About the Momentous Occasion That is My Daughter’s 1st Birthday


She’s staring at me.

Then she looking away. It clicks; she’s playing a game with me. I look away and when I see her look at me out of the corner of my eye, I shoot her a quick, wide-eyed look. She giggles and shows me her four teeth before dropping to all fours and crawling away to take some books down from her toddler-sized bookshelf. It has become a ritual. She takes one book down at a time meticulously, flips through each and every page the best her untrained, clumsy fingers can and then moves on to the next book. Today I’ve placed a couple of new books on the shelf, and she notices right away. She picks at the glitter of one of them before opening it, its binding creaking only the way a new, hardly opened binding can. 

The book was for her birthday, but she won’t know that. She has very little concept of time, I would think, except for the internal clock that tells her that she’s ready for bed at night, or tired at 10 AM and needs a nap. She doesn’t know she’s a year old. A year from now she might sort of understand she’s two, but for now, there is no recognition.

This is one of the reasons I decided not to have a birthday party for her. 

Why I believe that her smiling face deserves to be celebrated – and I’m celebrating making it through an entire year with both of us mostly intact – we can celebrate that in other ways.

I’m watching her put and pull coins out of a toy pig now. “One!” it says. “Two!” she waits too long to put the third coin in because she’s preoccupied with something else for a moment, a piece of cardboard the cats have shredded off a nearby scratching post. “One!” it says as she drops the third coin in. She looks at it. I don’t honestly think she knows it should have said “Three,” but she seems confused. She decides to abandon it, favoring a nearby wooden train.

Even if it’s silly, I have a thought at that moment. My daughter, at the ripe old age of twelve months, has a unique opportunity. She has the opportunity to celebrate everything. Everything she does is a feat, and is almost always met with celebration. Right now she’s banging on a piano. The simple realization that different keys make different noises make her giggle with glee. 

Her celebration may not involve a party hat, or a bunch of balloons, or a candle or a face full of cake. But they are celebrations all the same. Celebrations of new experiences. Celebrations of the ability to simply understand how her hand works well enough to be able to tap a piano or put a coin in a narrow slot. 

We don’t celebrate nearly as much as adults because all the things we celebrate we’ve done in the past already. We don’t need to celebrate figuring out how to steal dog food or discovering we’re ticklish or like tummy kisses; we already know if we do or don’t like those things. But Winter gets to discover the world and learns something new each and every day.

To me, she’s having her own celebration without us, and that’s good enough. She doesn’t need any money spent on her, she just needs more piano keys, more flowers to pick, and more cat fur to pull (but not more cats). 

Here’s to surviving another year. 

Happy birthday, baby girl.