Safety

friendsMy son returned safely from an adventure with his father.

This morning they left to go hiking and fishing.  I hate these days.  I feel like I’m holding my breath the whole time he’s gone.  When he returns, I greet him with open arms and excitedly ask about all the fun that was had and hope for details without prying too much.

There are two schools of thought about how to handle parenting when one parent is a narcissist.  One school strongly urges that there be NO visits.  I belong to the school that suggests that the children need tools for dealing with a narcissistic parent.  These adventures and visits are teaching my kids a lot.  But, there is always the issue of safety.

A narcissist completely lacks empathy for others.  Their dad doesn’t recognize that they may be frightened or nervous or uncomfortable with exposure on the side of a mountain.  He’s only thinking of himself, so their emotions aren’t part of his reality.

The other point is that the children are simply extensions of the narcissist.  If the N loves to show the world that he is the bravest pilot or the fastest skier, then his children must be brave, fast and fearless – whether they are, or not.

When Will shared his story of the day, he nervously mentioned that Mark had told him they were in mountain lion territory.  As Will was telling me this, his face became flushed and he was fidgety.  I asked him how he felt about what his dad said.  He explained that when he asked his dad what he should do if they came upon a mountain lion, his dad said, “Well, Kiddo, that’s why yer packin’ that pocket knife.  You just never know what to expect in the mountains!”  That instills a lot of confidence in a 10 year old.  When I asked if he had been nervous, Will said, “Mom, wasn’t I supposed to be?”

When dealing with a narcissist, you never get to own your feelings.  Your feelings are never acknowledged, so there is a tendency to stuff them or not recognize them.

Of course Will was nervous, but he wasn’t allowed to express that, so he thought it was wrong to feel that way.  Then when he gets home and sees my reaction, he realizes he was right to be nervous and afraid.  Then, he dissolved into a pile of tears because he didn’t have to be tough anymore, and he was able to express his emotions.

I remember one of the counseling sessions when the counselor asked Mark how he felt about parenting.   Mark answered that while he loved his kids, he didn’t particularly like being a parent because he wasn’t convinced that he could keep them safe.

He’s so focused on himself, he doesn’t have the ability to think of another – even his own son.

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