Special Needs First Birthday- Need Help! — The Bump
Birthday Parties

Special Needs First Birthday- Need Help!

Hello! I am desperately in need of some help and/or opinions. I apologize in advance for length.

Our son was born last year with a rare genetic disorder, so from baths, to eating, to birthday parties; NOTHING is what we thought it would be. His birthday is coming up in a few months and I'm starting to think about some logistics.

#1 I know that people seem to have some pretty strong opinions about whether or not requesting "no gifts" is ok. Let me explain my thought process and reasoning. Due to his condition, we have temporarily moved in with my parents for the extra support and close proximity to the hospital. This means that we have little to no space for more toys, games, books, etc. Between all of the grandparents, we will be accommodating four sides of the family, which could equal anywhere from 50-100 people.

We were pretty blindsided by his condition, and everyone has been MORE than generous with everything they have given us this past year. I really want this to be, not only a celebration that our son made it through his first year of life, but also a thank you to everyone (aka, please come, hang out, and let us feed you.) I don't want anyone to feel obligated to get us anymore than they already have.

On top of that, our son is really not in a position where he can try and sit up to "open gifts" in front of a large group of people. I don't want anyone to feel slighted that their gift doesn't get shown off to the crowd.

My question is, could this be a special circumstance where it is "ok" to request no gifts? How could I phrase the invitation so that people really take it to heart? Or, is it not even worth it?

#2 My son's disorder means that food is going to be an extremely touchy subject later in life. His brain will tell him that he is always hungry, and he will be on an extremely calorie-restricted diet (AKA no cake). I want to set this precedent early with the family, and not do a "smash cake" or any cake, for that matter. I was thinking of having a sign by the food table that says something like, "Why no cake?" and explain a little bit about why we're doing it. I don't feel like it's necessary to explain myself, but his disorder is pretty rare, and I'm trying to educate as much as I can.

In that same vein, I still want candles somewhere. Any ideas for an alternative cake/maybe even something non-edible?

Sorry for the length. I'm just trying to get an idea of where I'm going with this :)

Thanks!

Re: Special Needs First Birthday- Need Help!

  • Like you said, there are some very strong opinions about putting 'no gifts please" verbage on your invites.  In that light, I think it's really up to you what to do.  Personally I've never seen a problem with "your presence is enough gift for us" in an invite.  However, you have to be prepared for some people to bring a gift anyway (you probably know who those people are!).  I don't think there is verbage that will make people take your request to heart, in my experience there's always someone who goes against the grain in any situation (even at work where we lay out exactly what the expectation is people don't!).

    As for the cake, you know what's best for your child's diet (or are learning along the way!).  If you don't want cake, you don't need to have one.  I remember around DD's first birthday people talking about carving a watermelon into a cake.  I bet if you look on line you could find alternatives to a pastry.  While I understand you have to monitor his caloric intake, I'm assuming that he will eat at some point during the day.  Why not put the candles in whatever he does have?  American tradition is a cake, but heck, I've had birthday pie :)  Oooo,,,,what about doing some sort of meat/veggie pie and putting the candle in there?

    I wouldn't put a sign out about not having cake.  While I understand you want to educate, it might feel a little preachy.  The day should be about celebrating your child's life.  If someone asks you can explain, but I feel like for a birthday party everyone there is probably aware of your child's condition.  Besides, people make cake/no cake decisions for all sort of reasons.

    Good luck with the party and have fun :)
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  • Thank you so much for the kind advice! I should probably clarify a few things.

    My son is currently tube-fed, so him eating anything throughout the day isn't really an issue. Would it be too weird to put candles on a non-food item? I know I'm way over thinking the issue, but it's a tradition that's so ingrained in our society.

    He has been home-bound since he came home from the NICU, so his birthday party will most likely be the first time he meets some of his family. We were pretty blindsided by his diagnosis, and there was a lot of family drama surrounding my immediate family not wanting others to know what was wrong with him. It's likely that some people will be learning about his condition at his party.

    I certainly agree that this should not be a place to preach or dwell on "what's wrong with him," but the food issues and behaviors will be life-threatening for him as he gets older, and I guess I'm trying to set the precedent early on.
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  • Wow, yeah, that's tough.  Do you have a theme for the party?   You could see if you can find some sort of molded candle or make a candle holder in the shape or color of your theme.  Since you seem to be relatively comfortable talking about it, I think talking to guests and being willing to answer their questions is going to be the best route.  You'll also be a role model for your son who will probably have people questioning him as he gets older.  He'll know how to answer from watching you :)
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  • I'm in the camp that any way of phrasing "no gifts" really just confuses guests and makes them second-guess themselves. I almost want to say that if you can't do any if the traditional birthday things, but you really want to have a party for 100 to show your gratitude for their support over the last year, why not just have a big ol' bash without calling it a birthday party? Your son will be the center of attention no matter what, and you can make a toast to him at some point in celebration of his birthday. And for those gifts that you inevitably will receive, just open them upon receipt and thank the givers graciously.
  • There is nothing wrong with no gifts. Just say it on the invite and be done with it. I agree with PP about not putting a sign too.
  • Anyone who goes to a one year olds party (especially w/ as many people as you'll have) and expects to see gifts opened are delusional, to be honest.  ANY one year old isn't going to sit there and methodically open up gifts, even w/ the parents helping. 

    Don't stress over this point at all.

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    Gifts: It isn't worth it.  The problem about requesting "no gifts" is that it puts guests in a socially awkward situation.  birthday parties are traditionally gift giving events and people WANT to indulge your child and spoil him.  I know this isn't what you want to hear but I would not mention gifts on the invite or at all.  Only if someone asks can you explain that you really have no room in your parents' home for extras right now.  hopefully they'll give a gift certificate instead. and hopefully they help spread the word. 

    Opening gifts: (n any case you should NOT feel obligated nor plan to open gifts at the party.  No 1 year old can open that many gifts.  And certainly they don't know how to appropriately Ooh and ahh over them.  Just set the gifts aside and open them after the party so that you know who to thank for what.  No room to store?  Donate them to the hospital.  Don't worry about what people think...you do what you gotta do.

    Candles: Instead of candles you can do confetti or build a big tower of blocks shaped in something with a "1" on it and let LO knock it down.  Eventually noise poppers might be fun if it doesn't scare LO. 

    Food/Cake: Parties are NOT the time to educate on medical issues.  Eventually word will get around that cake isn't served at this party because LO doesn't eat it. Instead the guests can enjoy the plethora of other food options :)

    Just relax and continue to let your family love your LO for who he is (they sound amazing, BTW) without turning his bay party in to an education on why. 

    It's going to be an awesome party being surrounded by so many people that love and support you :)

    whenwillieversleep
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