The family had split into separate canoes some time ago. Initially, the paddling was difficult. The water was choppy and the canoe carrying the mother and the two children took on water more times than not. The father was in a canoe by himself. He didn’t seem to mind the rough waters. Truth be told, he seemed to prefer making waves and watching the other three struggle to keep their canoe afloat.
In time, the three found their rhythm. They paddled in sync and enjoyed the view. It wasn’t always smooth sailing, but they became adept at riding out the storms. They’d hunker down, breathe through the rapids, remember not to hang on too tightly (because that makes the ride more tense), and make each other laugh.
More recently, when his canoe approached, he’d be paddling more gently. She dared to believe that he might not want to rock their boat anymore. A couple sunny days found the canoes gliding side by side as the four exchanged stories of golf, fishing, and fairy gardens.
One afternoon, both canoes were beached as the four discussed a possible journey to be taken by the father and the two children. The mother was included, and they all smiled through the conversation. The talking was easy. Each opinion was heard. The children were asked to think about the proposed adventure and let the father know, the next day, if they planned to go with him.
As the mother and children paddled off in their own canoe, they waved to the father and smiled. They told him they would give his idea some great thought. He waved and smiled and said he was looking forward to hearing from them.
The kids talked of their father’s invitation. They discussed things like the length of time they’d be gone, the amount of money their father would have to spend, and whether it was even necessary for them to go since they hadn’t gotten a clear indication of his desire for them to go.
They decided to wait until the next day to tell him of their decision, because all good paddlers know that it is good to sleep on a such things.
The children remember the period of rough waters as if it was yesterday. Sometimes, they even have dreams about rough waters and a tipping canoe. Because of those dreams and memories, they nodded when their mother asked, “Would you like me to tell your father of your decision?”
So, the mother sent a note explaining the children’s carefully thought out reasons for not wanting to go on the father’s planned adventure.
And because you can never tell a narcissist NO, the narcissist immediately sent a tidal wave in the direction of their canoe. It was clear that his intent was to hurt the mother and the children, or perhaps even capsize their boat.
The three ducked their heads, took on a lot of water, consoled each other and wondered how they could have thought it might be okay to tell him no.
For the next few days, they paddled their boat as the waters calmed. They did not see any sign of the father or his canoe. He did not apologize, or explain, or comment on the most recent storm.
When they finally saw him again, he cruised by in his shiny canoe, leaving only the smallest wake behind him. He barely glanced in their direction, acting as if there had never been a storm.