Wednesday, April 11, 2012

GUEST POST: Melinda Rainey Thompson

I am so glad to have Melinda Rainey Thompson at MMBBR as a guest.  I cannot wait to read and review I've Had It Up to Here with Teenagers!  Today she shares with us an essay she wrote entitled "TIMES UP!"

Melinda Rainey Thompson
“Raising teenagers is not for the meek, the
tender-hearted, 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 rain forest
without a machete, a GPS, or an antivenin
kit—only harder and riskier.”

Melinda Rainey Thompson is the author of the best-selling SWAG: Southern Women Aging Gracefully and The SWAG  Life. Her recent book, I Love You—Now Hush (cowritten with Morgan Murphy), was a 2010 ForeWord Reviews’ Book of the Year winner and a 2011 Benjamin Franklin Award finalist, both in the Humor category.
A graduate of Tulane University and The University of Alabama at Birmingham, Melinda taught English at Birmingham-Southern College for six years. Melinda became a humor writer completely by accident. After her children were born, she no longer had time for research and scholarly writing. She needed to write something that she could finish in short blocks of time while her children were napping. Humor came easily to her; it was quick and fun. She found her niche and hasn’t looked back since.
Melinda and her husband, Bill, have three teenage children—all named for long-dead relatives, in the proper Southern tradition—who suck up all their time and money; their teeth alone cost more than Melinda’s first car. To her children, she’s a chef, a maid, a Laundromat, a chauffeur, and a bank. She has never played football, baseball, or basketball, but because her children have, she knows all sorts of obscure rules. She knows how a cheerleader’s hair ribbon should be tied, even though she was never a cheerleader. Moreover, Melinda is an expert at the postgame icing of injuries. Melinda lives with her family in Homewood, AL.
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*Check out Melinda's blog
*Need some humorous advice for dealing with your surly teenagers? Post your questions on Melinda's FACEBOOK page—She just might answer them in her Friday column, Ask Melinda.
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Time’s Up!

      I’m out of time. My oldest child leaves for college soon. He’s ready, but I find myself lying in bed at 3 AM, staring at the clock on my bedside table, worrying about all the things I have forgotten to tell him, teach him, explain to him, or warn him about. Recently, I’ve leapt out of bed in the middle of the night and flown down the stairs to impart words of wisdom that simply cannot wait until dawn.

     “Sweetie? Are you awake?” I ask, after tiptoeing into my son’s bedroom like a jewelry thief, looming over the side of the bed like a stalker fan, and poking him sharply in the side until he acknowledges my presence.

     “Barely. What do you want this time, Mom?” he asks in a resigned voice, peeling back one hairy eyeball, and staring at me bleary-eyed with fatigue.

     “Promise me you will not accept any credit card offers, okay? Credit card companies prey on college kids. You could rack up thousands of dollars of debt!” I explain in an urgent tone of voice, gesticulating wildly with my hands to punctuate every word, increasing my volume and becoming more worked up with each second.

     “Um. Okay, mom. I’ve got your card for emergencies, so we’re good,” he reassures me, rolling over so I have to move to the other side of the bed to maintain eye contact.

     “You could end up with a bad credit score! You wouldn’t be able to buy your own home one day!” I warn, not fully convinced I have his undivided attention.

     “Mom, could we worry about buying my first home later? I have a history test in three hours for HIGH SCHOOL. Okay?”

     “Sure, sure! Go back to sleep, honey. I just thought since you were awake, we could talk,” I respond, defensively.

     A few minutes tick by. I remain frozen by my son’s bed, unable to move, my hands hovering over his body, which is now twice the size of my own, praying silently a sort of desperate litany to God, fate, Mother Nature, the lottery, and anything and anyone else who might listen.

     “Are you going to stand there much longer, Mom?” my son asks in a dry voice, without opening his eyes.

     “’Cause I have to say it: you’re kind of creeping me out.”

    “Nope! On my way upstairs right now!” I reply, a trifle huffily.

     “Good deal. See you in the morning, Mom.”

     “’Nightloveyousomuch, son.”

     “Loveyoutoo,” he mumbles in return.

     Lately, every time we’re alone in an enclosed space—the kitchen, an elevator, the car--for more than five minutes, I find myself talking to him in rapid-fire, staccato syntax as if I’m a drill sergeant, and I’ve been forced to send him to the front lines for hand-to-hand combat. I can’t seem to stop preaching mini-sermons, making dire predictions, or offering dangerous hypothetical scenarios for him to figure out while he’s still geographically close to me so we can talk through the options.

     Like the sergeant, I feel it’s my job to keep this boy safe. I know how many dangers and temptations lurk just around the corner for him. Like all eighteen-year-olds, he is oblivious and clearly thinks he is immortal. He’s poised on the starting block, grinning from ear-to-ear, out of his mind with excitement.

     My heart races when I think of setting my child free, unchaperoned and curfew-less into the world. I feel like I’m throwing him off a pier into the deep end of the ocean with only his iPhone, a debit card, a high school diploma, and some monogrammed towels to help him on his way.

     He’s bound to hit some white water. Everybody does. There are going to be treacherous currents, vicious undertow, barges that appear out of nowhere, hurricanes, whirlpools, sharks, and other predators. And that’s just the college years!

     I’m worried about all the pitfalls I haven’t pointed out: pyramid schemes, cheating spouses, door-to-door solicitors, the importance of separating the whites and darks when he does laundry, and remembering to text his younger brother, the kid who used to hold on to him when he was dropped off in the school carpool line and say, “Don’t go to school without me! I’ll miss you too much.”

     I’ve covered everything I can think of: good grades, safe sex, binge drinking, illegal drugs, texting and driving, and the importance of choosing friends wisely. He’s going to make some whopping mistakes. I know that. I just don’t want them to be split-second decisions that result in eighteen years of child support payments or an interstate pile-up.

     He’s heard it all before. He knows the lectures by heart, and he can repeat them with me in a singsong voice. Wear your seatbelt. Mind your manners. Take your vitamins. Don’t text and drive. Go to class. Do your homework. Write thank-you notes. Call your grandparents. Be a gentleman.

     “I know, Mom, You’ve told me a thousand times already,” he says.

     “Yeah,” I nod.

     Is it enough? Does he hear my voice in his head? Will it cause him to pause, think twice, and reconsider before bungee jumping off a bridge on a college dare or eloping with the first girl he falls in love with? When my teenagers were still in single digits, they were more afraid of me than God Almighty. That was a good thing. Back then, that was enough.

     “You have to quit trying to cram everything into my head, Mom!” he begged me this week. “I’m going to college, not outer space. You’re going to see me again. I don’t have any money of my own.”

    True. That’s one of my jobs as the mother of teenagers: I am a slightly overweight, farsighted, menopausal ATM machine. I am also a: short order cook, chauffeur, laundress, coach, nurse, tutor, psychiatrist, spiritual advisor, and social secretary. Parenting teenagers requires flexibility. You have to be able to clean up vomit, talk about condoms, cough up a small fortune in acne products, and love unconditionally and with fierce, illogical abandon. It also helps if you have a smart mouth and a sharp pen, in my experience. I have both in spades.

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Publication Date: February 29, 2012

"For years and years of relatively smooth-sailing childhood, my kids followed my directives," writes Melinda Rainey Thompson. "If I said, 'Let's go swimming!' they fled down the hall to pull on their swimsuits, shedding their clothes along the way. If I said, 'So sorry, the mall is closed today,' they didn't doubt my pronouncement for a moment--even if the parking lot was crammed."

And now that her kids are mostly grown?

"I was good with babies. Teenagers--not so much," Thompson admits. "I don t get many hugs anymore. Any I do get are inevitably instigated by me while they stand there like martyrs tied to a stake. Recently, when I was the rare recipient of a spontaneous hug from my seventeen-year-old, I got so excited I dropped the basket of chocolate-chip muffins in my hands. I was anxious to hug back while it was still on offer. It was totally worth the muffin loss."

Thompson's three teenagers bury her under an Everest of laundry. They send her for groceries so often that she once heard a store employee cry, "Incoming!" They leave such a quantity of half-eaten sandwiches around their rooms as to provide a buffet for roaches. They complain for hours about 10-minute chores. They spend their parents' money like it magically regenerates and hoard their own like it's the last dose of the elixir of life.

To put it another way, they're typical teens.

In her inimitable style, Thompson makes I've Had It Up to Here with Teenagers both a humorous rant against teens and a celebration of seeing them rise from the ashes of battle to become well-adjusted, responsible humans. "Parental love is fierce and illogical," she writes. "I think it is the strongest force on earth. It trumps everything, thank God: sleepless nights, hard stadium seats, endless recitals, broken hearts, losing seasons, throw-up viruses, bad grades, poor choices, and everything else life throws at teenagers and their parents."

Buy Melinda's books here:


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