“Why I Am Teaching My Son That Tears Take Courage”

Here’s a wonderful article from The Good Men Project about a mother who is encouraging her young son to express his emotions instead of stuffing them. If only more parents encouraged this sort of thing, we’d live in a world with more empathy and less narcissism.

Why I Am Teaching My Son That Tears Take Courage
By Colette Sartor, for The Good Men Project

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My son didn’t cry on his first day of preschool; he cried on his thirtieth. The school was a tiny, progressive place that took a surprisingly stern approach to drop offs: Say goodbye and leave. No looking back or lingering. This was fine by me. I hate to cry in public, and I knew I might, which would scare my three year old and make him cry.

So, that first day, I watched him cautiously pile blocks for a few minutes, then I told him I’d pick him up later, kissed him, and left for work. He barely glanced up. He was absorbed in the newness of everything: new kids, new toys, new sights and sounds and smells.

Every day that month, I repeated the routine. I’d briefly watch him play, kiss his cheek, and leave. Every day, I breathed easier. “He loves his new school,” I told people. How well adjusted he is! How happy! Yay him! Yay me! I thought. Then, on the thirtieth day, he raced to me with outstretched arms. “Mommy, stay!” he sobbed. I gathered him up, buried my face in the talc of his hair. “I’ll be back, honey, don’t worry,” I whispered before his teacher gestured to hand him over. He cried and reached for me, struggling to extricate himself from the teacher’s grasp. “Just go,” she mouthed over his head. I nodded and walked out, my own tears streaming as he sobbed behind me.

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When I was growing up, our family motto was, “If you want to play with the big dogs, don’t piss like a puppy.” Which meant no crying.
♦◊♦

My son cries easily. He gets it from me. I cry over life insurance commercials, sappy movies, real and imagined slights. I usually hide my tears, even from him. When I was growing up, our family motto was, “If you want to play with the big dogs, don’t piss like a puppy.” Girls were puppies by default. They showed the world when they hurt. They cried. To play with the big dogs, girls had to be tough. Which meant no crying. So I learned not to cry. At least, not in public. Still, I try not to discourage my son from crying. I love his sensitivity. I love that he cries when a friend is hurting, that he cries when he feels he’s being treated unjustly, that he cries at all.

See more at: http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/why-i-am-teaching-my-son-that-tears-take-courage-jnky/#sthash.FTqEhBGI.dpuf

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Does excess praise and spoiling create narcissists?

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Many experts, including Sam Vaknin, think spoiling a child or pouring on excess praise (placing them on a pedestal) is actually a form of child abuse, because it does not mirror the child as who they really are, but as who the parents wish them to be or believe them to be. Children not mirrored appropriately, whether excessively criticized or excessively praised, grow up unable to form a viable true self and are vulnerable to developing disorders of the self, especially NPD.

The following article explains in further detail why excessively praising a child can actually hurt their self esteem, rather than help it develop normally. It also describes the two types of praise–one that builds self esteem because it takes a child’s effort into account (“you worked hard to win that contest” or “you showed a lot of dedication in getting those A’s”) and one that fosters narcissism because it implies inherent superiority over others (“you’re the prettiest girl in school” or “you’re the smartest kid ever”).

Do Parents Nurture Narcissists By Pouring On The Praise?
By Poncie Rush, for NPR.org

When a kid does something amazing, you want to tell her so. You might tell her that she’s very smart. You might tell her that she’s a very special kid. Or you might say that she must have worked really hard.

On the surface, they all sound like the same compliments. But according to Brad Bushman, a communications and psychology professor at Ohio State University, the first two increase the child’s chances of becoming a narcissist. Only the last one raises the child’s self-esteem and keeps her ego in check.

Bushman and a group of collaborators surveyed parents to see how they show warmth and value their child’s accomplishments. They then compared those findings to the children’s levels of self-esteem and narcissism. The results were published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Of course, self-esteem and narcissism are two very different things. The difference has to do with how you value yourself compared to other people. “Self-esteem basically means you’re a person of worth equal with other people,” Bushman tells Shots. “Narcissism means you think you’re better than other people.”

And not in a good way.

“Narcissism is a somewhat toxic personality trait,” Jean Twenge, author of The Narcissism Epidemic and psychology professor at San Diego State University, tells Shots. Narcissists tend to overestimate their abilities, take too many risks and mess up their relationships, she says. Some people see narcissists hurting the people and society around them, but they hurt themselves, too. “In the long term it tends to lead to failure,” Twenge says.

While narcissists tend to have high self-esteem [my note–this is not true], not all people with high self-esteem are narcissists. Bushman needed to separate the two. So he asked children ages 7 to 12 years old how they felt about statements like “Some kids like the kind of person they are,” or “Kids like me deserve something extra.” The first statement measures self-esteem; the second, narcissism.

Bushman made sure to focus on children between 7 and 12 years old, so that by the time the study finished all of them would be older than 8. “You can’t measure narcissism in children before age 8, because every child is a narcissist,” he says. If you ask younger kids in a classroom if they are good at math or good at baseball, Bushman says all the kids will raise their hands.

Then he surveyed the children’s parents, asking them to respond to statements to determine whether they overvalued their children. For example, “I would not be surprised to learn that my child has extraordinary talents and abilities,” or “Without my child, his/her class would be much less fun.” And he asked how they expressed warmth toward their child by measuring how strongly they agreed with statements like “I let my child know I love him/her.”

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When he analyzed the results from the surveys, Bushman found that the more narcissistic children had parents who consistently overvalued their accomplishments. He ran additional tests to make sure that the parents weren’t narcissists, too — after all, it’s possible that the children could be mirroring narcissistic behavior. But statistically, the children of narcissists aren’t more likely to be narcissists themselves.

The research team continued to survey the same group of 565 children and their parents for a year and a half. They watched the children develop, and they could link each child’s tendency toward self-esteem or narcissism back to what the parents had told them six months earlier.

“We’re not just measuring their narcissism at time one; we’re using these measures to predict the behavior a year and a half later,” says Bushman. “Parental warmth doesn’t predict it. Parental narcissism alone doesn’t predict it. But parental overvaluation alone does predict it.”

Bushman is particularly worried about narcissism because both he and other researchers have linked it to aggressive and violent behavior. He thinks it’s partly because narcissists are less likely to feel empathy toward others.

“Empathy involves putting yourselves in other people’s shoes, but narcissists have a very difficult time putting themselves in other people’s shoes,” Bushman says. Plus, he says that narcissists respond poorly when they don’t get special treatment. “Whenever people have this sense of superiority, then they lash out at others in an aggressive way.”

Of course, someone who appears more narcissistic at age 10 isn’t necessarily going to grow up to be a narcissistic adult, let alone aggressive. And the results of this study hinge on a handful of short surveys — no extensive personality testing here.

“There are definitely going to be things that influence the personality after that stage,” says Twenge. “Those [narcissistic] tendencies may start to show up around then, but will continue to be influenced by parenting and environment throughout adolescence.”

But this study has Bushman thinking about the way he praises his own children. “It’s a lot better to say ‘You worked really hard’ than ‘You must be really smart,’ ” he says, “because if you tell the kid that they’re smart and then if they fail they think ‘Oh I’m stupid.’ ” If the praise relates to effort, a child who fails will work harder next time.

Bushman is also trying to cultivate self-esteem in his children, because people with high self-esteem tend to have lower levels of anxiety and depression over time. Based on Bushman’s research, parents can raise their children’s self-esteem just by expressing more warmth.

Both researchers agree that voicing the connection you feel to your children really helps. “If you want to look for a substitute for ‘You’re special,’ just say ‘I love you,’ ” says Twenge. “It’s what you mean, and it’s a much better message.”

Have a child age 8 to 12? Find your own “Parental Overvaluation” score here.

Original article is here.

Narcissists as co-parents

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Why is narcissism so “hot” these days?

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I haven’t seen any official studies or statistics, but it seems like narcissism is possibly the most popular psychological topic on the Internet in recent years. Blogs about narcissism are spreading like wildfire (though it’s possible they may be on the decline now). The subject of narcissism seems to be brought up regularly even in articles and sites about other topics, especially entertainment, big business, and politics, where narcissism is rampant. Narcissism is a buzz word, and it’s because we children of the Baby Boomers and Silent Generation–parents who bought into narcissistic values way back in the 1960s and 1970s–are finally having our say.

In a society-wide twist of values, Narcissism has become a virtue. Old fashioned virtues like altruism and empathy are seen as liabilities that hold people back from achieving success, rather than prosocial traits that keep us civilized and human. Ayn Rand, who idealized narcissism in her philsophy of “objectivism” (and was most likely a narcissist herself) has become a cult hero; her mediocre torch romances “Atlas Shrugged” and “The Fountainhead,” both featuring selfish, narcissistic “heroes” as their protagonists, have been enjoying enormous popularity.

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Ayn Rand.

I believe all this started in the 1960s and 1970s, during the Consciousness Revolution. Certainly the 1950s were mind numbingly conformist and rife with racism and sexism, but things went way too far in the other direction, as Baby Boomers and younger members of the Silent generation began to rebel against all the conformity. They popularized the idea of “doing your own thing,” whatever that thing was. Having and raising children became something to be avoided and any woman with a brain avoided pregnancy as if it were a disease. Abortion and The Pill became legal–and cool. Of course there’s nothing wrong with women having control over when and whether to have children, but I think the general attitude toward children in the 1960s and 1970s was negative. Young Gen X children were not wanted or valued. They were demonized in movies like “The Omen,” “Rosemary’s Baby” and “The Exorcist.” I remember an Esquire article from March 1974, “Do Americans Suddenly Hate Kids?” Well, it did seem that way.

Their parents, the Boomers and Silents, were encouraged to put their own self-growth and advancement of their careers ahead of child-rearing. At the time, this was even thought of as “good” for children, providing them with a positive example of a parent with a high self image and lists of achievements a mile long. Unfortunately, for many children growing up during this time, the attitude that adults were more valuable than children backfired and we felt like we just weren’t that important in our parents’ universe. We grew up with collective low self esteem.

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Hippie parents.

The 1970s were dubbed “The Me Decade” and adults were encouraged to do and be whatever they wanted, even if this meant neglecting their own children and turning them into latchkey kids with far too much freedom for their own good. Promiscuous sexual behavior and drug abuse among adults was rampant. Women everywhere (including my own) joined consciousness-raising groups that encouraged them to put themselves over their families. The fallout rained down on the lives of their Generation X and Gen-Jones (late Boomers born at the end of the 1950s and early 1960s) children, and we suddenly found we had to fend for ourselves, without much parental support, even when our parents were not narcissists.

While attitudes toward children improved during the 1980s as Millennial children began to be born, the Boomers and younger Silents who had spearheaded the Consciousness Revolution and Me Generation, were suddenly in positions of authority in politics, business and entertainment. We had Ronald Reagan, with his “trickle down economics” and support of the “supply side” and big business over the people. Tax cuts for social programs commenced with his election and increased over the next 30 years (and show no sign of letting up). Reagan was popular and charismatic, and so were his draconian economic policies that hurt the poor and later, the middle class. New college graduates during the 1980s and 1990s realized they could make unlimited amounts of money in the stock market and suddenly the “helping professions” were unpopular and considered far less lucrative than making a killing on the stock market or in investment banking. These became the infamous “having it ALL” Yuppies.

Yuppies were better parents than their hippie predecessors, but they micromanaged everything their children did, to the point the kids became stressed because they weren’t free to just be kids. These overcontrolled children were sent to the best private schools, given lessons in everything from piano to karate, and had no free time to just play and learn on their own. Millennials grew up stressed out and expecting to achieve in life, only to find when they first entered the job market during the 2000’s, they could not find decent jobs.

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Yuppie mom.

Narcissism continues to be a “virtue” and our policies increasingly glorify the self and unlimited financial achievement over humble, old fashioned values of community and compassion. Children who were born or who were children or teens during the 1960s and 1970s are now adults, the oldest of us now in our 50s. I’ve noticed most blogs by ACONs seem to be written by women in their 40s and 50s: these are the Generation X and late Boom/Generation Jones children who suffered the most at the hands of parents who bought into the selfish ’70s and greedy ’80s. Even back in those days, the shift of narcissism from a vice to a virtue was not unnoticed. In 1979, cultural historian Christopher Lasch wrote his treatise “The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations,” about the danger of narcissistic values for American society. His book remains popular today.

We may be a bunch of middle aged fuddy duddies, but we’re no longer scared and we are not shutting up. We call out everything we see wrong with the culture we were raised in, a culture that has become just as unhealthy for our own Millennial children. We were the scapegoats of a society that didn’t value us, and now we are the truth-tellers who are boldly talking about everything that was done to us, everything that went wrong and why. It was us who spearheaded the ACON movement (and yes, it is a movement) and are bringing narcissism out into the light where it can be seen for the disgusting and ugly scourge on humanity it really is. We are doing our best to nurture our own children according to more humble, old fashioned values, although that’s hard in a society that still only values personal gain and material wealth, and still tries to keep us down.

My daughter just made me cry.

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Molly and me in the car in April 2014. I was 2 months No Contact with my MN ex by then.

My daughter Molly got home from visiting some friends, and admitted that she had come across my blog back in December and read the article about her where I said I thought she was a malignant narcissist (I think I was mistaken about that).

I thought she’d be angry, but instead she told me that although it hurt her feelings, it was a wake up call too, and because of that article, she started to rethink some of her past behaviors. She had time to do that during her 30 day stint in jail too.

Then she actually thanked me. She said, “Mom, even though I was so hurt you thought I was a narcissist, I started to think you were right and realized I do act very narcissistic sometimes, especially when I was doing pain pills (she hasn’t done pills in over a month). I want to say thank you, because I know you would never have written that if you didn’t love me.”

It gets even better.

She continued, “You’re different now, Mom. You seem so much happier now. I’ve read some of your other blog posts and I have to say I really admire you, Mom, for being so honest about everything. I think you’re so brave to be doing that and it’s doing good things for you. I could never do what you’re doing. I really want to change, Mom. I want you to be as proud of me as I am right now of you.”

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She took this with her phone while we were talking. I wasn’t crying yet lol.

And then she came over to hug me and we were both crying.

For the record, the article I linked to describes something that wasn’t true. She had a brief relationship with a narc who lied to me about her doing hard drugs and because he gave such a good impression (this guy was a skilled psychopath who could sell ice to a penguin), had me believing him. It turned out everything he said to me was a lie. I wrote about that too, but it isn’t a long post (and actually replaced another one which I deleted).

Losing Ethan

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Someone once said to me it’s stupid to worry about something bad happening, because if it does happen, you’ve lived through it twice, and if it doesn’t happen, you wasted your time and caused yourself needless suffering. On a cognitive level, this makes perfect sense, but when it comes to mothers and their children, rationality flies out the window. At least it does for me.

Some people think I’m an overprotective mother, even though my children are both grown. And it’s true: I worry excessively about something horrible happening to one of them. I still hate the fact my 23 year old son lives more than 600 miles away in another state, and drives every day. If I don’t see he’s been on Twitter in more than a certain number of hours (he practically lives on Twitter), I start to panic. Sometimes these feelings of dread get so bad I almost wish I never had kids so I didn’t have to experience that kind of intense anxiety. I know it’s neurotic as hell to fret so much about my kids’ safety and there comes a certain point when a parent has to let their children go off and be adults, but still I can’t help worrying.

They say losing a child is the worst thing that can happen to a person. I don’t doubt this. I love both my children with the white-hot intensity of a thousand suns and if something happened to one of them…well, I think I would probably lose my mind and most likely kill myself. How could I go on living? I just can’t see how someone could carry on after losing their child. Obviously they do though, and I marvel whenever I see a bereaved parent somehow accepting their tragedy and moving on with their lives. I’m amazed when they can talk about it without dissolving into sobs. But I don’t think I would be able to ever accept it and move on. If I didn’t kill myself I think I would cry for the rest of my life, become catatonic with unbearable grief, and the dudes in white coats would have to carry me off in a straitjacket.

Sometimes I have these dreams of something happening to one of my children. They are awful. I just woke up from one, and after breathing a sigh of relief it was just a dream after all, I decided to blog about it, before it faded away into unconsciousness the way dreams tend to do.

I had to pick up a few groceries from the store. My son Ethan, about eight in the dream, came along with me. Sitting in the front seat next to me, he chattered in his little high pitched voice about school and other things 8 year olds like to chatter about. Strangely, it was also the present time, and I was the same age I am now, with the same vantagepoint on my life I actually have now, but that sort of thing happens in dreams.

We were driving down a country road, and must have taken a wrong turn, because soon I realized the road was a dead end. At the end of the road we saw a high wooden fence, and it was closed. Past the fence was a single police car, with its blue lights flashing. But I saw no police officer or anyone else. It was parked in the middle of a thicket of weeds and wildflowers, and when I looked closer I saw that no one was in the car.

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Ethan, being a curious 8 year old boy, wanted to see what was going on. Before I could stop him, he had taken off his seatbelt and was out of the car, running like lightning toward the gate. I called to him but he didn’t hear me. I got out of the car and began to chase him, but he had already worked the latch and was running into the dark woods beyond the meadow. The police car was no longer there. It hadn’t driven off, it simply had disappeared!

I called and called Ethan but he didn’t return. I ran through the open gate and almost tripped on rocks and a few times before I reached the woods. Running into the darkness of the forest, I kept calling him, but all I could hear was my own voice echoing back to me, as if the forest was taunting me. I waited. And waited. It seemed like an eternity but was probably just a few hours. Ethan never returned.

Weeping from panic, I walked back to my car and drove home. It was getting dark out. I’d completely forgotten the groceries, but I didn’t care. Who needed groceries when Ethan was gone?

There were people I didn’t know living in my house, but in the dream I knew them. The man who was my dream-husband listened to my story. Although I had no “proof” Ethan was dead, somehow I just knew. Still, I needed someone else to reassure me he was okay (or confirm my fears). Not knowing is worse than knowing. So hesitantly, I asked my dream-husband, “Do you think he is dead?”
He nodded.
“What do you think happened to him?”
“I think the cop did something with him,” was the reply.
I felt like I had died inside. It was horrible and so surreal I wondered if I was dreaming, and that was when I woke up.

I’m wondering if other parents have these kind of dreams or if they worry as much about their adult children as I do. I’ve Googled this problem and haven’t found much about it, so sometimes I think it’s just my PTSD and tendency to be overly anxious and fretful. I walk through life expecting disaster every moment. I probably need therapy.

It’s all about image: the skewed values of narcissistic families

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Last night I read a blog post by another survivor of narcissistic parents , and was astounded by how similar her parents’ values were to mine.

She writes that her father criticized her for being too idealistic. Now that would normally be a compliment, but because her family valued nothing but money, class and image, it was meant to be an insult. My father (who I don’t think is a narcissist, but has always been a huge narcissist apologist and enabler), said exactly the same thing to me.

We live in a narcissistic and materialistic society, that increasingly values traits that are narcissistic and exalt the individual over the community. In fact, studies have shown that a high percentage of CEOs, top executives, Wall Street tycoons, and others of the “One Percent” have narcissistic personality disorder. It’s a disorder that is very adaptive in modern society and whose traits are rewarded with money and material goods. Especially since the 1980s, with its “Greed is Good” ethos, we reward those who act in their own self interest over those who act in the interests of the community and want to help the less fortunate. There’s even a meme that’s become especially popular with narcissistic Baby Boomers: “I’m spending my children’s inheritance,” as though this is something to be proud of.

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My family bought right into this ethos. Image was everything to my parents, especially my mother. My parents looked down on our blue-collar neighbors and relatives, and my mother in particular constantly made jokes at their expense and talked about how much better we were because we had nicer things and my father had a better (meaning white collar) job in the city. Appearance mattered, and our clothes had to come from the best department stores, never Sears. We had to live in the most exclusive neighborhoods. To not have a college degree was considered a mortal sin, and even then, it was far better to be successful in the cold-hearted business world than to be a successful teacher, social worker or a nurse. Such things were regarded as jobs for those who couldn’t do anything else, and of course they required a level of idealism that my parents just couldn’t relate to. When my parents split up when I was 14, my extremely image-conscious mother took up public relations as a career, which is all about image. She had so many face-lifts that today her face looks like a mask.

Whenever my parents, my mother in particular, complimented someone else, it was always on their visible, tangible qualities–things like their appearance, home decor, financial status, and taste in clothes. Table manners were of utmost importance, but being a good person was not. I can’t remember a time when my mother ever complimented anyone for qualities such as sweetness, generosity, friendliness and altruism. I do remember her putting down others for having these qualities, calling them “insipid” or accusing them of having no backbone.

My values never matched those of my immediate family, and when I became poor as an adult (because I was never given the tools and self esteem that would have led me to make better choices) I was shunned and rejected by them. I don’t think it’s any accident that when narcissistic parents choose a scapegoat, they usually choose the most sensitive child–the one most likely to be empathetic and have idealistic values. To a narcissist, idealism and empathy are weaknesses. They truly believe that the poor deserve to be poor, and they make no exception for their own child. The child with traits that cause them to become a scapegoat (and who all too often are also bullied at school) would probably become successful if they were raised in a loving, nurturing home, but in a narcissistic home, having these traits is a curse because that child is led to believe they are worthless and this leads to cowardly, “safe” choices that are more likely to lead to poverty. They are constantly told they will fail, that nothing they do is good enough, and then are usually “tossed out to the wolves” at a young age, with no family financial or emotional support to help them get a foothold in the larger world. I have read so many blogs by the scapegoated children of narcissistic families, who were forced to make their own way in the world with no family support, even if their parents could have afforded to help them, and even when other children in the family (who were not scapegoated) did receive support when they entered adulthood.

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What is so ironic about all this is we scapegoats are rejected and hated for the very traits that were instilled in us as children! Scapegoated children are not encouraged to think independently or have ideas of their own. In fact, having a mind of one’s own is reason for punishment and abuse. We were trained to be deferent and obedient–and very much afraid. Deference, obedience and fear are not traits that lead to success in modern life. I think this training is deliberate, in that an evil narcissistic parent needs and wants someone they can use as the family trashcan–someone who can take and absorb all the family pathology and carry its burden. This child is then blamed for everything that goes wrong both within the family and in their own lives. When a scapegoated child becomes an adult, their low self esteem and fear almost inevitably leads to a life of material and financial lack, and this gives the narcissist parents an excuse for rejecting that child and refusing to help–for “violating” their materialistic, self-centered values. I think another reason narcissistic parents train HSP (highly sensitive) children to be scapegoats is because they know an HSP child must be silenced: this is a child who sees through their lies and can use the light of truth to blow the whistle on them. If they are encouraged to think and act independently, they might “out” the narcissistic parent and that is a prospect that terrifies them.

Of course, the best revenge for a scapegoated child is to become successful in spite of their upbringing–and of course there are those who have. Even then, narcissistic parents will find reasons to put that child’s accomplishments down as somehow not “good enough.” The few times in my adult life where I had some legitimate tangible success, I was never praised for it, but given some sort of left-handed compliment or told why it didn’t really count. I was also always compared with my more financially successful older half-siblings, who of course never had been designated the family scapegoat.

Narcissistic parents also don’t care if you have a mental disability. I’m a self-diagnosed Aspie (this was later confirmed by a psychiatrist) and suffer from intermittent major depression, but when I tried to tell my parents these were the reasons why I had so much trouble making the social connections necessary to become financially successful, these diagnoses were dismissed. I was told I was “making excuses.” Both my parents are convinced my poverty is my own fault because of the stupid choices I made. While I don’t deny having made dumb choices, these choices were based on the way I had been raised–to be afraid of taking any risks or challenging myself.

The only way to break the narcissist/scapegoat family dynamic (and it is probably the most toxic parent-child combination imaginable) is by cutting off contact with the abusive parent, because as long as you keep trying to please them, they will continue to attempt to break you down and make you feel insignificant. Nothing will ever please them, even if you dare to become more successful than they are. And if you somehow manage to do this without sacrificing your idealistic and empathetic values, that’s the biggest threat to them of all.

Make no mistake: your narcissistic parent doesn’t love you and never will, but it isn’t your fault. They hate you because they envy those qualities you have–empathy and humanity–that elude them. Be a good parent to yourself. Love yourself. You deserve it.

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The Tree

CLF - Olmstead Parks

Until August 1999, I had a vague concept of God and if anyone had asked, would have told them I was agnostic, leaning toward atheist. I was very far away from God in those days–embroiled in a deteriorating marriage to a narcissistic psychopath, drinking and smoking pot in an attempt to “put up” with him, all while I was raising two young children. I also was an unfaithful wife (as was my husband) and handily made excuses about my infidelity based on his abusive treatment of me and the fact he was unfaithful too. I never darkened any church’s doorway, and thought prayer was useless and silly. God was an abstract and mostly irrelevant concept to me–of no further consequence to my personal life than an Ebola case in Africa. My theory back then was that if there was a God, then maybe he created the universe, but then he left it pretty much alone after that, and was probably too busy creating new universes to give a damn what happened in ours. After all, if God was so concerned about our little human corner of the universe, why did He allow so many bad things to happen?

My ex was drinking heavily back then, and frequently became violent. During one of these fights, he blackened my eye and I had other bruises too, so I called the police. Given that he had no marks on him, but I was in pretty bad shape, he was arrested and went to jail for 90 days. During the time he was in jail, we had a stick-shift pickup truck, which I had never learned to drive. Since it was our only vehicle back then, and I had a six and seven year old that I needed to transport to dental and doctor appointments, as well as getting them home from their after school program, I had no choice but to teach myself how to drive the stick.

At first it was hard knowing what gears to shift into and when. It was very difficult to get used to how totally different a feel driving a stick-shift was over the ease of an automatic, which you didn’t have to “think” about so much. Some people told me they liked stick-shifts better because they felt they had more control over the vehicle, but it never felt that way to me. Still, over time, I got better, and soon was able to drive the thing adequately. Or so I thought. Obviously I still had a lot to learn about what gear to use when.

At the time, we lived in a house that sat at the top of a steep hill, and I’d usually take the long way around, following a gravel easement that looped around the back of the house, and continued down into our driveway, where I’d park so the truck was facing toward the road, so the gas could run into the tank.

On this muggy August day in 1999, after I picked the kids up after their after-school program, we stopped at McDonalds, and the kids were excited about their new Happy Meal toys and were contentedly playing with them in the back seat. Molly, just six and small for her age, still used a booster seat. Ethan, seven going on eight, no longer used a booster or car seat, and wore the seatbelt, which was still pretty loose on him.

When I stopped at the bottom of the part of the hill that merged into the driveway, I put the gear in what I thought was the correct setting for a parked car (neutral). Nothing had ever happened before, and no one had told me this was wrong, so I thought nothing of it this time. I got out of the truck and went around to the back to let the kids out.

Suddenly the truck began to roll. Downhill. The hill was steep and bumpy since it was unpaved. I watched helplessly, as if in a dream, as the truck bumped and rolled its way downhill, picking up speed as it went. I saw my son’s little face in the window of the backseat, frozen in a scream of terror. I heard my daughter cry, “Mama!” Suddenly I was moving, and racing after the truck which had picked up speed as it headed for the road. I threw myself on the ground and tried to grab onto one of the tires, as if that would make it stop. The truck continued to roll, and I was dragged along with it, bloodying my knees and ripping my clothes in the process, but I didn’t even know I was bleeding until later. All I could see was my kids and I had to save them.

The truck barreled into the road, and straight across it was a tree. A very large oak tree with a thick trunk. The truck was headed directly for that tree. At this point I had lost my grip and was screaming and crying, blood from my knees soaking what was left of my jeans. My hands were bleeding too. I watched in horror as the truck got closer to the tree. A few neighbors had come out and were watching the drama unfold, but I was hardly aware of them. Everything was moving in slow motion; I felt like I was trapped in some kind of nightmare. Desperately, I prayed: “God, if you exist, please do something!” I didn’t believe anyone heard my prayer.

The road and the tree were on flat ground, and the truck seemed to slow a little, and then the most incredible thing happened. The truck swerved to the right, and went around the tree, before continuing its journey across the neighbor’s property, which ended in a fairly deep ditch.

The ditch wasn’t visible from where I stood, and neither was the truck when it dove into it. My neighbors from the house across the street ran down into the ditch to see if the kids were alright. My heart was slamming inside my chest like a hammer. I still feared the worst.

A few minutes later, my neighbor appeared–Molly and Ethan each holding one of his hands. Molly was crying; Ethan looked solemn and pale as a ghost. Both children were fine, save a scratch on Ethan’s head (it turned out he had already taken off his seatbelt before all this happened!) They were scared, but fine. Mama, not so much! EMS workers had come and taken us all to the hospital by ambulance. It was me who suffered the worst injuries–deep cuts on both knees and severely chafed hands.

The emotional injuries were much worse, and would last for years. For months, I had flashbacks to that moment of sheer terror, when the truck started to roll and I could hear my kids screaming. Over time, the flashbacks stopped, but I’ve had a phobia ever since about ever parking on a hill–or even having to drive up one.

But overriding the negative aftereffects, is a conviction that at that moment when the truck had veered to the right and safely went around the tree instead of crashing into it, I had seen the hand of God at work, through one or more of his angels. Whoever or whatever it was made sure my kids stayed safe. No longer could I believe God just doesn’t care. I realized that it was the very moment when I called out to him through my skepticism, that he stepped in.

Sometimes we just have to ask and God will show himself, even if we don’t believe.

Blogging drunk

drunkwriter

I’ve had almost three glasses of Merlot and I feel like the buzz just got vacuum-suctioned from my brain. See, I had almost finished a writing this post but in my half drunken state I hit some key I shouldn’t have and the whole thing was deleted, and the nice buzz I’d been working on was gone. I wanted to ram my laptop through the wall. I couldn’t get my post back so now I have to start over. I want to kick a puppy right now. And now I can barely type because although my mind is suddenly clear, my body is apparently still drunk.

I’m pouring a little more wine into my glass now and taking a sip. Aaaahhhhh! I must rewrite that post, but it won’t be as good as the first one, which was awesome. Arrrrghhhh!

So today I decided to get drunk. Now, I’m not a big drinker at all, and in fact don’t even like alcohol too much. It makes me feel sick and doesn’t give me the same pleasant buzz it did when I was in my 20s. Today, in my 50s, I can have just one or two drinks and stop. I drink very rarely and when I do I don’t care for it much. Back in my prime I spent a lot of time drunk and didn’t know when to stop. I even joined AA (and met Michael, my psychopathic sperm donor there) but evidently I was just a problem drinker and hadn’t crossed the line to alcoholism because according to their beliefs, a true alcoholic can never ever drink again because if they do, they will fall off the side of the sobriety ship, get abducted by Jack Daniels, whose goons will waterboard you with booze for all eternity. Well, anyway, that didn’t happened to me. The last time I got this drunk was on New Years Eve almost two years ago.

But today I decided I wanted to not only drink, but get drunk. I didn’t wake up wanting to do that though. There were important things to take care of.

I guess I need to provide a little background as to what motivated me to want to get sloshed. My 21 year old daughter Molly has had her share of issues. She was a rebellious teenager and her rebellion and rash, impulsive behavior hasn’t let up much since she was 15. I blame a lot of this on her dad and his ex-girlfriend, who took my then 12-year old daughter to drug parties where my girl developed a taste for the illicit and mind-bending.

I just finished my third glass of Merlot (the one I was refilling a few minutes ago) and just took a couple of hits of weed too, another thing I don’t indulge in much. I like to be clearheaded most of the time but today? Honestly, IDGAF.

Molly’s had a few run ins with the law–petty charges like shoplifing and a DWI. Back in April, when she turned 21, she received an inheritance from my father for $20K. My son received the same, but has spent his wisely on his education and camera and computer equipment so he can keep making films which he hopes get him into that industry (I never got any inheritance from my father but that’s irrelevant right now and I’ve talked about that before anyway). Within two months, the money was gone. Neither she nor I have any idea what happened to it, but she did help me pay a few bills and bought herself a used dark blue Honda Acura. The car is fine but needs a little work. Because Molly had a DWI the car was put in my name, and I would have to put it on my insurance and not allow her to drive it until she finished her probation requirements and her license was reinstated.

I’m not typing very well and spellcheck is sure getting a workout too because my fat drunk fingers are flapping around the keyboard like dead baby flounders. Please, dear God, don’t let me hit the delete key or whatever it was by accident again. >< (Does that smilie exist? It's supposed to be that face you make when you're frustrated beyond all reason and you squint your eyes real tight.) Yep, I'm feeling it.

So anyway back in July, about a week before her probation was up, Molly decided to break up with her boyfriend. It was her idea but she went batshit for about a month, laying in bed and not eating for a week (she is bipolar and has BPD), and then suddenly leaving–in the car she isn't supposed to be driving–and not returning for almost a week. Her psychopathic sperm donor texted me and told me she was hanging with a group of junkies and pushers and was shooting heroin herself and I had better do something abou tit. about it.

He was lying through his teeth. It was just him trying to start drama again in his psychopathic, sadistic way, but the situation with Molly was still concerning at the very least. That night she brought home a group of the kind of boys we call "skells" around these parts–according to the Urban Dictionary, a skell is basically a lowlife or redneck type of guy who sells drugs because they're really not otherwise employable. (I just had to go back and correct "employable" three times and twice on this quoted one). My daughter is very intelligent, far too intelligent for the type of company she keeps. So it turned out the guys were really only into weed and Molly had no tracks or marks on her arms and she looked okay. She said they were taking good care of her. I wanted to believe her, but of course I'm not stupid and I know they were very bad for her. But she's 21 and can do whatever she wants. I have no control over what she does. She seems to have no interests in a career or a future, but maybe she's not ready yet. I have to remember I was much the same way at her age (which has a lot to do with why I'm a 50ish unpaid blogger and former medical editor recovering from a bad marriage and currently obliged to clean houses for a living). God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.

But then she disappeared again, with the car. And I didn’t see her for three more days.

I’m pouring a 4th glass. Would you like some? Am I still coherent? Soon I won’t be able to type at all.

Instead of going into my usual panic of biblical proportions and imagining she had been abducted and taken into an abandoned field to be gang raped and strangled and left lying in a bed of tall weeds, I felt…angry. dducted bductedd (That was me trying to type abdduted abducted. (spellcheck said that was right). I decided to leave it there.

The car Molly was driving was in my name, under my insurance, and she was driving it illegally and not very responsibly. She was transporting God knows what sort of lowlifes in it. If anything happened I would be responsible and the car impounded, not to mention that I’d never be able to live with myself if something happened to her in it and I hadn’t at least made an effort to put a stop to it. So I went to the magistrate and filed a charge against her for a stolen vehicle. I hated doing this but I felt like if I didn’t something terrible might happen.

Now Molly’s basically a good kid, but she was veyr very angry with me, understandably. I finally agreed to drop the charges on her not because of her anger, but because she was almost done with her probation requirements (and she had been very good about paying her fines and doing whatever else they told her to) and I didn’t want her record to be further sullied. I made an arrangement to have someone else I trusted hold onto the car temporarily and agreed to drop the charges. In order to do that, I had to be back in court with her this morning.

Sometime last month the friend who was holding the car moved so had to return it, which means Molly has acces to it. I’ve given up trying to hide the keys. She’s returning it every night in pristine condition and seems more responsible but I keep warning her she is driving it illegally. Apparently she’s willing to take that risk. I didn’t change my mind about dropping the charges.

To make a long story short, she was supposed to be home this morning so we could go to court together without her having to drive–but guess what. When I woke up this morning she wasn’t here. I couldn’t call her either because she lost her phone (again). We were due in court at 9, and by 8:45 she still hadn’t shown up and it takes forever just to find parking at the courthouse. So I went there myself, stood in line, and told the person at the desk who I was and that I wanted to drop charges on my daughter. The officious lady at the desk said that would be fine as long as my daughter showed up but she was nowhere to be seen. And I had taken a day off work to help her out in court, and that’s not exactly something I can afford to do in the financial straits I’m in.

I drove home in a self righteous fury and that’s when I decided I wanted to drink today. I thought rationalized mused to myself, “we’re all entitled to indulge in some excess on occasion, and after all, I spend so much time and energy trying to always be good and having so little to show for it. Fuck that shit.”

I pulled into an Ingles supermarket and bought a jug of Merlot. Livingston Merlot, to be exact. It’s cheap and doesn’t taste too bad. It does the job, which is to get me pleasantly tipsy. Expensive wines drive me insane because of those goddamn corks which I always wind up mangling in my pitiful efforts to pry them out with a corkscrew or a damn fork if a corkscrew isn’t at hand. And then in my enraged defeat, I wind up pushing the entire mutilated cork down into the wine itself and then have to drink good wine peppered with stuff that tastes like sawdust (though I bet cork does add healthy fiber to your diet).

I picked up some of their delicious homemade chicken salad to go with the wine, because I knew if I didn’t eat anything I’d get sick, and I just wanted to get drunk, not sick.

Today may be the last day I have Internet service (though I will have it set up again soon and in the meantime I can always use the WiFi at the hipster coffee place, the library, or even freaking McDonalds or Bojangles) so I was cheered up a little when I got home from my useless morning in court and found the Interwebs still working.

I decided to blog about how furious I was at my daughter and get drunk while doing it. I could retreat into my own private little alcohol infused world in the comfort of my postage stamp living room and pretend to be fucking Dorothy Parker.

I’m almost finished with the Merlot jug and that’s it for me. I can’t type anymore (this sentence took & 9 8 tries to get right) and my thinking is getting fuzzy.

Molly just got home and she said she was late to court because she overslept and had to go strauight there instread of coming home (spelling mistakes left intact) and then opn the way she ran out of gas (again! she is such a blonde!) but made it to court just after I left and the charges for unathorized use are now dropped.

She just noticed the wine and is now rolling on the floor in hysterics because of the face I just made at her that was supposed to look angry but just looked drunk and goofy.

Can you still understand what I’m writing?

Thank God she didn’t have her camera phone with her. If it was my son Ethan, he’d be filming my reaction and putting init it up on Youtube. And with my luck, it would go viral. “My crazy drunk mom trying to look angry”–43,864,301 views. I’m in that weird part of Youtube my brain again.

I’m so relieved my post is still here and my daughter is still okay. I’m so relieved I’m going to take a hot bath and then a nap and then wake up sober and eat a good meal.
Today wasn’t a disaster. I’m just an overstressed nutcase. I don’t have to drive anywhere today. It’s all good.