25 September 2016, by Joel Chng
My son Ezra turned one on 12 September 2016. Although it was a public holiday, there was no party due to work and family reasons. As a first-time father, I was disappointed, but my wife Petrina reminded me that it would hardly matter to Ezra. Petrina also asked me point-blank, “Did you really want a party for Ezra or was it something you wanted for yourself?” I thought long and hard about it, as it is true that Ezra is too young to understand the concept of a birthday party, and that he would not remember it when he is older.
On reflection, I realised that I wanted the party for my own satisfaction. But was it really such a bad thing? My intentions were to celebrate Ezra’s life – my firstborn, an amazing gift to me. I love him so much and I am so proud of him (even though he is only a year old!) that I want to celebrate his life with family and friends. Sure, a party might not mean anything to Ezra, but it would give me the chance to ‘show him off’ to my nearest and dearest!
I liken this to Singapore’s annual National Day Parade (NDP). Every year, the Singapore Armed Forces spend millions to celebrate our country’s birthday, involving many public and private organisations. Yet, no matter how big the NDP is, it will hardly improve the lives of Singaporeans, neither will it solve our country’s problems or make the nation more prosperous.
However, the NDP is a celebration of what Singapore has achieved, what the country stands for, and what we are proud of. I have a similar mindset in wanting to celebrate Ezra’s birthday. It is my outward expression of love for him, and my declaration that he is worth celebrating. To be able to have a call to celebration and do something special to show off my son – that is what is important to me as a father.
So for Ezra’s first birthday, we had small celebrations with various groups of people over the long weekend. On 12 September, we arranged for a smash cake. This is an adorable first birthday party feature where babies are given a cake to destroy. Ezra was apprehensive, and sort of just looked at the cake – I was amused and helped to get him going. A neat and organised person by nature, Petrina thinks that the hardest part of parenting is accepting the fact that babies are supposed to be messy. On Ezra’s birthday, however, Petrina admitted that it was a priceless moment seeing Ezra with his smash cake!
We also took Ezra to Pororo Park at Marina Square – an indoor themed amusement park for children. Ezra experienced a ball pit and a swing for the first time, explored the giant playground with other children, went on unlimited train rides, and was introduced to new toys.
Overall, it was a memorable weekend despite the lack of a party. We enjoyed bonding with Ezra, giving him our undivided attention and spending quality time as a family. For fellow first-time parents, whether or not you decide to throw a party for your child’s first birthday, the most important thing is to make memories. For us, the smash cake was our “something special”. Really, the best present you can give your newly-minted toddler is lots of love. That said, I look forward to organising a birthday bash next year when Ezra turns two – who knows, by then he might want to decide on the theme of his party!