Call­ing on the sugar gene

Maryland Independent - - Classified - Twit­ter: @right­meg

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.

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