Braced against the sheer, shaley side of a ravine, holding the handle bar of his bike, he yelled, “Dad! Dad, I need help here. I’m about to lose my bike! Dad! Help!” He was torn between letting his bike fall to the 15 foot pool at the base of the ravine, or worse, falling with his bike.
He was able to reach his water bottle. After taking a sip, he tried to yell again, but he couldn’t get his dad’s attention. He would have to hang on longer.
He waited, balanced on the brink, wondering why he’d agreed to go on another one of these all-day adventures.
The adventures had gotten better now that he was older, but he still ended up with an upset stomach from the exposure and risk that his dad took for granted.
Besides Keens, a fishing net, beef jerky and a cell phone, his back pack contained his Narcissism Survivor’s Tool Box.
This tool box doesn’t hold a bike pump, Allen Wrenches , WD-40 or band aids. This tool box contains all the skills he’d developed to deal with a narcissistic father – tools he would need for the rest of his life.
The Tool Box
Knowledge. The most important tool in the box is knowledge of narcissism and Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Through understanding NPD, Will knew to expect his dad to put him in dangerous positions. He knew that he couldn’t count on his dad to keep him safe and that his dad wouldn’t empathize with his fears.
Acceptance. With knowledge comes acceptance. Will knows his dad will not change. He knows that no amount of pleading will get his dad to see things from his perspective.
That doesn’t mean Will has to give up on having a relationship with his dad. That means he understands the type of relationship he will have.
Boundaries. History has taught Will that there are certain adventures that he shouldn’t go on – not yet anyway. He might be better able to handle the exposure when he gets older. Right now, Will needs to be afforded the opportunity to pass on some invites. He needs to be able to feel safe and secure and that can happen when Will sets boundaries.
Boundaries will change as Will gets older. In the meantime, he can rely on me to help him enforce healthy boundaries. I don’t prevent Will from going on adventures with his Dad, unless I feel a trip is too risky. Will needs to learn how to navigate these experiences, but there are times when Will doesn’t want to go. Those times his dad assumes it is because I don’t want Will to go. I let Mark believe that. I can’t change that and it gets Will off the hook. That’s my job.
Humor. This tool takes some time to acquire. It doesn’t come quickly for most young children. They need time to process their hurt feelings and have those feelings acknowledged before they can start to see the humorous side of relating to a narcissistic parent.
Kids need life experiences before they can make associations and see for themselves what is “normal” and what is weird. Once they have enough relationships in their lives, they can pick out what’s funny about the way their dad treats them.
It’s seeing the humor in the bizarre behavior of a narcissistic parent that carries them through the difficulties. The humorous nature of the narcissist’s behavior helps kids see that it is not about them. Their dad does weird stuff because he can’t help it. And a lot of times, that weird stuff really is funny.
Snacks. This tool is in the youngest survivor’s tool box. Kids need fuel to keep their busy bodies going. Because narcissists aren’t capable of thinking of the needs of others, they forget that kids eat frequently during the day.
Never send young survivors on an all-day adventure with a narcissistic parent without sending food with them.
When Will finally got his dad’s attention, his dad said, “Hang on, buddy. I’ve almost landed a big one. As soon as I bag this fish, I’ll be right there to help you.”
Mark finally managed to crawl out to where Will hung precariously from the side of the ravine. He pulled Will and his bike to safety and said, “Will, there are more big fish in there. Knock ’em dead.”
Later, Will was able to laugh at the fact that his dad was more worried about catching the big one than rescuing his son.
After telling the story of this most recent trip, Will decided that he’s going to pass on any more all-day adventures for the near future.