Maia Dunphy, 39, is a TV presenter and author. She is married to comedian Johnny Vegas, 45, and together they are parents to Tom, one year. Johnny also has a son, Michael, 11, from a previous relationship. As well as a busy broadcast and writing schedule, Maia runs the popular M Word blog, which details her relatable, tongue-in-cheek experiences of parenthood.
My baby turned one last weekend. I can’t quite believe it; despite all the clichés of “it’s like he’s been here forever”, it still feels like yesterday that we brought him home and I peered into his little basket and thought “sh**… what do I do now?!”.
Those of you who have two or more kids are probably scoffing now, but bear with me – you remember what it was like with number one.
And that’s just what this week’s musing is about. The number one. His first 12 months and how to mark it. It had never occurred to me to make a massive deal outside of our family for his first birthday; never crossed my mind to spend a fortune and shout it from the rooftops.
Of course, in my head, I’m writing it across the sky in fireworks and taking out a full page in The Times, but in reality, I bought a Gruffalo cake and a No.1 candle.
But (as is the way with every first baby milestone), it was only when the comments started coming that I was made to feel I had done something wrong.
“He’s one? Gosh, you kept that quiet?”
Um, no I didn’t. It was 12 months after I told everyone I’d had a baby.
“Oh I remember our Billy’s first birthday. We got caterers in.”
Bugger. I made a one pot and invited the grandparents.
“Did you get him a special gift?”
No. He’s one. I have enough years ahead when he’ll demand special gifts. Why would I spend a fortune when he finds tissue paper pant-wettingly exciting?
“Did you hire a professional photographer?”
No. No I didn’t, because I’M NOT INSANE!!!
“Amir Khan spent £100,000 on his daughter’s second birthday.”
Good for him. The gobshite.
It wasn’t just one person who was pass remarkable about our low key celebrations. There were several. And as a first timer to all this, for a split second I genuinely worried that I had made a grave mistake that would damage my son irreparably.
Somewhere down the line, he would be asked about his first birthday, and he would have to answer that he only has a few photos taken on an iPhone of him crying beside a cross-eyed, shop-bought Gruffalo cake.
With my two favourite Toms! pic.twitter.com/qgEkRfChFR— Maïa Dunphy (@MaiaDunphy) July 18, 2016
And then, as I have done so many times over the last 12 months, I came to my senses. I had done the right thing. We’re talking about a little person who has only recently realised he has opposable thumbs.
There will be enough times in the future when spending money will be a necessity; school trips, the new iPhone 15, bailing him out of jail... it makes no sense to spend a small fortune on a party at this stage.
The first few birthdays of a child’s life are really for the rest of the family – for grandparents, older siblings and posterity. If you have time to make a cake yourself, great. If you want to put together a keepsake gift for the future, lovely.
If you spend the cost of a small wedding on someone who can be entertained by a shoe lace, then you may need to rethink things.