46 comments

Dec 02, 2020

Drama American

I just don’t understand what went wrong.

This is his second apartment, not including his freshman college dorm. Remember when I told you how the college demanded he vacate the dorm’s premises in 24 hours? It was only his second month of college! 

You would think they would understand 19-year-old boys better. 

It’s ridiculous. 

Oh, the usual things. The alcohol wasn’t even his. And it was his roommate’s stash. How would my son even know where to buy drug paraphernalia?

I know, right? He doesn’t even vape! Everyone vapes, but my son knows how toxic that is. He was even telling me today some of the crazy e-liquid flavors other students use, like Worcestershire Sauce and Peanut Butter and Stoned Smurf. Stoned Smurf! 

That’s hilarious.

I tried to explain to Housing that my son was just a victim of circumstances. 

But did they listen? No

How was he supposed to remember all those ridiculous dorm rules? And they kept the security deposit!

Yes, I know. I know. Everyone is just out for money. I keep telling my son that. 

And apparently I cannot call Meal Services on campus anymore. How can I help him with a balanced diet if I don’t know what the food offerings are? You know these boys. They’ll just eat carbs all day, and he doesn’t need to add anymore pounds to his freshman fifteen. I just wanted to know what was available on the salad bar. He will eat carrots, if they are cut a certain way.

When I saw him at Parent’s Weekend, he looked stuffed to the gills. All those late night pizzas. Bloated. Groggy. Red-eyed. He’s staying up far too late.  

It’s the peer pressure, really. At home, I’d just bring his dinner to his room. He’d set the dishes just outside, just so I could get them more easily without disturbing him. 

When he was little, I would cut his carrots and grapes and hot dogs into little cubes so he wouldn’t choke. He still likes it that way. Along with his plain pasta. He never liked sauce on anything, and he never wanted any of his food to touch. He was so cute, throwing a tantrum if I tried to get him to try anything new. I used three or four plates on his every meal. And I basically cooked him the same three meals all through high school: pasta, chicken tenders, pizza. He doesn’t like vegetables, but pizza sauce is basically tomatoes, right? 

Of course, I did. What mother wouldn’t go to all that trouble? 

His trouble is no trouble. 

Oh, we’ve missed him while he’s been away at college. I remember picking him up at preschool when he was little. He was so adorable! I brought him a wrapped gift every day, just so he knew how much we loved him. 

Yes, we are here with him now. 

Well, we had to find another apartment after the incident at his first apartment—a little fire—but everyone got out of the building safely. His roommates were so impossible. They just complained endlessly about every little thing he did. He didn’t wash his dishes. He didn’t take out the trash. He didn’t change his clothes. They drove him crazy! Especially his second semester. 

No, his second semester during freshman year. When he was put on academic probation. 

Technically he is still a freshman because of the ridiculous amount of work his professors assigned. For the first year? He worked so hard, but failed nearly every class. The buildings are so far apart on this campus. How can they expect students to make it to every single class? And the writing lab didn’t help him at all in writing his papers. I told him to see his professors during their office hours, but they are very inconvenient. It’s like they make more money if they fail the students. It’s not his fault. 

So. 

We've made an appointment to talk to the Dean of Student Affairs. And if we don’t get anywhere with that stuffed shirt, I’m going to walk right in and talk to the Provost. We can spend our money at other colleges. He could transfer. 

Possibly. 

So we did manage to find a one-bedroom apartment near campus. He seems to like living alone. Apparently after the football game, he and his friends took their tailgating indoors. And now he’s out somewhere. 

I don’t know. 

There was a problem checking out of his last apartment. Something about smoke damage.

Cigarette. 

Cigarette smoke, I think. You know how these boys are. He did say some of his friends smoked weed. He doesn’t, I’m sure of it. Maybe they should pay for the security deposit instead of sticking it on my son.

It’s just not fair. 

What? Yes, like I said. His apartment was completely wrecked. I just came from cleaning it up. Overflowing ashtrays. Pizza boxes. Smashed beer bottles. I don’t even want to think about some of the things I saw. 

The whole place! I don’t know where he meets those friends of his. 

But, it’s college, you know? 

They need to spread their wings. 

When he was little, I always made sure that he had the nicest of friends. If I heard him fighting over a toy or what-have-you, I would end the playdate immediately and send the other child directly home. I even called the high school a few times when some bully would ignore him or not invite him over to a party. It’s just not right to exclude people. 

Of course he would get angry and post things on social media, but can you blame him? That’s just how this generation communicates. People take things too seriously. They aren’t really threats. 

No, I don’t know where he is right now, but he’ll surface. He always does. 

You should have seen the place! All the dishes and linens I had purchased for him—broken and ruined. The furniture I ordered specially for him, including the $3700 Beautyrest mattress? Trashed. It’s the culture these days. None of his friends really value anything. 

We also met with some life coaches who work on campus. They work with students who need a little more help in learning organizational skills. This one we like makes his clients take a picture of toothbrushing and going to class, just to keep them motivated and progressing forward. It’s really a valuable tool as these kids learn adulting. 

He’s just like the other students on campus. Maybe a couple of bumps here and there, but we’re ready to help him out whenever he needs it. It’s just lately he’s been a target for trouble.

And I just don’t understand what went wrong.


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46 comments

Scout Tahoe
14:40 Dec 03, 2020

Now I can't boast about my knowledge of freshman boys or connect this to a British cop show from Youtube, but I can say this was very good. You know, your stories are always real and reflect your experiences and that's what I like. They're always about problems that you've seen older boys go through and this one is too true. The formatting is great because it's like an interview. Got me from the beginning, the way you dived right in. Keep writing, D. Now I'm going to go read this again.

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Deidra Lovegren
14:43 Dec 03, 2020

Thanks, Scout. I appreciate your kind comments. I wish some of the aggressive mothers out there would read this and DIAL IT BACK.

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Scout Tahoe
14:49 Dec 03, 2020

Exactly my thinking...

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Tom .
23:52 Dec 02, 2020

This is really good. I have just read it after watching some British cop shows on Youtube from the 90's. It sounds like a mother in an interview suite at the police station. Giving out all the information the detective needs to hear but protecting their son, the suspect, with the way they say it. That got me thinking, I know dangerous. I cannot correct your work it is too good and there is too little time left. But this could be even better if scattered in the writing were a couple of pointers towards a heinous act that possibly he just migh...

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Deidra Lovegren
01:31 Dec 03, 2020

OoooOoooOoo. I like it. That would have been awesome... Thanks for the love, TB. :)

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Lucas Zhou
03:45 Dec 08, 2020

agreed, everything u said tom

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Ray Dyer
03:24 Dec 06, 2020

Oh, I KNOW this lady! And she's just looking out for her son's best interests. The world is such a dangerous place, and she has to help him out, because what's a mother to do, otherwise? Saving the word "adulting" for the end was perfection. That word goes through me like a knife. So well done, Deidra. You nailed the archetype.

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Deidra Lovegren
10:03 Dec 06, 2020

The most prevalent form of child abuse these days... I see so many mothers aggressively micromanaging their children to everyone’s detriment. They ensure the rules do not apply to their own and wonder why their children live in the basement at 30.

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Ray Dyer
17:16 Dec 06, 2020

It really is a form of abuse. While there are many reasons that children end up living in their parents' basements at 30 (anything from a tanking economy to picking an unmarketable major in college), parents like these infantilize their kids to the point that they have to overcome suppression to succeed. It's called suppression for a reason...many just can't do it, and end up with this skewed, entitled view of the world that's "out to get them."

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Deidra Lovegren
18:06 Dec 06, 2020

About half of adult children are home now, primarily due to COVID, the gig economy, and other Boomer-related malfeasance. But I'm sure this obscene parenting style hasn't helped those numbers, and certainly added to the spike in anxiety and depression for the 20 year olds. One of the few joys of being raised in a large family --> there was no chance of overparenting! As the fifth of six children, I'm not entirely sure my parents knew what grade I was in some years. And if you forgot your lunch? You went hungry. A great line from a friend...

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Ray Dyer
19:23 Dec 06, 2020

Why don't they just sit down and listen to us? And that line from your friend is so true.

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Deidra Lovegren
20:01 Dec 06, 2020

Everyone should listen to Deidra & Ray. We could be the new Joe Rogan Experience podcast, but there is no way we could smoke that much weed.

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Phil Manders
08:11 Dec 05, 2020

Hey! You’ve smashed it again with this one, I really can’t fault it. Surly not another winner so soon😁 We’ve all met parents like this . . . When you see her next you should tell her where she went wrong!

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Deidra Lovegren
15:09 Dec 05, 2020

Dear Phil -- My oldest buddy on Reedsy :) I don't think this has a chance to win. No Hamlet in it, except for the weird Oedipal complex on some level. In my opinion, this particular bad mother doesn't do all these things for her son out of love, but out of sheer vanity. The current trend of deifying an only child or a son is a grotesquerie. Parents are making idols of their children. It's not a good trend...

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Rachel Macmorran
22:54 Dec 03, 2020

Fantastic! I can’t help but envision this as an audition monologue. Mom on the phone to her friend while she speed walks on her treadmill watching some reality show about kids whose adult troubles are clearly the result of neglectful parenting. Not her baby! The world is his oyster, even if she has to shuck the damn thing herself, and cut it into little cubes. I love that his name is never used, like he is so central to her existence, naming him is superfluous—or sacrilegious. The only critique I’d offer is that, when someone is this del...

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Kim Morgan
17:26 Dec 03, 2020

Btw would ya mind checkin out my latest post? It's called "Clover Catastrophe", thanks!

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Kim Morgan
17:25 Dec 03, 2020

Wow! The idea you're trying to depict through this story is very true and apt. Many children are overprotected by their parents...its kinda living under a shell but later on, they would've to suffer, yeah especially when they advance to adulthood. I liked the perspective and above all, the feelings conveyed. I love all your stories Deidra and have given most of them a like, you truly deserve it!

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Zilla Babbitt
16:05 Dec 03, 2020

This was funny in a really sad kind of way. I pictured her talking on the phone with a sympathetic friend (probably named Janet or something), and I liked how you had her saying "So... Possibly... I don't know..." and not spelling out what the other person was saying. Luckily my parents were/are not like this. They had me ordering things online, calling customer service, depositing their checks during a walk downtown, etc pretty early. It's probably why I'm an introvert, but I can talk to strangers now. Plus they never gave us an allowan...

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Deidra Lovegren
16:26 Dec 03, 2020

The inconsistency is intentional. This mother is doing everything wrong in the hopes that she is doing everything right. By over-mothering and micromanaging, children do not earn authentic self-esteem; otherwise, they become unsure, neurotic, depressed. More than anything, children need to try and fail and learn how to be resilient. They need to have bad teachers and a bully to conquer and unfair treatment to overcome. They need challenges; unfortunately, parents remove these challenges to ensure their darlings have a safe, smooth ride. This...

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Zilla Babbitt
00:13 Dec 05, 2020

Makes sense. I agree with all you just said. I'm glad that there are people out there who really care. Like you. How would you fix this growing problem?

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Deidra Lovegren
00:34 Dec 05, 2020

Like how all social problems are solved: awareness and education. They are the only things that work.

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R. K.
22:22 Dec 02, 2020

This radiates so much real life, it has to have some kind of element of truth to it. It's very well written and I admired the writing voice you used; it varied, but it was coherent. I was pleasantly surprised how we had all three POVs right from the get-go. Impressive. I notice a recurring theme here with the mom troubles, and is it wrong that I... enjoy it? What I mean is, I enjoy your talent at weaving together the mundane occurrences of life that seem normal at surface level, but curl like grappling hooks on the inside. Love this Mrs. Dee.

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Deidra Lovegren
22:44 Dec 02, 2020

"Curl like grappling hooks . . . " That's quite a simile :) I have taught seniors in high school for many years. It's terrifying -- actually terrifying -- how hard some parents micromanage and infantilize their children to both of their detriments. Like overbred poodles, these poor kids try to go off to college and survive, but they haven't been able to make mistakes or problem-solve on their own. Their path through childhood has been cleared by good ol' mom and dad. It's really child abuse on many levels: parents doing far too much for th...

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Jeni Conrad
10:13 Dec 12, 2020

Interesting way of delivering the story. I felt like the mom was on the phone with a friend and we were listening in. Cool effect! Good characterization. Mothers always know best, eh? Good job!

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Deidra Lovegren
12:23 Dec 12, 2020

Thanks for your comment. My sister who taught 3rd grade forever said that adults should NOT do anything for children that children can do for themselves. It’s the way to independence and authentic self-esteem. Hard to do, especially considering how much we love them. But wisdom nonetheless ❤️

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Jeni Conrad
13:33 Dec 12, 2020

Yes! I struggle a lot with this right now. My daughter is 4 and has a missing chromosome. I struggle to figure out the line between knowing when she really needs help and knowing when to let her figure out things for herself. So far, I just judge by how hard she's crying? She's also nonverbal so she can't tell me how she's feeling or what she needs. She knows some sign language but it can only get us so far. I have a feeling I'm going to err on the side of over-helping but... but.. she's my baby! /wail! Hah... anyways... I'm sure it'll be ok...

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Deidra Lovegren
13:58 Dec 12, 2020

You are a great mother. Your daughter is so lucky 🍀 to have you in her life. After raising a pack of kids, I’ve found the answer to most parenting concerns is to listen and to love them unselfishly. The hag mother in this story does neither. Her “love” is self centered and vain, as her son has been transfigured into some weird self-aggrandizing deity of own self. If she loved him, she would watch with benign neglect as he productively struggled. And failure is part of that struggle. Blah blah blah — I just decided I’m being tedious. (I’m b...

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Jeni Conrad
09:55 Dec 15, 2020

Haha, it's great. I love it! Thanks for the encouragement. :)

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Katina Foster
21:11 Dec 11, 2020

Wow. I've never wanted to slap a fictional character so hard. If that was your goal, mission accomplished! This is maybe why I am not a parent, though. And maybe why I am single. Taking care of myself is enough work! I'm guessing you've run into one or two of these parents during your career. ;) I think this take on the prompt is extremely clever. It has a very confessional feel, which is funny because there's actually no admission of wrong doing by the confessor or her offspring. One of my favorite things about these prompts is seeing di...

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Deidra Lovegren
12:31 Dec 12, 2020

Getting positive feedback from such a gifted writer (and overall fantastic human!) as yourself is pure joy. I fear these mothers are more the rule than the exception these days. I wish I could tell my school parents: When the rules don’t apply to your child, you are raising a sociopath. I hate this woman, who has ruined and infantilized her son from day one, with unchecked fury.

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Dorsa Harvens
16:53 Dec 11, 2020

i absolutely adore this, this really shows how parents use their children to achieve goals that they wanted rather than the child exercising their free will and to do a few tasks by themselves. any parents (both mother and fathers; i know there are some fathers like this out there) reading this story should know and take part in helping their kid and letting go, at least some time in their life the child needs to fend for themselves. altogether, i had really enjoyed the story. in fact, i love all of your stories! (the physics professor an...

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Deidra Lovegren
17:20 Dec 11, 2020

Free range parenting yields the best outcomes. Thanks for the great comments :)

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D. Kase
04:32 Dec 09, 2020

Well done once again. I truly enjoy reading your work. Very relatable. 📖📚

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Deidra Lovegren
10:23 Dec 09, 2020

Toxic moms are everywhere

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D. Kase
14:01 Dec 09, 2020

I wrote a piece called 'sins of our mothers'that touches on toxic moms. It's all too real and sad.

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Deidra Lovegren
15:42 Dec 09, 2020

OoooOOo. I'll go read it now :)

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Kanden Lang
22:33 Dec 07, 2020

Great story! I enjoyed how it unfolded; there's something almost entrancing about the way you used the narrator excusing away behavior to lay out the details. It's brilliant! Every sentence drew me in a little more. Also, the part about the food being cut into little cubes was strangely adorable. Very well-written and a great read!

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Deidra Lovegren
23:32 Dec 07, 2020

Thanks, Kanden! The mom is a trainwreck :)

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Kevin Broccoli
17:40 Dec 07, 2020

I feel like you've given us a window into a really unsettling world and you've done so with a lot of sensitivity. Good job.

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Deidra Lovegren
19:24 Dec 07, 2020

Thanks for the thoughtful comment, Kevin :)

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Olabanji A.
07:45 Dec 05, 2020

This is actually awesome. Your stories speaks and teaches. The part “His roommates were so impossible. They just complained endlessly about every little thing he did,” makes him look like a kid in the midst of adults. It also portrays the narrow-mindedness of the mother. One could also understand that she is a single-mother.

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Orenda ♤
15:57 Dec 04, 2020

peanut butter as an e-liquid flavour? ... what's wrong with these boys?! anyway, like how everybody's pointing out, it's perfect for a monologue. It's amazingly realistic. Children need to have their freedom. Mums don't be like that, please. Haha. I enjoyed this so much. Well done, Deidra! Also, have I mentioned how everything is perfect from your name (especially Lovegren) to your profile picture? Nah, I haven't. There you go :-)

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Deidra Lovegren
16:37 Dec 04, 2020

We did just as stupid or worse in our youth than "kid's today" vaping peanut butter flavored caffeine. However, our parents never knew and no one filmed it. Youthful indiscretions should stay in the past. I worry about a lifelong digital trail of woes our children are accumulating... Thanks for the perfection comment. Not sure about all that, but I'll take it. :0)

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Orenda ♤
16:44 Dec 04, 2020

true. Very true. haha, you have to take it.

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Laura Everly
21:50 Jan 15, 2021

great story....liked the subtle but direct inference in title

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Deidra Lovegren
21:54 Jan 15, 2021

Yep. Parents...

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