My son’s father turned from a loving dad into a monster.

My son at about 9 months. His dad doted on him then.

Turning on a child who was initially loved and doted on is not unusual for malignant narcissist parents. If the child proves to be sensitive, highly intelligent, or can see through the parent’s agenda, they may find themselves suddenly turned into scapegoats. Betrayal of a child means nothing to a narcissistic parent. The child was never a child even before the betrayal, just supply.

My son (who I’ve been calling Ethan on this blog but that is not his real name) was born in October 1991 and initially was very much wanted by his father. During his infancy his father appeared to love him very much and it wasn’t unusual to find my beautiful little boy snuggled up against his dad’s chest. Though Michael (also not his real name) was showing signs of the abuser he would soon become, the abuse was directed at me, and didn’t happen often enough in those days that I was that concerned.

By the time Ethan was 3 or 4 he was showing signs of being a highly sensitive (and very creative) child. He cried frequently and was given to tantrums when he sensed discord, anger or chaos around him. He was always very sensitive to his environment and didn’t react well to everyone and he hated change. He still remembers himself as being an extremely nervous child, but those nerves were due to his high sensitivity. I was much the same way when I was his age. I could always identify with my son.

I remember when he was two, when we were moving from New Jersey to North Carolina. Because we didn’t have a lot of money for a long distance mover, we moved most of our stuff (except large pieces of furniture) in a U-Haul and a car over five separate trips. During the time the house was being slowly emptied, Ethan began to act very strange. He stopped eating, looked pale and his eyes looked too big for his face. He hadn’t really started talking much yet, but did this strange “parroting”–he’d repeat “Hi Mommy! Hi Daddy!” over and over, in a strange high pitched voice. It was creepy. His doctor said not to worry, but he just wasn’t himself. Then it finally dawned on me: a very young child sees things disappearing and doesn’t understand why (he hadn’t come on the moving trips to see where the things were going). His two year old mind deduced that eventually his parents and baby sister would disappear too, leaving him alone, so the nervous parroting of “Hi Mommy, Hi Daddy,” was to make sure we were still there and weren’t going to leave him. To a sensitive child like Ethan who hated change as much as he did, watching the things in his environment disappear must have been traumatic for him. I asked him about this recently and he still remembers it. He told me my suspicions had been correct. He was afraid we would disappear!

Third birthday. He received a cake with a blue toy car on it.

Michael saw this high sensitivity as soon as it became apparent, and suddenly his affection toward his son came to a screeching halt. He began to pick on and belittle him, calling him names such as stupid, idiot, “faggy,” pussy, baby, and loser. As young as Ethan was, I could see how his self esteem was already taking a beating. Soon he became nervous and awkward around his father but of course this just fed the abuse.

Soon Michael began to physically abuse Ethan, spanking him almost every day just for being who he was. Whenever I criticized or questioned Michael about why he was treating Ethan this way, he just said he was trying to “toughen him up.” (this from a man who called himself a feminist–go figure that one out!) I told him his aggressive behaviors toward Ethan to “man him up” were not working because Ethan wasn’t built that way, and besides they were very unloving. I told him I was afraid Ethan would think his father hated him, but of course my concerns were dismissed and I was called wrong, stupid or crazy. We had many fights about this, but the abuse never stopped. In fact it kept growing worse.

Michael constantly made fun of Ethan, imitating his speech, his walk, his awkwardness. Ethan was bullied at school for a time, just as I was, and my heart broke for him. I loved my son so much, and couldn’t bear to see the way his father treated him.

Ethan at about age 8, around the time his father destroyed his car collection.

The incident that I remember with the most anguish occurred when Ethan was about 8. He had a collection of about 15 or 20 collectible cars his grandfather had given him over several years and Ethan was very proud of them. He displayed them on a 5-tiered shelf in his room. One evening Michael came raging into his room for one reason or another (he was often drunk and some of his rages seemed to be caused by nothing) and knocked over the stand, sending all the beautiful and expensive replicas crashing to the floor. All of them were destroyed beyond repair. Ethan burst into tears and begged him to stop, but Michael was relentless and began pounding on him, calling him a stupid faggot crybaby, and demanding to know why he couldn’t “man up.” I was in the room at the time, desperately trying to push him away from Ethan but to no avail, because Michael was much stronger than me, and by then I was myself afraid of his rages.

This incident haunts me to this day. It’s hard for me to think of it without my heart breaking, because of how painful it was to see my brilliant, creative, sensitive little boy’s car collection destroyed for absolutely no reason at all — and my son’s self esteem taking such a beating from the man who had once seemed to love him so much during his first few years.

Fortunately, Ethan was always much stronger than he seemed, and smart too. He chose to live with me after we divorced instead of his father. Kung Fu lessons paid for by my father (which he stuck with for 3 years and got as far as brown belt) and an Outward Bound expedition for his 8th grade trip began to change him and help him rebuild his self esteem.

Age 15.

He came out as gay at age 17, and since then has become a happy and well liked young man with many interests and talents who is making good choices in life. (He also chose to live hundreds of miles away from the family but I can’t say I blame him for that). While it’s sad he lives so far away, I’m happy that he’s happy now and that after everything he went through, he may be the most mentally stable member of the immediate family. He is the only one of us who doesn’t appear to have a personality disorder.

Today at age 23, living on the Gulf Coast of Florida.

Not all children who were turned on and scapegoated by a malignant narcissist parent were so lucky. Many were psychologically destroyed or even killed. Ethan was one of the lucky ones.

See also:
My Son Didn’t Escape Unscathed:
My MN Ex’s Weird Attitude to His Son:

20 thoughts on “My son’s father turned from a loving dad into a monster.

  1. I’m glad to read the amazing young man I’m sure he’s become. He didn’t allow what he was very much a victim of, define who he would become. That is very awesome :)!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I agree! I’m so proud of him. My daughter, a year and a half younger, was the GC and recruited at a young age as a junior flying monkey, and she has much more severe psychological problems than my son. I love her just as dearly but am very worred for her. She’s diagnosed borderline and PTSD but has many narcissistic traits. She also seems to have no real motivation, in spite of her high intellectual ability. She was much more damaged, and I think part of that was allowing her to live with her father when we divorced (I was too weak to fight it and she hated me then because her dad had worked hard to turn her against me). She has shown some improvement (she stopped doing all the drugs she used to do), but is still very lost and seems rudderless.

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      • Well….what I can say about your daughter, not knowing her obviously, but maybe relating to many of the traits you just shared. She can get better…I was well into my late 20’s before I got it. Understood that ultimately, my behavior was quite self destructive. The anger and hatred I carried was going to kill me if I didn’t change. Thing is for a lot of years I didn’t care whether I lived or not. Which didn’t help the situation. Psychiatrist couldn’t really ever define what I had, many tried. My lack of motivation, although highly intellectual was disturbing to those closest to me. I think as women, hormonal changes doesn’t help any of this either. If she is highly intellectual, she will eventually come to grips with her path. At her time and her pace. Her stopping the drugs, that more than likely were to drown out all the pain and darkness, is the first step. She might fall again, but eventually, she will figure it out. Love her, support her and give her time. :).

        Liked by 3 people

        • I love her so much, and have told her I’ll always listen if she ever needs to talk. She knows she can go to college whenever she’s ready. She just turned 22 last month so is still very young. I agree for young women, sometimes it’s harder. This is partly hormonal changes, but also because in certain parts of the country (such as the south, where I live) it seems that most young girls just want to find a boyfriend, husband or have babies. There’s nothing wrong with that if that’s what the young wman really wants, but few of her friends feel they have many other options, due to the horrible job market. She knows she’s supported but I have to let her make her own choices. She has expressed some interest in counseling kids, and I think she’d be good at that, when she makes the decision to pursue a career path. She doesn’t think she has any talents, but I think her talents lie in her “people skills,” something that I never had. She always made friends easily.

          Liked by 2 people

          • College was a big thing with my family..they just never understood how I just wouldn’t go. They thought my intelligence would take me wherever I wanted to go. But, the problem lay on that, I was lost. I didn’t know where I wanted to go. I understood intellectually I could be anything, but emotionally, which ultimately was a stronger force, I couldn’t figure it out. I agree on the notion of having babies as I fell trap to that. Became a mom at a way too young age, which probably didn’t initially help my feeling of lost. But ultimately, it’s probably what saved me. Because when I was to weak to fight for myself, my daughter was my driving force. She helped push the mountains in me that I never thought possible. Her lack of acknowledging her talents doesn’t mean that she isn’t aware of them. It’s more she lacks the self confidence that they are worth anything. That she will make an impact on anyone or anything that is worth while. I’m 33 today, still somewhat broken, but aware of why. That’s a huge step, that once realized will open doors for her. Don’t know when it will come for your daughter, but, I have faith in due time. When she is ready. It’s tough, but there is a light :).

            Liked by 3 people

            • I believe this. She’s still young, most of my family (her grandparents mainly) have given up on her as hopeless (they hold higher education and financial success as the most important values and she is a disappointment to them). But I know better, and some people (such as myself!) are late bloomers. Things happens when they’re meant to happen. It might happen for her later, as it did for me (hopefully not AS late as me!)
              Thanks for the words of encouragement.

              Liked by 2 people

  2. Very wise Son you have there Otter. I’ll never forget the smirk my dad had on his face as I carried my things out after I’d been asked to leave at 17. If only I’d been strong like your son and not wasted decades trying to change the abuse. I never lived with them again but kept ties after hundreds of awful encounters. Eventually I realized his hatred and determination to hurt me and demonize me to our whole family could be his undoing . Was the stuff headlines are made of. If I had fought back , one of us would be dead right now. Two years no contact , my entire family holds me in extreme derision, but I’m getting happier by the year. Just imagine taking off to Florida early and avoiding so much degradation , for him , my mom and me. I never knew the day I walked out with my clothes in trash bags was one of the luckiest days of my life.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I think my son’s ability to “see through” was what saved him. He wasted no time getting away from a dangerous family situation. At the time he left (he was 18) his father was living with me again (but that’s another story) . He told me he couldn’t stand the tension and fighting anymore and was moving to Illinois. He stayed there for a couple years, then moved to Florida about a year ago. I think it was a wise move. Good for you for packing your bags and leaving too. Even though you left with nothing (materially) you left with your soul intact. And that’s the most important thing.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. My heart breaks for you both. When you were moving, what your son experienced was ‘separation anxiety’; all he needed was reassurance and love. The narcissistic ‘father’ was taking out his self-loathing on his son, who wasn’t reflecting what the father’s ego demanded. They say homophobia is rooted in the homophobe’s own innate homosexuality and that he fears exposure. Glad your son overcame his horrific childhood.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. I am so glad he used his experiences to become stronger, but yes, it was tragic. He was definitely experiencing separation anxiety at that time. I feel like I could have done more, but it was hard because I was so worried about him and wasn’t sure what to do. I think it’s incredible he still remembers those events when he was only two but he does have a photographic memory. It’s amazing the things he can remember.

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  4. Re your daughter’s feeling of being talentless: wonderful book for people seeking a career path, with questions, guidelines, and motivation, is “What Color Is Your Parachute?” It will change her life–and maybe yours, as well.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I’m so pleased this has a happy ending. Ethan would make a brilliant dad much better than his own. It’s a shame he moved so far away as I can tell from reading your story, how much you love and miss him. I take it Michael has had nothing at all to do with your children since the divorce? Shame but probably for the best.

    Liked by 1 person

    • He is in contact with our daughter and has always treated her more like a friend than a daughter, even when she was a child. He used her as flying monkey and confidante about his own issues.
      As far as our son goes, he says he is proud of him but they rarely speak to each other. I think my son prefers it that way.
      I think “Ethan” would make a great dad too. He said he wants kids someday — being gay, I’m not sure how he’ll go about that, maybe adopt?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes or maybe surrogacy, children need love and whether that is from one parent or two makes no difference. It also matters nothing whether the parents are same sex or opposite sex, love is all you need (as so well put in 1967 by John Winston Ono Lennon and his band of brothers). I’m looking forward to my son presenting a grandchild that I will get to see. My daughter hasn’t forgiven me for a mistake I made in 1997 so I’ve never met her two boys. Doubt if I ever will.

        Liked by 1 person

        • My son has even said he is only 70% gay and may even want to marry a woman someday. Not sure how that would work if he’s still mostly gay, but whatever works for him.

          Liked by 1 person

          • In that case, shouldn’t he consider himself bi? I’m not convinced that love recognises gender anyway. Love can be found in wonderful places and wondrous ways.


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