During the months of editing and revision before I’ve Had It Up To Here With Teenagers hit the shelves, when friends, family, or even strangers asked my teens, “Is your mom writing a new book?” my kids responded—with long-suffering sighs and dramatic eye rolls, “Yeah. She’s writing a book about us. It’s a revenge book.”
It became such a well-established joke around my house that I almost called it Mom’s Revenge Book. In the end, I couldn’t bring myself to commit to that title, however. It seemed too harsh, even for a mean mama like me. Later on, I tried out Have You Lost Your Mind? as a working title. I still like that one because I ask my children that at least once a week. It conveys the spirit of the book well. Unfortunately, that title brings up too many dementia hits in a Google search. Strike two.
I next became partial to Mind Your Mother as a title, but it didn’t wear well. It’s too sanctimonious and preachy, even though I do, indeed, believe that “mind your mother” may be the three words an angel whispers to a newborn on its way toward the delivery room. It’s good advice. Golden. Also, the Mind Your Mother title makes my children sound like they’re still in single digits. They’re not. Two of the three are a foot taller than I am. The height discrepancy isn’t a problem for me. I have no hesitation about reaching up, grabbing a handful of shirt, and dragging one of my boys back down to my eye level. I prefer eye contact when I’m yelling at someone.
A lot more thought goes in to titling a book than you might think if you’ve never tried to come up with a perfect one yourself. It’s tricky. I’d rather write a whole new chapter than think up a title that will satisfy all the different search engines, copyright laws, and a myriad of editorial and sales requirements. As a writer, I can tell you that by the time you sell your friends and your publishing house on a title, all the humor has usually been massaged right out of it.
Confession time: I’m going out on the proverbial limb with my latest book. It could get mighty shaky out there. In fact, someone might take a shot at me on that limb. I have to use my own life as writing fodder–I write humorous non-fiction: what else could I do? Those of you who’ve read my first three books know that my kids appear in earlier books, but usually only on the periphery. They make cameo appearances. This book is different. The teens in these pages aren’t the charming toddlers who appear in my earlier books. This time, I’m parading the little parasites and all their teenage angst right in front of God and everybody. Sometimes, nobody looks good—neither teens nor parents.
We’re not the perfect family—not by a long shot. We’re just regular folks doing the best we can with what we’ve got to work with. I make lots of mistakes. I’ll be the first to admit that, but I never stop trying to do a good job as a parent. Never. Some days go better than others, just like in any other job.
As you might expect, this book’s publication required some delicate negotiation on the home front. It would have been much simpler if my kids had just read the chapters as I wrote them and lobbied for cuts or changes as I went along. That’s what I asked them to do. It would have been a piece of cake to remove the bits that embarrassed them or write around the sticky wickets. I’ve been known to think up a whole different metaphor on the spot if I run up against a hard-to-spell word. It’s faster. Of course, my kids were too busy to read back then. Now it’s too late. Que sera sera and all that.
Raising teenagers is not for the meek, the tenderhearted, or the easily nauseated. It’s a bit like going on a religious Crusade, loaning money to a third-world country, or hiking your way out of the rainforest without a machete, a GPS, or an antivenin kit—only harder and riskier. The stakes couldn’t be any higher. We’re trying to grow people here. Not green beans. Not cotton. Not even the economy. PEOPLE. Think about that for a minute. Go ahead. I’ll wait.
If I do a good job raising my teenagers, and you do, too, we’ll have SAVED THE WORLD. Truly. The fate of the WORLD lies in our hands as parents. We’re raising the people who will have to save the environment, feed the ever-growing world population, and find a lasting peace for war-torn parts of the globe. Talk about pressure!
My theory is that we’re all in this together: teens, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, teachers, coaches, neighbors, and random strangers who cross our paths and influence my kids for good or ill. This is big, meaning-of-life stuff I’m writing about here. Nothing matters more. That doesn’t mean we can’t laugh about all our trials. Of course, we can; I think we should!
Teenagers are exhausting. Worrying about them is a full-time job before you factor in the laundry, college expenses, teeth straightening, and allowance. Take a few hours off this week and read about my experiences with teenagers. I want to hear your stories, too. Post them on my Facebook fan page; send me a sympathetic Tweet; post a comment on my blog, or send smoke signals down South where I live. I promise to read every single message. Get that foot off the ledge right now! I promise you: it’s not YOU. It’s THEM. If you haven’t had any teenagers in your home, but you’re planning on that some day, all I can say is . . . buckle up.