Let Them Eat Cake

May 16, 2011 at 12:52 am | Posted in Bun, Giggles, Lollipop | 26 Comments
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Let Them Eat Cake: A Critical Analysis
A baby turns one. And gets a cake. All to himself. To squish, smash, and smear. And eat. Welcome to first birthdays in America.** But, really, what does this tradition say about the children who participate in it? And the parents who perpetuate it? And the bakers who tempt us year after year with their buttercream and their fondant?

I don’t know. But now? I want a piece. I really, really want a piece. First, three case studies.

Case 1: Lollipop
We set the cake on her tray. It met all the requirements: gobs of icing, colorful sprinkles, moist cake. She stared at it. She looked at us, as if to say, “Okay, but where’s my applesauce?” She tentatively poked a finger in it. And that was that. Done.

I cut the cake into quarters so she could see what was inside. Not interested. I wiped icing on her cheek. She ignored it. I ate a tiny piece so she might mimic me. But the child simply did Not. Want. It. So, we laughed. We washed her off. And we moved on to presents. Which she savored like a tray of fresh-baked cookies. Oh, the irony.

Case 2: Giggles
He spotted the cake from across the kitchen. His eyes locked onto it like a torpedo on an enemy sub. He absolutely, positively squealed when we put it in front of him. And then he attacked it. Blue and green icing became collateral damage as he destroyed layer after layer. When his hands got too sticky to funnel the goopy sweetness into his mouth, he dove in face-first.

Face. First. For real. We have it on video. Which I plan to use as blackmail when he’s a teenager.

Case 3: Bun
We put down a dropcloth on the floor. Just in case. I lit the candle and we sang. Daddy watched it all on the computer from halfway across the world.

I put the cake in front of Bun, and he looked at it. He stuck in a finger. He stuck in another finger. Then he smooshed his whole hand into the center of the cake and kneaded it like a potter working a lump of clay. He giggled as the icing inched its way between every finger and up to his wrists. He licked a few gobs off his thumb, tasted a small sliver of cake, and threw huge chunks on the floor. We’re still finding crumbs in our socks.

Same kind of cake. Same presentation. Different kids, different reactions. It’s an allegory for parenting, isn’t it? Even when we’re consistent — with dessert, with praise, with discipline, with daily activities — each child is going to respond in her own way. In the end, all we can do is honor those differences. Teach our children to love what makes them unique. And let them eat cake … or not.

How did your children react to their first birthday cake? Have you noticed them react the same way to other things? And what family traditions help illuminate parenting for you?

**My husband tried to explain this tradition to his Romanian friends. Something got lost in the translation, so he showed them the pictures. They speak 1,000 words, no matter the language!



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  1. What adorable photos! I’m grinning like a kid over here.

    My first daughter had a cake shaped like Grover’s face. She poked his eye out and then lost interest. For our second daughter? We have no photos and I can’t remember. Poor kid…

  2. When my 6yo turned one, we set him in front of his smash cake and he just stared at it. My mother-in-law smooshed his hand in it to get him started and he looked at her in pure horror, like, “Were you raised in a barn?! We use forks!!” Priceless.

  3. Miss D. licked the frosting off the top and then flung the rest across the room. Little minx.

  4. Great photos..love it!

  5. I LOVE this post!

    My oldest was just like Lollipop…he wanted nothing to do with his piece of cake, and actually threw the whole thing on the floor with a look of disgust…Winnie the Pooh was much offended 🙂 (He still doesn’t like cake.)

    Isabel was much daintier about it, but she did dig into her Elmo cake and loved it.

    Gabe? Much like his personality of today, he made a complete mess with utter joy while he devoured his Tigger cake.

    I never thought of trying to explain this tradition to another culture before…it is pretty funny 🙂

  6. My theory:
    First child: You were keeping her germ-free, danger-free, sugar-free, and organic so she had no clue what is was or what to do with it.

    Second child: Oh! This is what we get on special occasions! I better dive in quick before my sister eats it!

    Third child: Ah. A sugary snack. This is what we get when mom needs to shower. I’ll taste a bit and then play with it a while.

    • Hilarious! And, um, okay, a little bit true. =>

  7. Lovely post! Seeing our kids, and honoring them, as they is the biggest challenge of parenting.
    Now, my babies… Well, you see, my poor first born was so sugar, milk, egg free that I made a very special applesauce vegan cake for her. But, she loved it. My second, like CK, I forget the details, but it involved a store bought icing covered cake.

  8. Adorable photos. both girls tentatively poked, prodded, and sampled their cakes. To this day, Flora likes frosting best! of course, I am curious to see what approach the boy takes. 🙂

  9. Wait a minute: Bun is ONE?!? Sobbing over here that all babies grow up so quickly..

    Happy Birthday to your big guy.

  10. Love love love this post. Pictures and stories behind each were wonderful, but the allegory? Perfection! Well done my friend.

  11. How cute and how fun was this???? Adorable!

  12. Emily kinda lucked out with her first year birthday celebration. I was 7 months pregnant and we were in the middle of moving. Plus, she was SICK. So she got some muffins.

    With Andrew, though, I made a delicious cake (that I ended up burning and it still tasted good) and he loved it. Dove right in. His sister? She ate a bite of his and pushed it out of the way. She is different from “normal” children in how much she dislikes cakes. I also filmed Andrew’s birthday celebration and took some pictures with Emily’s–yeah she got shafted. Go figure.

  13. So cute!

    The main thing that I remember is that my daughter had an allergic reaction to the dye in the icing. Not. Cool.

  14. Happy birthday baby!
    And I must say, I’m impressed that your husband already has “Romanian friends.” Yeah!

  15. Man, I love cake. Birthday cake is the best.

    We started a tradition a few years ago where we wake the kids up with cake, candles and singing Happy Birthday. Then we eat if for breakfast. The kids looooove it. Because really, what better way to start your birthday then with cake?!?

  16. I wonder if it’s a girl/boy thing? My daughter wanted nothing to do with her 1st birthday cake. Although, in the interest of full disclosure, it was actually a cupcake, but still. She actually cried when I smeared a tiny dab of icing on her lips thinking the taste might tempt her. As for me, I would totally dive into some cake right now.

  17. I love those pictures and the fact that you know how each child reacted to the cake. Only Sweet P’s reaction is fresh for me now, though I have some photos I can consult and a video, I think, of Little BIt. Anyway, Sweet P has three birthday celebrations. She had an ear infection during the first two and thus absolutely no interest in cake. Shook me up because there’s really nothing I love more than cake. The antibiotics had done their work by the third cake/singing event, and she crammed cake into her mouth and everywhere else as well. Thank goodness. Happy, happy birthday to your Bun! Bun is One — What fun!

  18. I love the pictures. . . and the descriptions of each child’s unique reaction. Beautiful munchkins and memories. It’s just too funny how one will not have anything to do with it and the other just knows immediately!

  19. They get the whole cake!? What’s that all about. Aussie kids get a piece (if they can prize it from their mother’s grasp).

    I loved these pics, though. I am so bad at recording my children’s lives that I wish I’d thought to do something like this so I could compare them. Such a great tradition, Stacia. x

    • Good ole American wastefulness at its best! But you better believe there’s another cake for the rest of us to enjoy. =>

  20. Happy Birthday Bun! I think I need to get to the nearest cake. Soon.
    Lovely pics of your little ones Stacia. Nice post.

  21. For our middle son’s 1st birthday cake, we chose bright blue frosting. WHY? I don’t know. It stained his face and hands for DAYS. Duh, parents!

  22. […] Stacia at My Fluffy Bunnies shared a site with lots of helpful blog tips. She recently wrote an excellent post about her children’s first birthdays. […]

  23. I wish I could remember how my son responded to his first birthday cake! I have a picture of him preparing to attack it on my filing cabinet right behind me, but can’t for the life of me remember the moments following.

    I’ll try to pay closer attention for the #2 I hope to have a little ways down the road. So sweet, to see these varying personalities and responses!

  24. Now that looks like a ton of fun!

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