Start a Tradition
There are lots of other ways to make a birthday special, beyond the party. You could start a birthday-portrait tradition, snapping your child as he wakes up on his big day or sitting in the same chair each year (you can watch him get bigger with each year's photo). We know one uncle who takes his niece on an annual "toy prowl": they go to a toy store where she's allowed to pick out one thing, and a store employee wishes her a happy birthday over the loudspeaker.
"I let my children request a cake -- whatever crazy thing they can dream up -- that I'll then bake for the family," says Mary K. Isaacs, of Houston. "When they were young, they had easy ideas like 'chocolate with pink icing.' But as they grew older, they'd challenge me with things like 'a chocolate-banana-with-coconut cake!'"
You might also tell your child the story of how he was born: where it happened, who was there, what he looked like, and how excited you were to meet him. You can flip through newborn pictures and remind him just how glad you are that he joined the family. That's what this day is really about, isn't it?