Sharing the baby

Poor Matthew! He’s almost 17, a junior in high school and the baby of the family. Which means he’s the last kid at home. With Nick off at college and Maggie gone from home about five years now, Matt is stuck in Avoca with his parents, who use him for whatever is needed.

Saturday night, Matt showed a remarkable amount of patience with us.

Eric, who is recovering from a broken neck and surgery, is getting bored. Just for fun, I bought him a Wii game about hunting. While he was trying to figure out how to play it, I was in the kitchen trying to figure out how to make spaghetti sauce from scratch.

Luckily, Matt came home. He patiently helped Eric figure out the controls on the game, then wandered into the kitchen to taste the sauce and make seasoning suggestions. I was listening to a Michael Jackson CD (don’t start with me, I like some of his music) and Matt moonwalked across the kitchen floor much to my delight before heading back into the living room in response to a call for help from his dad.

"What am I doing wrong?" Dad asked. "I can’t figure out how to get back to the tree stand."

"The same way you did last time," Matt answered. From in the kitchen, I could hear him rolling his eyes.

As Matt walked Eric through the process again, I called out from the kitchen.

"Come taste this again, kid!"

I could hear his sigh over the sound of my music and the Wii game, but he wandered in, did a dance spin-move to Smooth Criminal, and grabbed a spoon, singing along with Michael as he asked Annie if she was OK.

"Which button makes it change the view?" Eric called from the living room. "I’m doing what you said and it isn’t working."

"Needs more salt," Matt said, then handed me the spoon and went to help his dad.

Needless to say, the calling from one room to another went on for awhile. I’m not sure about Eric, but I was doing it on purpose. Why have kids if you can’t mess with them?

Somewhere in between trips from kitchen to living room, Matt and I realized the sauce tasted more pizza-ish than spaghetti-ish, so we decided to roll with that. It just needed to be boiled down a bit. I stood there stirring and everytime I got bored in the kitchen by myself, I’d call for Matt to taste the sauce. He’d come in, boogie a bit with me (we did pretty well to Thriller), then head back when Dad called out for help.

At one point I had Matt stirring while I prepared jars for canning, and Matt and Michael sang together, denying fathering Billie Jean’s baby while I pulled out lids and a ladle. Eric was whooping it up in the other room, having brought down a big buck, and Matt’s curiosity got he better of him, so he meandered away to check it out.

Matt must have logged a few miles going back and forth between us. He grimaced once or twice, did a bit more eye rolling and I caught him muttering under his breath at one point, but for the most part he just displayed a charming combination of humor and teenage condescension toward his helpless parents.

It can be tough to have to share the baby, but I think it may be harder on the baby. Matt’s been patient with us, but the poor kid is trapped here with his crazy folks until he leaves for college in a little less than two years.

Then what are we going to do?

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