Calling on the sugar gene
We came. We saw. We “Muppet”-ed. In planning Oliver’s first birthday party, a “Muppets”-themed bash, I thought I’d accounted for everything. Invitations went out early, per my obsession with mail and stationery; spreadsheets were created and updated with the guest list, purchases, menu, etc. We bought sweet tea and polka dot party hats. I went out for a helium tank, even color-coordinating the curling ribbon to our balloons.
Some call it obsessive-compulsive. I prefer organized.
But one thing that simply cannot be accounted for? A cranky birthday boy. Before I became a parent, I was probably the least go-with-theflow person you’ll meet. There is not an ounce of spontaneity in my body; every nerve ending screams to crosscheck all dates and details against my Google calendar. My lists? They’re legendary. Even embarrassing.
I come by all this naturally, of course. If you think my notes are comprehensive, you should see my mom’s — most of which are highlighted, starred and meticulously crossed out as she makes progress. My sister is the same way, admittedly adding items to her checklists for the satisfaction of scratching them off.
Is there an organizational gene? Because I’ll submit our family for testing.
At daybreak on Saturday, I had a game plan for the day-of party details. My husband’s parents were in town, and my mother-inlaw appreciates a good schedule as much as I do. She was a tremendous help as we cleaned and organized the downstairs (read: tossed all the junk out of sight in a side room), and we baked and cooked our hearts out.
As soon as we began blowing up balloons, I noticed Oliver scooting closer and closer. He was eyeballing the shiny ribbon choking hazard in my hands. The tell-tale eye-rubbing started — and when we kept the balloons away, the tired fussing started, too.
With less than an hour until our guests arrived, I hoped we could squeeze in another nap. Wishful thinking. But I’ve become more relaxed (or maybe just exhausted?) about matters I cannot control, and Oliver choosing to sleep or not sleep is one of them. My father-in-law tried to soothe the baby while I rushed around like a sweaty lunatic, throwing casseroles in the oven.
Oliver didn’t sleep until nightfall, as it turned out. But it didn’t matter.
Saturday was beautiful — in many ways. I was devastated to miss my baby shower last spring, hospitalized just before I had Oliver, so this party felt extra celebratory. Life-affirming.
Oliver was on overdrive as his grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends began filling the living room. Though he seemed overwhelmed by 20-plus people energetically belting out “Happy Birthday,” he was a trooper through so much excitement.
We almost didn’t make it, though. As nap time came and went, I felt panicky whenever Ollie let out a shriek. As with my baby shower, I imagined a house full of people without the guest of honor to open gifts, give hugs or nibble on my grandmother’s special cookies. I thought we were finished many times, headed for a meltdown, but . . . It never happened. It’s like he knew. After a short burst of sleepy frustration, Oliver was remarkably calm. Like the times I’d stayed up all night watching creepy movies at friends’ sleepovers, I guess Ollie became so tired that he wasn’t tired anymore.
And so we did it: enjoyed a fun, Kermit-filled afternoon with minimal stress. My heart felt lighter than it has in a long time. It was Oliver’s day — but ours, too. We made it.
When we propped Ollie up for his birthday cupcake, I looked out at the smiling people encircling us. I had a flashback to the last time I happily held cake before a crowd: our wedding.
The scene and setting had changed, of course, but many players were the same. The warmth that enveloped me Saturday was so familiar, I could have blinked and been back in my wedding dress and heels. I never expected that, couldn’t have anticipated it, but I took it all in and felt immensely grateful. For our family, my husband, my son. At least, I think he’s my son. Because the cupcake? Oliver hated it. Absolutely, positively despised it, even gagging dramatically as it went down. (It’s OK — we happily ate what he couldn’t.)
Like its organizational counterpart, the sugar gene will activate eventually. It always does.
I’m sure I’ll be helping him list his favorite desserts in no time.