1. Childhood with a Narcissistic Mother and Father
© by Gail Meyers
In small town USA my mother was the third child of a middle class narcissistic couple. Her mother was one of nine children who grew up dirt poor during The Great Depression. Her father was the golden son of an upper-middle class couple. His father was mayor and owned the general store and local tavern. My maternal grandparents were both physically beautiful people who placed a high value on appearance and image. They apparently let my mother know from a young age she did not live up to the standard. She was born in between two illegal abortions forced upon my grandmother by my grandfather and his mother.
Born to a Narcissistic MotherMy mother got pregnant as a teenager, as did all of her sisters. She dated my biological father for two years, but before I was even born he was married to someone else and expecting their first child. By the time I was one year old, my mother had already rebounded to my step-father. They married upon his return to the United States from active overseas military duty. After his death, while trying to make the case that others knew but did not warn her, my mother told me his parents forced him into the military because they did not know what else to do with him after he tried to rape his sister.
Soon after my mother and step-father were married my mother’s youngest sister stayed all night with them. The then 12 year old child ran home in the middle of the night because my step-father tried to molest her. My mother called her a liar. My grandfather refused to cooperate with an uncle who wanted to confront him.
In the 1960’s girls were expelled from high school for being pregnant, unwed mothers. So my mother attended business school. It was then she was allegedly hit by a car that did not even bother to stop. The incident sent her into labor causing me to be born two months premature, weighing under five pounds.
I was in an oxygen tent or incubator, which my grandmother later told me was turned off when only my mother and step-father were in the room. This led to the two of them being banned from my hospital room, yet I was apparently sent home with the two of them.
Only days after their wedding, I ingested lye and nearly died many times. My step-father was discharged from the Army due to this medical hardship. The discharge papers were in the very bottom of the box of my baby things my mother returned to me decades later.
Even her account of how all of this transpired fits the enduring traits in at least two ways. First of all, she managed to make herself the hero even in this tale while projecting the blame on either my step-father or me. Secondly, she contradicted herself in the two accounts she told of the incident numerous times over many years.
Whether this was a Munchhausen By Proxy type maneuver I cannot state for certain. What I can say is it publicly reframed the situation by removing the focus from her being a shameful unwed mother and placing it on her being a long-suffering mother. She garnered enormous pity for being the mother of such a child, as well as having to care for such a child who was so sickly. Numerous operations followed, as well as me having to be fed through a tube in my abdomen.
There are also baby pictures of me with the tube hanging out of my stomach, casts on both legs and my two front teeth knocked out. Both of these additional situations were accompanied by corresponding stories that do not add up.
Narcissists Require Adoring Mates?
I have often read that a narcissist requires an admiring mate, but that was certainly not the case with my narcissistic personality disordered mother. My late step-father was an alcoholic pedophile. I was 8 years old when my step-father sat me on the bathroom counter to introduce me to what would be “our little secret” for the rest of my childhood.
Besides molesting me and at least one of my younger half-sisters for years, he had many extramarital affairs and was also verbally and physically abusive. So he was hardly the adoring, supportive spouse some claim narcissists require as mates. However, as twisted and bizarre as it may seem, he provided the perfect hiding place. He was the identified villain whose behavior allowed my mother to perpetually star in her favored martyr role while manipulating the entire family with guilt and pity.
Growing Up as a Hostage
I spent my childhood grounded, mostly for offenses fabricated by my step-father. He called home from work as many as five times a day asking my mother where I was. When he was home his unwanted attention was nearly always on me.
This made my mother extremely jealous. She often blatantly started a physical fight with him by smacking him or spitting in his face, then blamed the fight on me. It was years before I realized that was because negative attention is better than no attention at all. She told him nearly daily that she was his wife, not me.
I was not allowed to even close my bedroom door in order to have any privacy or even hear myself think over the television that was always turned up full blast in the next room. There was no privacy or boundaries even in the bathroom. We were not allowed to lock the door, even when we were using the restroom or taking a bath. Anyone could and would walk in unannounced – even when we were teenagers. If you did lock the door anyway, the lock was quickly picked.
While I grew up as my step-father’s hostage and the target of my mother’s jealousy, she also used me to meet her emotional needs. I missed as many as 100 days of school a year in high school simply because my mother wanted me to stay home and keep her company. Yet, I was also grounded if I brought home any grade less than a B. They were both high school dropouts who placed no value on education, but I have often wondered where the school administration was to never make an issue of it.
During my 16th year I was allowed to date only boys they approved of and only after it became a heated topic. My step-father interrogated the boys, scaring some of them off. He would interrogate me following every date. He sat in the living room chair looking out the window waiting to make certain I came home on time. There would be a serious confrontation if I did not immediately jump out of the car the instant it came to a full stop.
I often escaped by reading or listening to music on the stereo I was given on the only birthday or Christmas I recall getting nice presents – the year my step-father started molesting me. Like so many other abused children, I was not even allowed to think of myself as being abused. I was just waiting for the day I turned 18.
I learned shorthand in high school for the express purpose of being able to keep my journal without anyone else being able to read it. It infuriated my step-father, who would at times insist I tell him what it said. My mother also felt it was her right to read my journal, which I always hid somewhere attempting to keep it private.
Since I was forbidden to close my bedroom door in order to not have to read with my fingers in my ears, I started putting my pillows and blanket in the floor of the closet and closed the door. One or the other of them would swing the door open long enough to make fun of me for being in my closet. When I persisted, my mother told me a story that scared the daylights out of me as a child.
It was an elaborate story told convincingly and incorporating the Laura Ingalls Wilder books I was reading. There was a little girl with long, beautiful hair who was killed in the spot our house was built on. She was killed crossing the prairie and was buried here. She is not friendly, but very angry. She lives in the attic and if I am reading on my closet floor I will be the first one she sees when she comes down through my closet. This story had such an impact on me that at one point I actually thought I saw the little girl in her prairie dress.
Years ahead of time I made a chart counting down each day until I turned 18. In the naivety of my childhood I actually thought I would become an adult, get my mother away from my step-father, and the rest of us would finally live happily ever after. Little did I realize at the time that the mother we were all raised to pity and take care of would prove herself to be ten times sicker and more dangerous than even the alcoholic pedophile she married.
An Absent Biological Father
While I was growing up my mother told me the story of how my biological father broke her heart leaving her pregnant and alone. On the contrary, she also often spoke of him as a knight in shining armour. While we were clothed and fed, and damn well better appreciate it, we had very little money. However, my mother often told me of my half-siblings I had never met who were enjoying all the luxuries he provided. They got horses for their birthdays, and Corvettes for their sweet 16.
According to my mother, my biological father desperately wanted to see me, but was doing the honorable thing by not offending my step-father by insisting on it. The implication was if he ever got the opportunity, he would mount his trusty steed and rescue me. I often thought he surely would if he knew the truth. Of course, she said I could never be such a self-centered, ungrateful child as to break my step-father’s heart by meeting my biological father. After all, according to her, there are not many men like him who would raise another man’s child as his own. During my preteen years my mother and step-father separated for a few months.
During that time my mother asked me if I wanted to meet my biological father. Before I could even answer she told me he saw me today while I was outside playing, but I did not see him. He is gone now. It was just one more sadistic stunt she pulled on me even as a child.
As it turned out I met my biological father when I was a very young adult. He picked me up in his Corvette, took me to his house, then proceeded to show me all of his toys. His arrogant condescendence was unmistakably abrasive. He was much more impressed with himself than I was, even with all of my mother’s knight in shining armor implications.
The very first time we met he offered to pay for various specific cosmetic surgeries, including breast enlargements. It was offensive, but I was still too shy to say anything other than no thank you. I was not a beauty queen, but I was tall, thin and attractive enough to never have a problem finding dates. So, it was another loud and clear message that I was not good enough.
We had been in contact for several months when I invited him to dinner. He never showed up or even bothered to call and cancel, which was devastating to me at the time. I spent years trying to figure out why he disappeared. However, I kept having the sense that it was surely a blessing in disguise, but that never quite made it to from my head to my heart.
Then, two decades later he reappeared two days before my mother died. He said my mother reaped what she sowed in response to seeing her 60 pound emaciated body hours prior to her death. He spoke to me on the phone for about an hour after she died to tell me he does not attend funerals anymore. During that conversation he mentioned no less than a dozen times how much better he was doing with his eighth grade education than I was doing with my law degree. I did not realize it was a competition. Of course, he had been in business for decades and I had just graduated six weeks before my mother’s diagnosis. He never once said congratulations, but took the opportunity of my mother’s death to attempt to disparage my accomplishment.
Then, in the middle of the conversation and without warning, he abruptly hung up. I thought we must have been disconnected and called back, but there was no answer. A couple of days later I received a photo in the mail of my mother as a teenager with an engagement ring on her finger. The picture contradicts everything she ever told me about what happened, but he waited four decades to send it to me after she was deceased.
Seven years later he reappeared after my grandmother’s death. He sent a friend request to my Facebook page. I asked him how he is doing. He droned on about how big his classic car collection is and how strong he is. It was then that I realized it had finally made if from my head to my heart. I just un-friended him without a word and I let go.