There’s a lot of pressure that comes with motherhood.
We’re expected to do it all, be Super Mom, memorize parenting books, start a blog, breastfeed no matter what.
And that’s just in the first month!
As my child approached his first birthday, I was faced with yet another must-do: throw a huge party.
In Hawai‘i, baby first birthdays are a thing. Like, a huge, expensive thing. These baby lūʻau (as we call them) can be the size of weddings: hundreds of guests, pricey centerpieces, favors for everyone. It’s intense.
I’ve been to parties held in cavernous hotel ballrooms, one with a casino and fortune tellers, another with a live band whose name I actually knew.
My family threw us birthday parties, too, but small ones, just at the house and just with family, nothing fancy. We had a homemade cake, some presents, I was dressed in a kimono. Not that I remember anything, of course.
We decided pretty early on that we weren’t going to do anything more than lunch with our families for Landon’s birthday. When we ran the numbers — just for fun, really — our guest list was well over 200. Conservatively. With catered food, favors and a venue big enough to accommodate that many people, this party would cost us easily more than $10,000. It just didn’t seem reasonable — or responsible. It’s not like we had an extra $10,000 hidden under the mattress. And honestly, I’d rather just give Landon that money, put it toward the college tuition that we’ll never be able to afford.
But my husband had an even better idea.
In the Hawaiian culture, traditionally, when a baby is born, the family would plant an ʻulu (breadfruit) tree. In theory, the tree would provide a lifetime of food for this child.
When Landon was born, we had planted a Samoan coconut tree in our front yard. We already had a very prolific ʻulu tree and didn’t want to plant another. (As it is now, we already freeze or give away most of the fruit.)
But my husband was thinking bigger than just our backyard. He wanted to plant a lot of ʻulu trees, trees that would feed a community, not just our son. Our mutual friend — and one of the guys responsible for setting us up four years ago — is the executive director of the nonprofit Kākoʻo ʻŌiwi in Heʻeia, which grows kalo (taro) and other crops for the community, and he wanted to support the great work he does.
So, instead of planting a tree just for Landon, we planted trees for the nonprofit, trees that would provide food for an entire community for generations.
If I could afford it, I would have wanted to throw Landon the biggest, baddest party of all time. He’s the best kid — I know, I’m biased — and I wanted to do something super special. Because he’s special. But we just couldn’t swing it. And that’s OK. We did the best we could — and no matter what, it was going to turn out great. It had to. We had all the right intentions, as every parent does, and it really didn’t matter what we did. At the end of the day, it’s just about celebrating our awesome son.
So, on Landon’s birthday last month, we got up early and drove to the farm in Heʻeia to plant two ʻulu trees in its orchard. It was just a small donation — we could only find two of the Hawaiian variety to plant — but we’ll continue to plant more trees every year. We want Landon to learn that giving is way more important — and fun — than receiving.
With cake after, of course.
Fantastic! You don’t need anyone’s approval to do what you need or want to do. Can I just say though, there is so much awesomeness in what you did! So many ways that was great.
Extremely cool! Planting for many children to not go hungry or at least to taste the traditional foods which are also high in nutrition. A fab. Idea. And Hau’oli La Hanau Landon!
Maika`i E OLA `ULU
Giving back to the Earth rather than creating more rubbish for the landfill (matching papers plates, cups & napkins, party favors from Chinese sweatshops, etc.) is a way better tradition. I wish I could rewind the clock on all the parties we had for our kids. Maybe for our future grandkids!
Beautiful. I remember feeling that same overwhelm as our son’s first birthday approached. We kept the first simple,, though they got more and more involved over the years that followed. This December, our son is walking for his Master’s Degree. Apparently, it was
“all good”. What an amazing journey raising a son or daughter can truly be. Hau’oli La Hanau to Landon…and Landon’s Mom & Dad.