On Being the Teenage Son of a Narcissistic Father

Boo!His eyes roll as his hand makes the universal symbol for “one who talks too much.”  He paces the floor and occasionally says, “Uh huh.”

My teenage son is on the phone with his narcissistic father.

He will listen anywhere from 20 to 35 minutes.  He’ll hear about his dad’s work issues, car issues, and plans for skiing and fishing trips.  He’ll learn of his dad’s ailments, frustrations, and current obsessions.  He’ll discover what his dad watches on TV, what his dad is reading, and whether he has mastered his new cell phone.

The son will be asked if his ski gear still fits.  He’ll be told that his father has been shopping for him.  The son will cringe and give me a look that says, “Here we go again.”


The son will not tell the father any of his news.  He won’t be given the opportunity.  He will not be asked.

He will hang up and I will ask, “Does this mean we are done with the silent treatment?”

The son will say, “For now.”


And so the son shops for a new ski jacket.  He’ll use his own money.  He’ll avoid the big names and the hi-tech stuff that his dad usually gets him, because his budget won’t allow.  He’ll do what he can to not look like his dad when the ski hill opens this year.

“Mom, do I have to wear the jacket that dad got me last year?”

“Does it still fit?”

“Yeah, but I hate that jacket.  I look like dad’s clone.  I’ll use my own money.  I’ll do anything not to look like dad on the ski hill.  You got me the ski pants.  I’ll get the jacket.”


When his dad asks if he’ll be taking his little sister trick-or-treating, he gets angry.

“Dad wants to know if I’m taking Jen trick-or-treating.”


“Because he says I’m too old to trick-or-treat, so now I can take Jen so he doesn’t have to.  What an asshole.”

Jen says, “What a relief!  Now I don’t have to go with dad!”  If she’s hurt that her dad doesn’t want to take her out on every kid’s favorite holiday, she doesn’t show it.  She’s used to it by now.  She doesn’t expect her dad to want to go out of his way to do anything with her.  That would be an inconvenience.


So the teenager makes plans to take his sister trick-or-treating.

He continues shopping for a ski jacket that he can afford.

He tells us his plans for skiing, fishing and mastering his new software, because we ask.


And when the phone rings, he lets it go to voicemail.

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  1. Good for your son, learning how to protect himself by being independent and buying his own jacket, sending calls to voicemail. We can’t choose our family, but we can draw our boundaries. Smart, smart kids you’ve raised.

    Also, great pumpkin!

  2. J.,

    Thanks! I ‘spose these survival skills will serve them well. Too bad they have to learn them so quickly.

    Jen carved that pumpkin. That kid has a ton of patience!

  3. It must make the kids feel invisible – or used …

  4. Pat,

    We got the 11th hour call asking if he could come over and see Jen on Halloween night. My first response: Geez, do you think he saw the post? *ha, ha. gasp.*

    Jen said, “If he knows about the blog, he’d be a way better dad.”

    So, in response to your comment, I’d go with ‘used’. My BFF said, “Of course he has to come over. Then he can tell everyone at work what a good dad he is, and maybe show pictures.”


    There are many days when I wish we were invisible to him.

  5. Wait a second,
    Why, should you care, what they think of you
    When you’re all alone, by yourself, do you like you?
    Do you like you?

    You don’t have to try so hard
    You don’t have to, give it all away
    You just have to get up, get up, get up, get up
    You don’t have to change a single thing

    You don’t have to try so hard
    You don’t have to bend until you break
    You just have to get up, get up, get up, get up
    You don’t have to change a single thing

    You don’t have to try, try, try, try
    You don’t have to try, try, try, try
    You don’t have to try, try, try, try
    You don’t have to try

    Read more: Colbie Caillat – Try Lyrics | MetroLyrics

    Watch/listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2aWvSYkiP24

    What I love about music is that it reaches out to many more than the obvious audience. Try by Colbie Caillat immediately came to mind when I read this post. I like to hum it when I need the reminder. xxx

  6. Ah, yes. I don’t feel like doing it anymore, so it’s your problem. In fact, you should have read my mind and known that it was your problem. Because I just decided right this minute that you’re old enough or you have the time, or I don’t like how you’ve been doing things. If throwing responsibilities like a javelin were an Olympic sport, I know who would have a gold medal.

  7. Your kids are lucky to have you as their mother, that you had the strength and insight to leave their narcissistic father, and to help them navigate their relationship with him. That’s not easy. I grew up with a narcissistic father. Once you learn their game/how they navigate their relationships, it gets a little easier. But it’s still an incredible drain. I chose to cut ties a few years ago. When all you are is food for their psychopathology, there is no reason to stay.

  8. Jules,

    It’s nice to see you. Again. ;) I hope the not seeing your father is going well for you.

    Funny you should write today after our recent experiences with the kids’ dad. It gets old. You know that. My kids are counting down the days until they no longer have to deal with him.

    Sending hugs.

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