Celebrating is something that transcends cultures, demographics and history. No matter when you were born, in what country and even in what socio-economic group, chances are at some point you'll party. Usually for the simplest of reasons " to celebrate the fact that you were even born.

I've had mixed feelings about birthday celebrations over my lifetime. Of course during my youth I looked forward to my birthday with the sort of excited fervour reserved for only one other day - Christmas.

But as the arrival of new wrinkles slowly began to outnumber the presents, the scales have tipped and birthdays have become something I'd rather keep quiet about.

Lately I've been forced to think about them a little more, with my son's second approaching in a couple of weeks.


After a low-key but undoubtedly compulsory first birthday party for him a year ago, I thought I had a few easy years ahead where a couple of small presents and a box of store-bought cake mix thrown into a tin would suffice.

If you don't know about something, can't understand it and won't remember it, then you're not missing out, right?

The lazy parent in me decided that was my theory and I was sticking to it ... until we went to our first little friend's second birthday party at the weekend and the guilt set in.

Not only did little Madison have a party, she had one with a capital P. There were themed, specially printed invitations that carried through to the paper plates and streamers on the day, there was a room full of toddlers bearing beautifully wrapped gifts, there was even pass-the-parcel and an iced cake in the shape of the number 2.

As if that wasn't bad enough, my son loved every single minute and wouldn't stop talking about it for the rest of the week (if saying "Ma-sons pa-e" over and over and over again constitutes talking, that is).

Clearly the event had left a lasting and spectacular impression and the idea of depriving him of one of his own looked increasingly unlikely.

I found myself discussing the topic with a friend. Her son was only one year older and had already picked out a complicated dinosaur cake from Pinterest, directed his mother to make it and furnished her with a long list of the friends he would like in attendance and specified what costumes they should wear.

One of the clearest memories I had from my own childhood was pulling out the Woman's Weekly birthday cake book months before my big day and agonising over which cake to pick.

In hindsight I can now see my mother was probably agonising over the choice far more than me, especially as I naturally selected the biggest and most complicated cake first.

It was becoming increasingly obvious that there would have to be a party for Edward - the question now became a matter of scale. How small and low key could it be to satisfy his growing awareness of celebration?

Or was I missing the point altogether with this sort of attitude? Perhaps it was me who would miss out if I didn't embrace the opportunities life presented to reflect on and celebrate the milestones?

Either way, I was confident a themed cake was - if only just - outside the realm of my son's comprehension. Which meant I had one more year to find and unleash the cake-baking domestic goddess I was sure lurked inside me.

- Eva Bradley is a columnist and photographer.