. Competition and comparison eat away at our insides and drive us to outdo the moms in our play groups. To DIY elaborate decorations and bake cake sculptures that would impress Martha Stewart herself. To fill kids’ rooms (and playrooms, which I definitely didn’t have growing up) with more toys than they could possibly play with, and then work all day to keep them entertained instead of turning them loose to entertain themselves. All in the name of creating a magical childhood for the littles we love.
It’s not that there’s something wrong with wanting to give our kids joy and adventure. There’s nothing wrong with providing treats now and again. But there is something wrong with needing to do that—with being unable to remember that there’s a line between need and want, and pursuing all the wants with abandon.
Back to that birthday party. To me, the need is to gather together with the people we love and celebrate a whole year of love and family. A whole year of that little blonde head and chubby baby cheeks. A whole year of snuggles and giggles and banana mess in the high chair. For me, that fellowship and celebration is a need.
But the wants are the things that creep in around the edges. The birthday crown, the special cake toppers, the gold glitter and the themed decorations… they would be so easy to reach for. After all, we’re already having a party. Go big or go home, right?
No. It’s time to clearly delineate the difference between the needs and the wants and to choose to say no to the wants. It’s time to commit to a simpler way of life–one that is focused on what we have more than what else we wish we had. Most of all, best of all, it’s time to let go of the fear of missing out and embrace the beautiful moments right in front of us. It’s time to just live life–messy and broken, not always picture-perfect, but perfect in its own way.