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

A Visit from Nana

Blackie was just the best dog! She was squatted down in the sand pile…not sitting because it might get her clothes dirty…an old tablespoon in hand and, one heaping spoonful at a time, was burying Blackie in the sand. All except his head, of course, because that might make it hard for him to breathe and she knew how scary it was when your head was covered up and it was hard to breathe.

She could see Mommy at the clothes line, hanging up washing. She had clothes pegs in her mouth and her eyes were all squinty, the way they got before she started yelling. But she wasn’t looking over at her right now, so there was no yelling. Brother was taking a nap in the house, so it was very quiet, only the sound of the spoon crunching into the sand pile and the regular snuffle of Blackie’s breathing as he lay patiently stretched out on the sand.

A peremptory wail from inside the house changed Mommy’s expression. From a rather wool-gathering daze, her face shifted to a frown, then a flash of resignation. She stabbed the clothes pegs onto the clothes line and responded to the imperious shrieks emanating from the house. Brother was awake.

“It’s OK, Blackie,” she said, pouring more sand with one hand and patting the dog awkwardly with the other. “He’s just a baby, he don’t know better.” But the dog took one look and the chubby toddler in Mommy’s arms as she emerged onto the porch and rose from the sand pile. Shaking the sand from his fur, he trotted off into the dense undergrowth at the back of the yard and disappeared. Even good old Blackie wasn’t terribly fond of Brother.

Last week was Brother’s second birthday and Mommy had bought him a big birthday cake with cowboys and chocolate frosting and two big candles on it. Mommy told her to stay clean and keep away from the cake because Nana and Grandpa and some of the cousins were coming to visit and she was not to get messy before they arrived. Brother pushed a chair up to the table and climbed up where he could reach the cake and, to her horror and amazement, began to dig his fingers into the icing and eating it! She couldn’t get him down…he was already bigger than she was…so she ran to Mommy. “He’s getting dirty! He’s sticking his fingers in the cake! He’s making a big mess!”

She wasn’t sure why, but Mommy yelled at her and called her a “tattletale” and told her that it was Brother’s cake and he could mess it up if he wanted. But if Brother could get messy, why did she have to stay clean? Because her awful cousin Sally, who liked nothing better than to pull her hair and tear the heads off her dolls, was going to be here? Sally never stayed clean…Sally hardly ever even wore dresses…she wanted to be a boy. She was sure there was something going on here that she simply did not understand and it frustrated her. Brother could make a mess, Sally could dress like a boy and sit in the dirt and get messy…why did she always have to be clean, keep her clothes clean, not get dirty?

So Brother messed up the cake so much that nobody wanted to eat any, and Mommy just laughed at his chocolate-encrusted face but scowled meaningfully when she dropped a bit of icing on the front of her dress. Luckily it picked off without leaving a spot and Mommy turned her attention elsewhere. Brother threw cake at Blackie and got him all sticky and Mommy even laughed when she had to put the hose on poor Blackie and get him clean. It was cold and the dog hid under the porch and shivered for the whole rest of the day.

She didn’t understand about Brother. Blackie understood, she thought, and whenever Brother came around, Blackie ran away. She wished she was a dog so she could run away. Mommy never spanked Blackie, either, no matter what he did bad, even that time he peed in the house. Brother peed in his bed and his pants, but she had better not have an accident or Mommy said there would be hell to pay.

She looked back up at the porch where mother was finishing wiping Brother’s face. She wondered how you paid hell. Grandpa said hell was the place bad people went after they died. Did they have to pay to go there? She didn’t have any money…would they let her trade her dolls? She watched Brother make his way down the porch steps and toddle over towards the sand pile, a grimly determined look on his chubby baby’s face. She sighed and started to stand up…once Brother was in the sand pile, she couldn’t play anymore, he would fling sand in her face and her hair and get her dirty. Mommy’s voice stopped her before she was two steps away.

“And just where do you think you are going, miss? Too good to play with your little brother?”

She shook her head. “I need to go to the bathroom,” she said, and did a credible imitation of the “gotta go potty” dance. She added a wince for effect and got the desired nod from Mommy.

“You come right back out here when you’re done,” Mommy’s voice followed her down the dark hallway that smelled faintly of decay and old shellac. Only a moment’s respite, then.

She returned to the back as her mother was lifting a basket of stiffly dried laundry. “Stay out here and keep an eye on him while I go fold these clothes,” Mommy said. She nodded her head and put a sweet, compliant look on her face, careful not to roll her eyes like she had the last time Mommy said something like that. There was a table on the porch where Mommy could fold clothes…where Nana folded clothes when she was here…and watch Brother at the same time. She didn’t want to watch Brother! He threw sand at her, he pulled her hair, he broke her toys, and he hit…hard! When she would complain Mommy would tell her not to be a tattletale and that he was “just a baby and doesn’t know any better,” but she didn’t care! He was as big as she was and he was heavy and he hit really hard!

Mommy held her with a long, penetrating gaze. “I don’t know what you’re cooking up, there, little girl, but you had just better be careful.” Mommy’s eyes flicked to Brother, who was happily bury her favourite doll in the sand. "You keep an eye on your little brother and don’t let him wander down the street like you did last week. You don’t want that to happen again, now do you?” Mommy’s eyes narrowed to tiny slits and the bruises on her bottom throbbed suddenly. She gulped and shook her head. “Good,” Mommy said as she turned and walked into the house.

Brother had taken all the clothes off her doll and was working on removing Dolly’s head. “Noooo!” she cried, rushing to the sand pile to rescue Dolly. “Give her to me! It’s my dolly!” She knew better than to try to wrench it away from him, she already had two limbless dolls in her room that Mommy would not get fixed as her punishment for fighting with her brother. “Give her to me!” she cried again, swatting Brother over the head with Dolly’s dress, its buttons gone missing, the lace hem now dangling loose. "Give her back!"

Abruptly Brother threw the doll at her and, putting his plump baby hands to the sand to assist him, he rose to his feet, his eyes focussed in the distance.

“Nana!” he crowed joyfully. “Nana! Nana! Nana!” and took off at an amazingly fast run, headed straight for the street.

“No! NO!” she cried, dropping poor, battered Dolly and taking off after him. “Brother stop! STOP!”

The massive flesh-pink Plymouth rolled inexorably up the street, almost in slow motion, gliding silently on its fat white-walled balloon tires. Brother’s plump little legs churned in a blue corduroy haze on a collision course. Even Blackie, roused by her shrieks of alarm, came out from his hiding place and added his muddy, furry bulk to the chase, his barks a piercing counterpoint to her screams.

“NanaNanaNana!” Brother cried, opening his arms to the approaching car just as she managed to snatch a fistful of his shirt tail and put a bit of a dent in his forward motion.

“No!” she cried, trying to stop their impetus while retaining her tenuous grip on the back of his shirt. “Brother, stop! Don’t run in the street! You’re going to get me in trouble!”

Brother rounded on her with all his two year-old fury and gave her a dirty, sandy, sticky...but smart...fist right in the middle of her face, sending her backwards to land on her butt on the damp lawn. She burst into tears thinking about the grass stain this would surely put on her panties and the spanking that would just as surely come of it. Blackie growled and, with his mud-encrusted paws, pushed Brother down in the grass before he could regain his momentum and reach the hewn granite curbstone. Nana’s car came to a halt just as she got a second grip on Brother’s shirt and Mommy came hurtling out of the house in a howling fury. Brother took one look at Mommy and started wailing.

“What in the name of holy hell is going on out here?” Mommy bellowed. “I cannot leave you alone for a minute, can I? And what happened to Brother? How did he get so dirty? What the hell have you done to him?” That last was punctuated by a sharp, resounding slap that spun her half way around and propelled her into Nana’s white linen skirts. “Oh, Jesus!” Mommy complained, rolling her eyes, “Now you’ve gone and got Nana all dirty, too. Whatever did I do to deserve you?”

“It’s all right, dear,” Nana said mildly to Mommy. “It will wash. Why don’t you take Brother in the house and see to him, while I clean her up?” It sounded very much like a question to her, but she was surprised to see Mommy obey like it was a command, picking up Brother and heading toward the front door of the house without another word. “Come along, dear,” Nana said to her softly, guiding her towards the back of the house. “Let’s get you cleaned up and then you can tell Nana what you meant when you said that Brother was going to get you into trouble…”


  1. Oh answering that question would have gotten me the beating of a lifetime.

  2. I'm puzzled when I read these horrifying stories... how can your mother turn out to be like that with the parents that she herself had?!? Your Nana seems like such a sweet person. It's very scary to think that a person like that can raise a person like your mother. Where can we go so terribly wrong? What can we do to avoid it?

    1. My grandmother was a very strong woman, but loving and nurturing as well. My mother abandoned me when I was 2 and my grandparents stepped into the breach, removed me from the foster home, and took me to live with them for two years.

      Your question is nothing mother had two brothers who were pretty much normal boy who grew into normal men. Nobody who is clear on the kind of monster my mother was understands how my grandparent managed to produce her. But it is believed that narcissism has a strong genetic component and I suspect that is the root of it in my mother. Both of her parents came from very large families and I never met all of the aunts and uncles (too many of them too far away...NM had more than 50 first cousins!), but I suspect there was an N or two in the mix.

      I don't think the parents went wrong, and I don't think there is anything that can be done to avoid it. If a nurtured and loved child has no empathy or compassion, you can't teach it to him or give him a transplant. Abused children can grow up without compassion and empathy, but in my experience that isn't all that common. Most of the abused whom I have known, either personally or on line, are people who were far more compassionate and empathetic than the people who raised and abused them.

      I suspect it is more inborn than acquired, which means anybody can raise a person like my mother. Which is scary, you are right.

    2. Thanks for your answer, Violet.

      Yep... it IS scary :(. For the past few weeks, since I discovered Narcissism (I can't believe I didn't know about it until now!!) and started reading/researching about it, I have been a little paranoid with my kids. I am usually relaxed as a mother and respect and accept their ways, but I can't seem to be like that anymore.

      Every single little thing they do now that isn't completely compassionate or kind makes me very nervous and over-worried, and I find myself analyzing their every movement. I think (hope) I will relax about this in the near future but I don't know if my worries will completely go away.

      As you said "If a nurtured and loved child has no empathy or compassion, you can't teach it to him or give him a transplant". Even if we "force" a child to do compassionate acts, we aren't really teaching them anything. As my brother used to tell my parents: "You can force me to go to bed, but you can't force me to sleep".

      I understand that by setting a good example, kids will learn from us (my kids are still young), but if they're not compassionate... they might just never be.

      My mother would always say "You deserve a daughter like yourself so that you can have a taste of how painful it is"... but what I fear is to have a child like HER!!

  3. I too have wondered how my mother could be the child of my grandparents. Both of whom were very kind & loving. I have a sister who is just as narcissitic as my mother is but my other sister and I are very easy going and compassionate. Neither mother or NS see how hurtful their behavior is. They simply don't care about others. They keep people in their lives as long as they get something out of that relationship. If they can't control that person then they don't want them in their lives.
    All hell would break loose though if someone treated a fraction as badly as they treat others!


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