It is difficult to deal with a narcissist when you are a grown, independent, fully functioning adult. The children of narcissists have an especially difficult burden, for they lack the knowledge, power, and resources to deal with their narcissistic parents without becoming their victims. Whether cast into the role of Scapegoat or Golden Child, the Narcissist's Child never truly receives that to which all children are entitled: a parent's unconditional love. Start by reading the 46 memories--it all began there.

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Camera

“Ooooo, Mommy, you look just like a princess!” she exclaimed, clapping her hands together with delight. “Or Marilyn Monroe, except her dress was white. You look so pretty!”

Mommy stood in the living room, patting her bleached platinum waves into place in the mirror above the old red plaid sofa and rubbing the Revlon Fire Engine Red lipstick off her nicotine-stained teeth with a forefinger.

“You two go to bed,” Mommy said without turning around. “I’m locking the door behind me. Don’t open it for any one and don’t answer the phone.” Turning away from the mirror, she picked up a glittery little evening purse and transferred a few items from her “everyday” purse, topping the cache with a pack of Pall Mall reds and her bejewelled Zippo. “I’ll be home before your Dad gets home from work.”

“Don’t wanna go to bed,” Brother said sulkily, his lower lip jutting out. “Wanna watch TV!”

Mommy almost smiled, she could see the momentary quirk of one corner of those brilliantly painted lips. “It’s your bedtime…off to bed with you,” Mommy said, turning the child about by his shoulders and gently patting his behind. “Go potty first…you don’t want to wake up to a wet bed in the morning.”

As Brother moped his way to the bathroom, Mommy fixed her with a steely stare. “You are the oldest,” she said sternly. “You are responsible. Get yourself and your brother to bed, don’t let anyone in, and do not answer the phone. It could be your father and I don’t want you blabbing to him that I went out, do you hear? I’ll be back before he gets home, so what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him and I won’t have you upsetting things with your big mouth. Is that clear, missy?” She nodded her head in silent affirmation.

“Now get to bed and stay there!” With that the front door swung open and Mommy stepped out into the night, her black taffeta skirts rustling, her Spring-o-lator pumps clicking a sharp tattoo as she strode down the cement walkway to her car. Stopping at the door of the car, Mommy turned back and looked at the house and the two small pale faces peering at her from the window. Scowling, the glare of the streetlight giving her made-up features an almost ghoulish look, she jerked her thumb towards the bedrooms and stood sternly beside the car until the little faces disappeared and the bedroom lights flicked off. Moments later the car roared away and quiet descended on the little tract house on the dirt road on the edge of the fashionable district of town.

She savoured the quiet. Mommy gone, Brother in bed, nothing to interrupt the fantasies she wove each night to put herself to sleep…she heaved a deep sigh and closed her eyes. She had just constructed the castle of which she would be the imperilled princess when the first sound intruded. Her eyes flicked open…what was that noise?

The muffled, irregular clicking sound continued until she simply had to investigate. Slipping out of bed, wincing as her bare feet touched the cold asphalt tiles, she crept to her bedroom door and silently eased it open. Oh no! Brother’s door was open! That could mean only one thing…he was into some kind of mischief and since she was responsible, she would be the one to get into trouble.

She ran out of her room, seeking the source of the sound. Her ears took her to the living room where she found Brother standing in front of the table beside the front door, his back to her. “What are you doing?” she barked in her best imitation of Mommy. Brother flinched and the object in his hand dropped to the floor with a “thud.” Daddy’s camera.

“Put that back!” she commanded, still imitating Mommy, “And go back to bed and stay there!” Brother put on a stubborn face, toed Daddy’s camera and said, simply, “Broke.”

She could feel her heart sink to her feet. “Let me see,” she said, panic rising. With relief she noted that it was not broken, that the side clamps had been loosened and the back was off the camera. But she’d seen it that way many times, when Daddy was changing the film…she just had to put the back on and snap the little clamps, then put it back where it had been and nobody would be the wiser.

Sitting crosslegged on the floor, she put the camera in her lap and carefully fitted the back of the camera to the front piece. It took some doing to get the clamp aligned and snapped, but when it clicked into place, she heaved a sigh of relief, warmth starting to flood back into her limbs. But the second clamp was not so cooperative, demanding a force that her seven-year-old fingers simply could not muster. Try as she might, she just could not force that perfectly aligned clamp to close. Heaving a sigh, she sat and contemplated the camera in her lap, pondering her various options, ultimately deciding to put the camera back where it belonged and simply hope no one noticed for a good long time. She rose and placed it carefully back on the bottom shelf of the little table.

“It’s still broke,” Brother complained. “Mommy will spank us!”

“Not if she doesn’t know anything happened,” she said. “Now you’ve made enough trouble for one night. Go to bed and stay there!”

He shook his head defiantly. “No! I don’t wanna go to bed and you can’t make me.”

“Fine,” she said dismissively and turned towards her bedroom door. “You can tell Mommy how you got out of bed and broke Daddy’s camera while I was in my room, asleep.”

“I will fix it,” Brother claimed. “I know how to do it.”

She had gone back to her room knowing that even though he was two years younger, he was taller and heavier than she was and there was nothing she could actually do to make him obey. He would do what he was going to do and she could only hope that she could carry off the “I was sleeping” defence. Before she could get back into bed, however, a loud cracking noise sent her scuttling back to the living room. There, her eyes wide with disbelief and her face white with horror, she saw the camera on the floor, its back smashed open. Brother stood with a puzzled, unbelieving look on his face, the claw hammer from the kitchen drawer clutched in his left hand. “It broke,” he said simply, looking up at her.

She panicked. There was a spanking in this, for certain, and the fact that Brother broke it wasn’t going to spare her. She picked up the pieces, returned them to the table yet again and took the hammer from Brother’s sticky hand. “Go to bed,” she said in a tight, strained voice. “Mommy is going to be very mad when she sees this.”

At that thought, his eyes widened and a shadow passed over his plump baby face. “Are we gonna get a lickin’?” he asked.

“Probly,” she responded, surveying the scene. “Go to bed. Pretend to be asleep when Mommy gets home. Maybe she won’t notice…”

Mommy noticed. As soon as she kicked off her Spring-o-lators and stepped a bare foot down on a shard of plastic lurking in the looped pile of the cheap carpet, she noticed. The blood-curdling sound of “Goddamn you kids!” echoed through the house, sending both of them deeper under the covers in their pretence of sleeping.

“I told you to stay in bed!” Mommy roared as she slammed open her bedroom door. “Don’t play-act sleep with me, Missy, I know you’re awake. If you know what is good for you, you’ll get your goddamned ass out of that bed and into the living room, toot-sweet!”

Mommy was eying the clock, changing her clothes and taking off her make up as she continued to bellow. “What in the name of hell has been going on here? I go out for a couple of hours and come home and almost get impaled on this…” she threw a sharp bit of plastic onto the blond wood coffee table. “Why don’t you tell me what that is and how it got in the carpet?”

She shrugged noncommittally, but her eyes must have told that she knew, for Mommy zeroed in on her instantly. “What about it, Missy?” her voice was soft with menace. “What is it and where did it come from?”

“Camera,” Brother said timorously from behind her. “Daddy’s camera broke.”

“Is that so?” Mommy said, her eyes flicking from one little face to the other like the tongue of a snake. “And how did Daddy’s camera break?” she asked, lowering her voice yet another notch, until it was barely above a whisper.

“Brother hit it with a hammer because he couldn’t get the back closed,” she said in a low voice. “I tried to put it back together when he took it apart but…”

“Get me the strap,” Mommy interrupted her, examining the pieces of the camera she had retrieved.

She went rigid and absolutely white. “Noooooo!” she cried, more a moan of expected anguish than a cry. “I didn’t do anything!” she protested, chafing her legs together in terrible anticipation. “It wasn’t me! Brother did it! He tried to fix it with the hammer when I went back to my room to sleep…”

Mommy’s jaw went stiff and tight. “Get…me…the…strap!” she commanded through gritted teeth. Even with the lipstick wiped away, her mouth was unnaturally, frighteningly red. “And…get…it…NOW!”

Tears already rolling down her cheeks, she ran to the kitchen to retrieve the thin leather dog leash, missing its clip, from its place hanging on the back of the kitchen door. She returned to the living room in time to hear Brother saying “Sissy broke it wif Daddy’s hammer from the kitchen,” and her mother reply “I know, Brother, I know.”

“That’s not true!” she screamed, her voice shrill with desperation. “I didn’t break it!” she sobbed, “I didn’t! I didn’t!”

Mommy was implacable. “I told you that you were responsible. Now give me the strap.”

She hid it behind her back. A completely crazy thing to do, calculated to make Mommy really mad, but she was beyond considering the consequences of her actions and operating on pure fear. “No!’ she cried. “You can’t spank me! I didn’t do anything!” She tried to dodge out of Mommy’s grasp, hiding the strap behind her back, but Mommy stuck her foot out and tripped her and she went down on the hard cement only millimetres below the thin, cheap carpet with a resounding “oof!.”

“Way to go, graceful,” Mommy said disdainfully, bending over to take the strap from her stunned fingers. “Now get your ass up off that floor and bend over the sofa. And take down those pajama bottoms while you’re at it.”

“You can’t!” she sobbed, taking as much time as she could to obey. “I didn’t do it! I didn’t!”

The first swing bit into the back of her thigh like a jaguar’s teeth. “Aigh!” she screamed in surprise, for she had not heard the telltale whistle through the air that usually gave her that infinitesimal fraction of a second, that minute window in time, that allowed her to brace herself for the strike. She bit down on her lower lip to stifle further sound, dreading the “you want to bawl, I’ll give you something to bawl about” rant that heralded an especially bad spanking. As the thin leather strap laid down stripe after glowing red stripe on the tender flesh of her buttocks and upper thighs, her mind floated free to contemplate the equally abhorrent obverse of that coin: “Stubborn little bitch today, aren’t you? Well, if it doesn’t hurt enough to make you holler, I must not be hitting you hard enough!”

And then there was a sound outside in the road, the blessedly familiar sound of Daddy’s car.

“Get your ass to bed,” Mommy said, stopping in mid-swing. “And if you say a word to your father about this, there will be a lot more where this came from, do you understand?” Scrubbing the tears from her face with the heel of her hand and nearly tripping over the pajama pants around her ankles, she nodded her assent and hobbled to her bedroom, closing the door softly behind her.

The walls were paper thin…she could not cry out loud or Daddy would hear her and come in to find out what was wrong. She buried her face in the pillow to stifle the shuddering sobs, her bare, hot bottom open to the soothing of the chill night air. She heard Mommy’s tinkling laughter through the wall as Daddy came in the front door.

“You’ll never guess what Brother got up to while you were at work,” she laughed. “While I was out back at the wash lines he decided to take your camera apart and when he couldn’t get it back together…”

She heard the rueful laughter and the blatant lies and did the only thing she could do...she closed her eyes and resumed her bedtime, sleep-inducing fantasy. Tonight, she was the imprisoned princess...


  1. I am the eldest and I also got spanked for everything my younger siblings did because I was supposed to be watching them.

    Like you, I read books every spare moment that I could. I also lulled myself to sleep at night, every night, by "telling myself a story," a fantasy daydream, because I could not keep the light on and read myself to sleep. My nightly fantasy bedtime story became like a soap opera, in the sense that it was the same ongoing story with the same cast of characters, continuing from the point where I had fallen asleep the night before.

    I related to where you made yourself sound like your mother to try to get your brother to obey you, so you wouldn't be punished for his wrong-doing. I did that, too, imitated our mother to try to make my 2 younger sisters and 2 younger brothers mind me. I hate that.

    1. Sounds like you and I had a lot in common in our childhoods...

      I can only be grateful that NM had her tubes tied when my brother was born because otherwise I would probably have had a boatload of younger siblings to watch over...I couldn't keep up with ONE, never mind four of them. You have my could not have been easy for you and your NM was wrong to saddle you with HER responsibilities--SHE chose to birth them, SHE should have been responsible for them.



    2. I did not know if my old comments would still be here, since they were connected to my old blog and my Charity pen name that I ended over a year ago. Almost two years have gone by since I read through these memories of your childhood. Reading them now, I am as deeply moved as when I read them the first time. I relate to so much of what you experienced.

    3. PS: Thank you for that validation. As you said, SHE gave birth to my younger siblings, SHE should have been responsible for them. Amazingly, you are the only person to ever point this truth out to me. I don't think I ever saw this truth, either, until you said it.

  2. I want to also comment on reading books. When I look back on it, it was my survival, my "way out" of my daily existance. My NM HATED the fact that I read, she was always saying to me "Put that book down and talk to ME" - I mean really, what parent discourages their child from READING!!! That's absurd and completely messed up. All schools talk about is getting your child to read more - my idiot NM was telling me to STOP reading so much! Of course this was only so I could pay MORE attention to her.

  3. My little brother bit me bad enough to leave a mark. She spanked him but blamed me for having to give him the only spanking he ever got. She still reminds me a demanding I was almost 50 years later

  4. Your story is familiar; I realized that I was a whipping boy at an early age -- punished for my younger brothers infractions or whenever my NM felt frustrated with her life. Other's comments above serve to let me know that I was not really responsible for NM's frustrations; she followed her own path in life.

  5. When I was in the third grade my parents had adopted my youngest brother, he was about 1 1/2 years old at the time of his adoption. I have very few memories of my childhood however after my Aunt died, her son told me of a time when his parents came to visit. He said his mother always got tears in her eyes when she thought about that visit, she said the minute I walked in the door from school it was my responsibility to meet all my brothers needs, bathing, dinner and keeping him occupied for the rest of the evening. Later, when I was a single parent my brother lived with me during his senior year of High School, my mom said it was because I lived closer to the school.

  6. My heart breaks for you

  7. As a father of a 4 year old daughter I'd like to say how sorry I am you had to endure such awful treatment.

  8. This is all sounding sooo very familiar. Only major differences was that I had to obsessively plan for the times when my mom would be drunk or otherwise messed up but she only ever hit me a few times. Her weapon of choice was words, but it seems like your mother used both. My heart goes out to you, and to little girl you. Sending all the love and so grateful to be sitting here today with a happy family finally.>3


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