The Kindness of a Narcissistic Dad

“I know…  you think waders would make fishing that much better, but we’ve both heard the stories of them filling with water.  I don’t want you to end up bobbing down the river with your head under water.  You need to do some research.  Let’s learn a bit more and figure out which waders to stay away from.  You can make that part of school today.”


“So mom, here’s a guy who says that he can walk in the river better when he takes in a little water.  He says it makes it easier to maneuver.”

“Nice.  And how many years has he been fishing?  Hey, did you get the other stuff on your list done before Googling fishing waders?”

“Mo…  I’m done with the other stuff.  Here’s a guy who has a pair that has drainage holes and some draw strings around the neck and waist.”

“Good.  And how much are those waders?  $800?”

“You said I should do some research.”

“I know.  Good job.”


“Hey, why don’t I call dad and ask his advice?  He’s got a pair that he hardly ever uses.  Maybe he’d have some ideas.”

“Good, Bud.  Get your dad involved.  He’d like that.”

Will puts down his phone.  “Hey, mom!  He’s gonna come right over and let me try on his waders!  He’ll be here in a minute.  Then we can talk about what kind I should get.”

“Nice that he’s making this a priority.  Remember, we’re in the gathering info phase.  We won’t be buying waders today.”

“I knoooowww….”


The doorbell rings.  Jen opens the door and he greets her with the voice she thought he’d be done using when she turned four.

I try to get him to find his adult voice and say, “Mark, you gotta check out the work we’ve done in the kitchen.”

He says, “Wow, your kitchen actually looks nice.”


A bit later, Jenny is drawing in the living room and Will is standing in the kitchen wearing waders that are three sizes too big – even for a teenager who has been riding a major growth spurt.

“Dad, what do I do with this long strap here?”

“Well, Bud, let me see.  I’ve only worn these a couple times, so I’m still not sure how to set ’em up.  I think this tightens around your waist like this.”

I put down a dish towel and say, “Those look brand new.  Are you giving those to Will?”

“You know, they are new.  I wore ’em on two trips.  I worried about ’em taking on water and the possibility that I might sink in them.  I thought Will could use ’em.”



postscript:  Will is still shopping for waders.


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  1. Jaw-dropping.

    On the issue of waders and safety, I’d suggest looking into wetsuit pants and booties. It won’t keep him dry, but the insulating properties will keep him warm. You can often find used ones quite cheaply online or at garage sales.

    There seem to be a number of discussion threads online with fly-fishers debating the merits of wetsuits versus waders.

  2. M,

    I shared this with Will.

    Thank you.

  3. Pat,

    I heard your exasperation across town.

  4. It’s interesting that I feel myself tense up whenever Mark enters the scene. Your kids are lucky to have you.

  5. Jules,


    It still amazes me that I lived those years with that kind of tension. That’s no way to raise children.

  6. I know this is an inappropriate response, but I laughed at the end….after a gasp, of course. Then I read it again to make sure that I understood it correctly and chuckled a second time. It’s completely about the ignorance and predictability of it all. Ns don’t even realize the ridiculous things that they say. He was too proud of himself for being generous (the show) to see that he was passing something along that may drown his son. Still shaking my head…

  7. Z,

    Heck no!!

    That’s the most appropriate/healthy response for someone who has done time on the front lines. The three of us laughed, too.

    This is how it played out:

    Will and I were in the kitchen during the exchange. I heard the comment and looked at Will. Will looked at me. I’ve learned – through much trial and error – not to project my reaction onto the kids. Mark went outside to ask Jenny something. I was wiping down the kitchen counter and Will said, “Did you hear that?” I said, “Yeah. What did you think?” He said, “Apparently he thinks it’s not a problem for ME to have waders that he’s afraid to wear.”

    And we both started laughing.

    Later, when we shared the exchange with Jen, she shook her head and with a chuckle she said, “No surprise there.”

    And you are SOOOO right!! He was all caught up in the grandstanding and didn’t even realize what he was saying! Par for the frickin’ course.

  8. I think I surprised myself a little because I have not been laughing lately. I have been fighting back. He has me on edge with his challenges and pissed off at my son’s hurt. But I am glad today that I can laugh at it. And I hope for the same tomorrow.

    You really need to write that book about teaching narcissism and healthy boundaries to kids. I need it. xx

  9. Z,

    Maybe that’s what we can all do for each other…

    Be there to listen, nod our heads in understanding, and remind each other to laugh.

    That book is simmering. I see Jen doing some illustrations and Will writing some from his experiences.

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