Dammit. I don’t really want to write about this. I so want to be done with all of this. It is more of what I’ve already written. It is more of what others have already written on the subject of narcissism. But I have made a commitment to myself, and ultimately, to anyone who takes the time to read this blog – that person who, in the middle of the night, when sleep won’t come, desperately searches the internet in hopes of finding answers. This is for those who still cling to the possibility that things could work out, that hope and goodness will prevail.
I have to write for them.
It started Sunday morning when the kids opened their in-boxes. Mark wrote them each an email. In Will’s email, he explained that I had indicated that Will would be calling. Mark twisted things around, again, and made it sound like we were wanting the dust to settle, and would get in touch when we were ready. He forgot the part about the kids expecting initiative and change on Mark’s part. Mark’s email to Jen sounded like he was picking up where he’d left off, and that nothing had ever happened.
So… the kids wrote emails saying they did not want to see him until he made it clear that he was ready to treat Jen like she’s seven years old, and that he demonstrates to Will that he is ready to make Jen and Will priorities. The kids were pretty agitated that Mark would expect that he wouldn’t have to do anything, and that everyone would pick up where things had been left.
We’ve seen this too many times.
After the kids sent their emails, we went on with our day, trying to put Mark’s emails out of our minds.
Then Mark called that afternoon at about 4 o’clock. I picked up because the kids refused to talk to him. He asked me how it could be that he could be so out of the loop about why the kids don’t want to see him. (He is out of the loop because he doesn’t perceive the feelings of others. He doesn’t consider the emotions or perspective of anyone but himself. He can’t.) Why is it that they appear to enjoy his company, when he’s around, but then ‘suddenly’ decide they don’t want to see him again? Of course I knew that he was suggesting that I had something to do with their attitudes.
He said that he “wanted credit” for the things that he does correctly. (Don’t we all. Grow the hell up!) He said he doesn’t think “they are astute enough” to fake enjoying his company when they are with him. (Not only does he not know his own kids, he has no understanding how truly brilliant little people can be.) He complained that his visit times were restricted. When I, once again, reminded him that visits were restricted because of ‘the incident‘, he denied that anything ever happened.
I explained that they don’t tell him they are uncomfortable when they are with him, because they don’t want to hurt his feelings. They have tried to tell him, but his reactions to their suggestions make it hard for them to be honest with him. Picture a martyr’s reaction to any kind of criticism.
He reiterated that he doesn’t feel comfortable being around people (even his own kids) who don’t like him. That always sounds a lot like, “If you don’t like me, I’m not going to play.” Think of a six year old here.
I told Mark that I had watched a special on PBS last January. The piece included a story of parents of two adopted children. A tearful father explained that he loved and cared for these beautiful kids, but that fatherhood wasn’t exactly what he’d expected. He finally came to the conclusion that he needed to be the kind of father that these two people needed, and he had to stop being consumed by the thoughts of the father he wanted to be. I have not been able to get that dad out of my mind.
That is what every kid needs.
I suggested that Mark should consider writing another email to the kids where he asks them, specifically, what it is that he needs to do to be the kind of dad that they both need. He wanted guarantees that this would be the solution. (Um… We all want guarantees. If somebody tells you they’ll guarantee something, DON’T believe them.) He wanted to know that he wouldn’t be asked to “jump through more hurdles”. He wants to be assured that there is an attainable goal here, that the bar won’t be re-set. That coming from the Master of Raising the Bar.
Unfortunately for Will, he is his mother’s son. That boy checked his email every 20 minutes from 4 o’clock until he finally got an email at 8:30. (At one point, I even said, “You are acting just like me when I check my email every 15 minutes to see if there might be something from John. Stop it!”)
Will was writing an email to Mark about how Mark obviously didn’t care enough to write back right away. I asked him to take a breather, and step away from the computer, to give himself time to cool down. I was just saving Will’s email in the Drafts Folder, when I noticed that there were new emails from Mark. When we saw the length of the emails, we knew why it had taken so long.
Have you heard of the phrase ‘word salad‘? A narcissist likes nothing more than the sound of their own voice, and when they aren’t speaking a word salad, they are writing a word salad. Even Jenny said, “Why does he have to be so dramatic?”
There were more of the same protestations to his fathering ability, more of his misconstruing what really goes on, more of his shifting blame, more of his dodging and more of his bullshit. However, Will felt there was a glimmer of hope that Mark might attempt to change. Jenny said she gave up trying last summer. (Why can’t Will and I be more like Jenny?) We went to bed thinking we would compose ourselves in the morning, and then make lists of specific things their dad could do to be the dad they need.
We didn’t quite get that far.
Mark called at 8:30 this morning, arrived at 10:00 and just left at 5:00. He’s packing the last several months of fathering into one seven hour visit.
Will seems to think he sees an improvement. (I’ve ruined the boy. I taught him to give way too many chances.)
Jen says she’s done.
And I don’t have a lick of wine in the whole damn house.
I tried to think of an appropriate photo to include with this post, but all I could come up with was a chef’s knife and an empty bottle of wine.