Friday, July 8, 2011


Narcissistic parents engulf or ignore. They can't have a sane relationship with their offspring. My father was a combination of the two, more controlling when I was a little doll he could exhibit and take credit for, and more ignoring when I grew up and grew a mind of my own. Which felt so much better and made me think at the time that I had great parents who let me do all sorts of stuff.

One of the more annoying aspects of my father's engulfing ways when I was younger was his involvement in my school. Kiki wrote about how her mother didn't volunteer at her school and seemed utterly uninvolved. My father was too involved. But it wasn't about me. It was about him and the narcissistic supply he got from the teachers. He was president of the school board. He was the one who went to all the parent-teacher meetings. Very few teachers ever met my mother. He'd boast about me and ingratiate himself to the teachers, flattering them. It made my stomach turn.

What was worst for me was when he infringed on my times of freedom. The school trips! For a child from a perfect family, I sure loved the freedom from home that the school trips offered just a little too much. Two weeks away from home! Other kids cried and missed their parents. I never did.

During one school trip, he wrote me an elaborately illustrated letter full of silly cliches and with the instructions to show it to my teacher! I was later questioned on how the teacher reacted. The whole thing was beyond embarrassing.

And for a child who was "so attached to her father" as everyone, especially he, kept repeating until it became an unquestioned truism, I sure was horribly shocked and appalled to run into him just a couple of days into the delicious freedom that was the school trip! I was eight and I remember that moment vividly - I was walking down a path, with sunshine in my face, and he jumped out nowhere and stood in my path, blocking the sun. The world grew dark. I had the expression of utter shock. "Dad, what are you doing here?" I asked. "Aren't you happy to see me? I came to help the teachers. If I embarrass you by being here, I'll pretend I don't know you the whole time we're here." I guess, knowing what I do now, that it was supposed to elicit a reaction along the lines of "No, of course you don't embarrass me; please don't ignore me!" Instead, I took him at his word and said "Ok, great. Let's pretend we don't know each other!"

In the days that followed, however, although he dutifully ignored me, he started preying on my friends, acting wonderfully towards them. One by one, he took them under his wing, until I was isolated and alone in ignoring him and not talking to him. In the end, I relented too. He'd won. Everyone was on his side, hanging out with this wonderful, involved dad, not understanding why his own horrible daughter wasn't talking to him, not understanding why I felt betrayed by them. So I started talking to him too.


  1. I think that is one of the hardest things to cope with, the private vs public personas. I would be told how lucky I was to have such a wonderful mother. When I was a teenager, I would tell them that I would trade without needing to meet their mother. They thought I was so mean to my wonderful mother. It was absolutely chilling when I realized she actually would make sure we were alone before verbally attacking. That made it premeditated. Still gives me chills. I am sorry your Dad made it all about him without a thought as to what you needed or who you are.

  2. ugh i can so relate. my mom often said stuff like that 'oh she's so close with me, she needs me, blah blah blah'. i'm starting to think maybe those were lies. your dad's behavior kind of reminds me of my friend's behavior in high school, isolating me and me wondering how she got away with being such a bitch and how come i was the only one who saw.

  3. Wow, I'm so sorry that happened to you! I felt horrified reading your account of him turning up like that...and then...his subsequent behavior...arrrgh! Yuck! Unbelievable!

    Every time I got the house to myself when the rest of the family, which felt like 'the others' to me, left to go somewhere, I had a horror of them maybe returning too quickly. When I first went to live on my own at college, a couple hours away, I was constantly apprehensive that my parents might turn up at any time, even though there was no real reason to expect that. It was just such a relief to be on my own, away from them, that I couldn't imagine it wouldn't be spoiled somehow. --quartz

  4. Ugh. Double ugh.

    OK. Maybe having to choose between the two evils, it was better to have an uninvolved mother than an involved one.


    And you know, your comment about something repeated so many times that you believe it ... that made me really think. Everyone has always remarked on how close I am to my parents (or was until April 2011, ha) ... and it's only recently that I thought, "No, we weren't close at all. She was enmeshed in my life and demanding everything. But she knows nothing about me, I don't share anything personal. We weren't close. Unless you think dictators are close with their subjects just because they are enforcing rules all the effing time and checking in on them and demanding.



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