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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Social Media (12/01/11)

TITLE: The Pretender
By Ruth Thoutenhoofd


Abby and Jennifer temporarily live at our house. They left their own homes at twelve and sixteen respectively, sent to Canada because they needed to learn English to make it easier to get into a “good” university. Both had bad experiences in their initial “homestay” and ended up at our house, where, hopefully, they would be loved and cared for and could feel safe enough to go to school and succeed. Emphasis on succeed.

Half the meals I cook for them taste something like the food in their country of origin because I want them to feel at home. I drive them to school and pick them up. I take Abby to her academy where she gets help with her homework from a professional. I talk to them about their day and give them lunches that they like. I talk to their teachers when they have trouble at school. I work hard to fill in the gap created by having left their parents so very early in their lives. I get paid to do it, but I think they know I also care for them very much and they are happy to be in our home.

So you would think they would come to the family room or kitchen where I usually am and want to talk to me about things in their lives or maybe watch TV - hang out. That’s what my own daughter did. It never happens.

Instead, they go into their room and close the door, sometimes locking it against the world. There, they “talk” to their friends. Curled up in their quilts, their phones in hand, or their laptops beside them, they spend all their free time texting or on their country’s version of Face book. Even in the car their thumbs are busy, flying over tiny keyboards, telling their friends everything and nothing. It is, emotionally, their whole world. Most often I feel like an intruder when I attempt a normal conversation.

Removed from their parents very young, they have little true attachment to them. Their conversations with them are often defensive or rebellious, and usually about money or grades. At times, they claim not to be loved by their parents. (I understand that, when I hear the stories of their early childhood, though I know it probably isn’t really true.)

So they turn to other young people with the same experiences, and they parent each other. Their attachments to each other as a group of friends are desperate, clingy, and fickle. Romances blossom and die, sometimes in weeks. They don’t realise how lonely and needy they really are, because they are in constant contact. Social media makes it possible. But used as it is, it is about as helpful as alcohol would be. The “friendships” don’t fill the deep need in their lives, and I watch sadly.

Confiscating the tools would be cruel, like removing them from their parents all over again. So I pray, and watch God allow even more problems in their lives, and I tell them He wants their attention. On the rare occasions when they do talk honestly with me, I listen. And I pray some more. I pray that they will find a new, true attachment – one with their Creator. I pray for wisdom to know when to speak and when to be silent. I pray for the love of God to somehow make its way from me to them; that it would penetrate their minds and hearts in spite of the very real “drug” that pretends to comfort them. God is able; I am not.

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This article has been read 304 times
Member Comments
Member Date
C D Swanson 12/15/11
Good job and strong story. I enjoyed this very much. Thank you. God Bless~
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 12/16/11
This brought tears to my eyes. I can feel the anguish of the MC and the love and empathy jumps off the page.

Try to stay consistent with the tense, the first was in the past then you switched to present. Sometimes you have to mix them but the second part of the first paragraph might have been more powerful in the present. Also work on more showing than telling. For example: . I talk to them about their day and give them lunches that they like.
Just changing it a bit will show the reader. I ask Abbey, "How was your day?" She shrugs her shoulders and lowers her eyes.

You've done an amazing job with the story being about the topic. I feel like I can hear the cracking of your voice as you tell the story. The ending is great and comes back full circle. For some things there are no easy answers. I think this is a fresh and lovely story.
Helen Curtis12/22/11
I was going to ask if this was a true story, and then I realised that, even if this particular one is fictional, how many 'true' accounts of this are happening everywhere around us? Being a teenager is hard in anyone's era, but I especially feel for our kids and youth these days. They are literally bombarded with so much 'attention,' but as you so very clearly showed it's not always real, intentional and connected attention, but a very poor substitute.

Prayer and love, prayer and love!!! That is the key to breaking into their worlds and helping them come back to reality. Well done; this is one of my favourites for the week.
Lawrence Hebb12/23/11
This one is a real heart wrencher! It has the ring of truth that all good writing should have. (my view at least, the possibility that even if it is fictional it's totally believable).

I think the switching between the tenses is essential to the story as part of it is what's happened and the other is what's happening now.

A good story well told.
Martha Black12/24/11
This story makes me hurt for the children of today. They spend so much time in a world that is not real, that they miss the reality surrounding them. How very difficult it is to parent children today, whether they are yours or not, as in this story. You write with great feeling, my friend, and that means a lot.
C D Swanson 12/29/11
Congrats. This was nicely done. God Bless~