Toddlers are not easy to control. They are messy, busy, loud and curious. If the narcissist expects a toddler to be some sort of positive reflection of the image he’s trying to portray, he’ll have his work cut out for him.
That doesn’t mean the narcissist won’t try to get his toddler to be a perfect reflection of him.
She had come to terms with the fact that she would be parenting on her own. He had even said that everything having to do with the child was “her domain.” At first, she felt alone and resentful. She hadn’t signed up to do this all by herself. As time went on, though, she was too busy to feel any resentment. Besides, she rather liked focusing all her energies on the child. The interactions were joyful – something she hadn’t felt with the narcissist since the beginning.
But, as one might expect, the more she focused on the child, the angrier the narcissist became. When a narcissist is angry, he attempts to control.
If it hadn’t been so tragic to watch, it might have been comic.
The narcissist insisted on giving a bottle to the child. (Later, she would realize that the narcissist merely wanted her to discontinue nursing.) The child wouldn’t take to the bottle. Here we can speculate all the reasons why a child won’t take a bottle, but we don’t need a child psychologist to see that the child sensed the tension emanating from his father. And that tension grew as the child continued to refuse the bottle. There are few things scarier to a child than a frustrated, raging, narcissistic parent. It’s a wonder the child could maintain his ideal weight.
Later, when the child was more mobile – crawling and standing and getting into everything – the narcissist took to corralling the child. He’d either keep him enclosed in the playpen or, if in a public setting, he’d manage to keep the child on his lap. (It’s amazing how much more a toddler squirms when you attempt to keep his arms pinned to his sides, all the while shushing him and apologizing to any onlookers for the unruliness of the child.)
Toddlers want to move. Narcissists don’t want toddlers to move in any other way than one that is controlled by the narcissist.
Her job, then, was to create a safe environment for the child while the narcissist was at work. In this environment, messes were encouraged, noise was welcomed, moving was applauded and shushing was not allowed.
However, as the hour of the narcissist’s return approached, she’d slowly begin to reign in on the fun and commotion. Later, she would wonder if the child saw the pattern: fun during the day = happy mom; incarceration after dad got home = crabby mom.
In the evenings, she took to being the first to shush because she hoped she’d be kinder about it than the narcissist. “Don’t be so noisy, honey. Daddy likes it quiet. Don’t leave your toys out, honey. Daddy doesn’t like a mess. Let’s get you a clean shirt, honey. Let’s go in the other room to read, honey.” She’d attempt to keep the child a safe distance from the narcissist. Did the child begin to think his mother had an evil twin that came to visit every night about the time his controlling dad came home from work?
Optimistically, she tried to foster a relationship between the child and the narcissist. INFJs strive for, and nurture, a healthy family environment. She focused on the child’s achievements while downplaying the mess and the noise. The narcissist, of course, could not be less interested. In fact, he appeared to be counting down the days until this messy/noisy phase came to a close.
When the second child came along, the mother’s shushing became yelling. The only way to shush two children over the noise of blocks, toy trucks and talking baby dolls is to do so loudly. And loud shushing quickly becomes hysterical yelling – especially as the narcissist’s car pulls into the drive. She began to feel panicked at the thought of what might happen if he discovered the noise and mess that they lived in when he was away.
She wore two hats. One hat belonged to the accepting, nurturing, down-on-the-floor-playing, warm mom. The other hat was worn by the angry, yelling, critical, cold mom.
Who was she? How did she become so angry? When did she get so tired? How could she maintain the energy necessary to be this woman who wore two different hats, without ripping herself apart?
To be continued …