A child growing up under a narcissists control is so mind-boggling to the child. It wreaks havoc in the child’s mind as the child matures and becomes an adult they have no idea what they have become or where they are going when they have arrived. Confusion reigns in the mind of the child of the narcissist in the wake they leave behind. In the clouds of the dust.
Struggling to view themselves as good enough, as smart enough, as pretty enough, the child of the narcissist has no idea of their happenstance in life. But it really wasn’t so accidental after all. The narcissistic parent plans everything, and plans it well. Their child’s life is planned from the day they were born and from before and the child will suffer for the rest of their lives, unless they are able to break free of their parent.
Every accomplishment this child attains is of no use (to the parent)because the narcissistic parent will find a way to pass it off as “expected” or “your sibling did the same thing” so “why are you expecting so much praise?” The parent won’t say these words in front of others where they might be chastised or frowned upon for their negativity at their own child, but in the dark confines of their own interactive world in their one-on-one where they will and do and find ways to belittle their children.
Not so bad you think? Let’s break this down. Child comes home from school with a grade on a test that she worked diligently on the night before and she passed with flying colors. She received an A-. That’s a great grade. It’s an A for chrissakes.
A typical response from the narcissistic parent would be: “An A-?” (And that’s if she will talk to you at all.) Let me get your brother’s tests from that grade level and see how he compares to you.” You didn’t even know she was saving his tests all these years. But she was. So now you have this knot in the pit of your stomach waiting to see if he received better than an A- because if he did, then you’re grade sucks. And she will let you know it, in so many words. Or looks. Or non-looks and non-words. The excitement of your grade just got squashed. Doesn’t matter anymore. She just made you feel like crap. Again. The narcissistic parent just stomped on you. Again.
Sounds incredible? That a parent would actually think an A- sucks? A narcissistic parent does. And believe me, they let you know. But in subliminal ways. All through your childhood. Nothing you do is ever good enough for them. They compare you to something better. Whether it’s another sibling, or another friend’s child or whatever.
The point is, you are never good enough for them. And you carry this stigma as a child until adulthood. Because as a child, you don’t have the capabilities to understand just why you aren’t good enough for your parent. What could you have done to not be good enough? But that’s the point. You, as a child, didn’t do anything. You didn’t do anything wrong.
So you keep on trying. You keep on striving as a child. You keep on setting those goals for yourself. You keep telling yourself that you can be better. You will be better. You will seek that approval of that parent. Why? Because every child wants the approval of their parent. It’s a natural emotion. It’s the psychologically ill parent that attempts to destroy the child. Remember that. It’s not the child. It’s the parent.
They are always trying to tell their friends how they are attempting to help you because after all, they are such good parents and you need such help. My mother was a Singer Seamstress. She worked for the Singer Sewing Machine Company teaching sewing classes. She was good and made many of her own clothes. She was so good, in fact, no one could tell that her clothes were hand-made. She knew what patterns would design classic clothing. She knew style. She knew fabrics. She was one of the best.
At around age 9 or so, she decided she was going to teach me to sew. Not that I wanted to learn, but she was going to teach me. After all, if she was a professional seamstress, her daughter (by her definitions) had to sew also. Her daughter had to have her skills. Forget the idea that by this time I was already writing short stories. Her opinion was in on my writing.
I had come home for lunch from 4th grade with a story about astronauts landing on another planet as yet undiscovered in our huge universe. My story talked about astronauts stepping off their spaceship and being greeted by these balloon heads with smiling faces and then welcomed to their planet. (I was 9. I was interested in the universe and space at the time.) I remember reading the story to my parents and this was her reaction. She looked at me with her cold eyes, and simply said. “That’s sadistic.” I didn’t even know what the word “sadistic” meant. I went into my room and quickly looked the word up. Even at age 9, I knew my story had nothing to do with sadism. I walked back out of my bedroom, and said nothing. I was seething inside, but knew better than to say something to her ice eyes. I never read another story of mine to her again.
But her words didn’t stop me. By the time I hit high school, I joined the newspaper and made feature editor. By the time I was a senior, I had been named the first female editor-in-chief in the school’s history. No accolades from her. Instead, I was told, one of her “good friends” that she “graduated high school with” was an advisor to the school paper and, “you know, I’m sure that had something to do with your appointment”. So another words, here she was telling me that my four years of hard work of writing, four years of being different editors on the paper had nothing to do with my being named editor-in-chief. It was all because she knew the advisor to the school paper. Squashed again. This is what a narcissist does. Draws attention back to themselves.
By the time I was 12, I could put in a zipper, sew in shoulders in a blazer, and had made a suit jacket, shorts with a zipper and a skirt perfectly (according to her standards) of course. I say “her standards” because she had this tool called a “seam ripper” that she would have me rip out the seams all the time if she thought one stitch was out-of-place. I often wondered if she was that tough on her own students at work.
So here I am, age 12, finished with the 3 piece suit deal, and I decide to make a bathrobe for the summer. It was a wrap-around with 3 armholes. Pretty simple idea that I could whip up in no time. No such luck. She pulls out that damn seam ripper and tells me to rip out the seams around the arms holes again. I remember looking at her and told my mother simply, “No.” I told her they were good enough. She argued. I argued. I put the seam ripper down. I got up from the Singer Sewing machine, put what I was working on away, and never turned back again. I have never sewn anything again in my life to this day. She spoiled my love for sewing.
In high school, one of the classes “girls” had to take was sewing. I opted out of it. Horrors! My mother actually took me to the sewing teachers home for a consultation. (She knew the woman and had graduated high school with her back in her own day.) These two women sat in the living room and had a discussion about me. The sewing teacher was actually very nice. She didn’t ask me much, but I think she understood why I didn’t want to take her class. She told my mother it wasn’t important for me to have sewing, because after all, I had the best teacher right at home. I realized she was playing right into my mother’s narcissism. She told my mother that it would be better if I took another type of home ec, perhaps cooking, since I could learn all the sewing techniques I needed from a Singer seamstress and after all, aren’t they best in the world? I was smiling to myself, and thanking this woman silently. She was looking at me very kindly.
We left and on the way home my mother was half-angry and half-embarrassed, I guess. She felt she had wasted her time and she didn’t like that. On-going was her tirade about how she was always trying to help me because I was such a needy child. I told her I would meet her at home and took another way so I wouldn’t have to listen to her speech for the next ten blocks of walking because she didn’t get her way and I did. I paid for it tho with a week of silence from her at home.
So how do you explain that situation? It seems a caring mother brings her child to a teacher. A caring mother explaining to another woman that her daughter should take this home ec class and this mother cares so much that she is willing to take the time out of her busy day to visit this woman at her home to discuss this situation. NO! That’s not what this was about. This narcissistic mother was embarrassed that her daughter didn’t want to take sewing because she herself was known in that town as one of the best professional seamstresses that taught others how to sew. How would it look if her own daughter didn’t take the sewing class? Now her daughter couldn’t show off her skills to the teacher. She would be embarrassed. She didn’t have her daughter’s interests at heart, she had her own interests first.
But she had taught me the basics and I turned that around. When my youngest was in pre-school, he wanted to be a Ninja Turtle. I didn’t like the plastic costumes that you could buy at the mart-type stores. So I decided I was going to make one for him. But I wasn’t going to sew it, I was going to hot-glue it together. And that’s what I did. I took my sewing skills in cutting out the materials with the pattern for a Ninja Turtle, pinned the materials together, then instead of sewing it together, I hot-glued it together. Oh yes I did. He wound up wearing it two years in a row. Other mothers marveled at his costume. They thought I had sewn this little boys Ninja Turtle delight. When I told some of them how I had actually made the costume, they had to look at it carefully to inspect it for hot glue for proof.
I guess what I’m saying here is I rose above her making me hate sewing at age 12 by using the skills she taught me and transferring them to another medium. I still find it difficult to sew, I get that balled-up feeling in the pit of my stomach when I approach a sewing machine or needles or thread or anything remotely related, but at least I can transfer those skills to use in other ways. Admittedly, I probably will use hot glue to quick hem a pant leg than sew it, that’s how much I hate sewing. That’s how much that tight ball feels in my stomach. And that’s what a narcissistic parent does to you. They can make you feel like crap about things in your life.
You’re sucked in because you’re their child, but at the same time, they devastate you. It’s up to you how you want to play their cards as an adult. It’s not an easy road.
All works past, present and future are protected under a CCC. Creative Common License, Kaarie Blake Musings by Kaarie Blake is licensed under a Creative Common Attribution-Noncommercial-Noderivs-3.0-Unported License