Birthday parties: is every child born equal?

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cake 

As a working mum of two young children I thought I had experienced, or at least heard of, every type of parental guilt possible.

However, as my youngest approaches his second birthday, I find myself faced with yet another reason to feel inadequate. Let's call it 'Lack of Yearly Party For Your Second Child' Guilt.

We have thrown fairly large celebrations for every one of my eldest son's five birthdays. My husband, the cook in our house, has slaved for hours creating impressive cakes in the shape of everything from a train to a robot to Spiderman. I've made hundreds of chocolate crackles, stuffed countless lolly bags and spent several days cleaning up the mess left behind by dozens of tiny partygoers. We even had a pirate come come along and entertain little guests at our first born's third birthday party.

But so far I'm struggling to find the enthusiasm to do anything beyond having family over for lunch to mark the occasion of my littlest boy turning two next month.

It's not that we're not equally proud of our youngest son as we are of his big brother. Like all parents, we think our boy is the cutest, funniest and most entertaining toddler around. We love him to bits and are very excited he is reaching his next big milestone.   

But when it comes to my second child and birthday parties, the problem I have is this: birthday parties for the first few years of a child's life are essentially for the parents. 

You don't really need to organise party games to keep toddlers entertained; they will be just as happy harassing your cat or following ants around your backyard. So the party is mainly about food, drink and catching up with friends, with or without kids, that you haven't seen in a while.

It's not that the birthday boy or girl won't have a good time - it's just that they don't have much say when it comes to the invite list, they won't remember the event, and if it you don't time it perfectly there's always a chance they'll sleep through a lot of the celebration anyway.

When you have only one child, that's not a problem. Having friends over for a backyard barbecue is fun, and why not organise it to coincide with the momentous occasion of your child getting another year older? It makes sense.

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But depending on the age gap between your children, by the time child number two comes along the whole ballgame has changed. Their older sibling is much more particular about the birthday party they desire. They know who they want, and don't want, to invite. They request particular games, certain food, and maybe even a favourite venue.

The days of hassle free backyard birthday parties are a thing of the past.

Now that I have a window into that world, I find myself thinking it best to preserve my birthday party energy for when my youngest son is able to have the same input into his own celebration as his big brother does. Once he can tell me who he would like to come along and dictate what superhero/animal/sport star he would like his cake to resemble, then it will be time to send out the invites.

Does that make me a party pooper parent? Before you answer "yes", please know we did hold a party last year to mark my littlest boy's first birthday.

That was unavoidable, as there is no way I could cope with 'Not Even Holding A First Birthday Party For Your Second-Born' Guilt. That would just be too much shame to bear.  

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