At Least He Doesn’t Live With Us

empty-chairI play mental tricks on myself. When we wake to nine inches of new snow and a temperature of 15 degrees, I tell myself, “Hey, we have lots of firewood, the furnace is working and the skiing will be great.” When our typically bright blue sky is overcast and gray for the second day in a row, I grouse a little and remind myself that I’m getting lots of chores done. When my kids complain about having to do lessons in the morning instead of riding their bikes or skateboarding, I remind them, “You know, you guys could be sitting in a desk at public school for seven hours.”

I try to find the positive in a less than rosy scenario. It’s a coping mechanism – a self-protective measure to ward off the funk.

Sometimes the scenario requires that I be more creative than usual.

Last night when Jenny was crying at the dinner table because her dad wouldn’t let her bring her favorite fuzzy yellow blanket home to our house from his house, I struggled to find a silver lining on her cloud.  I scraped the bottom of the barrel looking for a positive comment, when Will remarked that he, “almost threw up at Dad’s house,” because his dad made him read a four-page letter attesting to his own greatness before he’d let his son open his birthday present.  When the kids told me that they had to ask their dad to feed them lunch, I reminded myself that at least they’d arrived home safely.

Even a wise, older-than-her-years eight year old can’t see the logic in not letting a little girl have a cherished blankie.  All she could think was that she must not be a very good kid if her dad wouldn’t let her have her blanket.  What twelve year old boy needs a lecture on the greatness of his father, before he can open his birthday present?  “Mom, he’s trying to show me he’s wonderful by making me read this letter, then he hands me a cool pocket knife, and that’s supposed to make everything fine?”

The three of us talked at the dinner table.  Once again, I told them that Mark probably isn’t going to change.  I heard myself say, again, “This is the way your dad knows how to love you.  We’ve been through this before.  You guys know how to handle this.  You both are getting older and stronger.”

And then I heard myself say, “At least he doesn’t live with us.”


I want to hear from you if you know of a narcissist who has changed how he/she relates to his/her kids.  If you know of a happy ending between a narcissistic parent and his children, I want to hear about it.

I am jaded.

I don’t believe there is a chance he will change.

I don’t want Mark to change because I hope to re-connect with him.  I’d sooner walk back and forth through the soft stuff  – barefooted.  I’d invite seven Black Lab puppies to live with us.  I’d send my kids back to public school before I’d even spend a nanosecond thinking about getting back together with Mark.  Just typing that makes my skin crawl.  I do wonder if it’s out of line for me to give my kids some kind of hope of a change.  Or do I tell them, “This is it.  Buck up.  Be tough.  It’ll never get better.”

Do I tell my kids that this is how it’s going to be forever?

At least he doesn’t live with us.

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  1. It’s always good to be a ‘glass half full’ sort of person but I’m sorry to say that there will be no happy ending here. It is the way it’s always going to be. If he’s going to remain in their lives, they are going to have to learn to accept that.

    It’s awful, I know.

    I spend a LOT of time feeling truly grateful that we no longer have to deal with these things. My kids are very young and they will forget over time. It must take immense strength on your part to continue dealing with this on a regular basis.

    I wish I could offer words of comfort, or say it will get better.

    All I can say is how much I understand, and how much I admire you for coping the way you do.

    Best wishes


  2. Sarah,

    Thank you so much for writing. You – of all people – would know the answers to my questions.

    In my heart of hearts, I also know the answers. I struggle with looking in my kids’ eyes and not being able to tell them that things will get better.

    Yes, they will be stronger for this. But I can’t help thinking that all of this robs them of a lot of the sweetness of childhood.

    All the best to you and your children,


  3. Jesse

    I had many sessions (alone) with a child psychologist after the breakdown of my marriage.

    She told me that I am the best therapist my kids could ever have. You have to be honest with them, but in a ‘soft’ way which they will understand. There’s no point trying to gloss over all the bad stuff.

    They will appreciate your openness and support as they grow.

    You are doing a really good job, and this blog is testament to that.

    Hang in there.


  4. Sarah,

    That’s what my gut has been telling me – to be there for my kids, gently answer all the questions, and acknowledge Mark’s behavior for what it is.

    It would be impossible to walk on the rug, if I swept everything under it.

    Can’t thank you enough for the encouragement. It means a lot coming from another ‘sister’ in the trenches.

    Your kids are so blessed to have you for their mom.

  5. Your partners in narcissism survival will have a much greater store of wisdom on this topic than any of us who love you but haven’t walked the same path. That said, I think what Sarah’s psychologist said makes so much sense. I do know that you already know this stuff, but it’s definitely human nature to wish that difficult things were less difficult. Since it can’t be different, shoring up and reinforcing your kids’ strengths is the very best you can do for them.

  6. Oh my. Hopefully I can remember all the things I want to say:

    1- Can you get Jenny girl another yellow blanket? Or possibly make one? They have fleece available at fabric stores, and it feels soo good. Then she could decide how she wants to trim it: fringe, beads or some other combo. That might help alleviate the grief about the hostage blanket at her dads. PS: It should probably just live at home :)

    2- It might be helpful if the kids understood he can’t change. It’s kind of like he is mentally challenged. You really don’t expect someone who is mentally challenged to change, right? It’s virtually impossible for them to change. The same with Mark.

    3- I don’t think it’s a matter of being tough, or toughing it out. I think it’s a matter of being honest with whatever you are feeling in the moment, and when that has been acknowledged and worked through, then you can move on. But you can’t stuff it or tough it out. Just be where you is….wherever you is!

    4- And yes, it is a cause for celebration that he doesn’t live with you! See – things are turning around already!

  7. Pat,

    I guess I’ll keep feathering the nest, making sure they have a soft place to land.

    Thanks for the chat this afternoon. ;)

  8. Donna,

    First off, let me say that if you don’t have a shingle up, you should.

    Please send a bill.

    Secondly, love you for the heartfelt comments.

    As to the blanket, Jen pleaded with me to call her dad and ask if we could have the blanket at our home. It was purchased for the bed at her dad’s place, however, since she does not spend the night there, she has asked if she could have it here. He told her it was too big for a twin bed. She cried. She begged me. I relented and called Mark. He said, “But of course she can have the blanket at your house. I didn’t think it was that big of a deal.” He drove up to our house, walked up to the door with the blanket, handed it to Jen and said, “There’s your blanket. See ya.”

    Complete and utter lack of empathy.

    In the meantime, we ran into grandma at Target today. She was shopping for a fuzzy yellow blanket for her darling Jenny.

    You are right that they should know that their dad won’t change. Maybe it would alleviate the hoping for a happier outcome. However, for me, there is a whole lot of stuff wrapped up in saying that to them. “(Life isn’t always fine. Yes, I married a guy like that. No, you will never have a great father figure.”) That seems like a big message for two young people.

    And the toughing it out is about me, too. It hurts so much to see my kids crying and going through this time after time. I instinctively KNOW that they are supposed to feel what they feel and work through it. I instinctively want to spare them the heartache.

    And, yes, each and every night that I tuck my kids in and we talk about the day, I swear I can hear celebratory fireworks going off in the backyard. I don’t say to them, “YES!! It’s great! Dad doesn’t live with us!” I’ve only said that a couple times. But I sure as hell think that – every night.

    I wish our language had a way of saying, “Thank You,” with a lot more emphasis.


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