While decorating for Halloween last weekend, Kristy whispered to me “I want to tell you something I don’t want Grant to hear.” I grabbed an outdoor decoration and loudly proclaimed we needed to decorate outside. On the front porch, Kristy explained a conversation she had with Grant and dad. At the end of the conversation, Ted turned to her and said, “Narcissist, much?” Her huge eyes filled with tears as she asked me, “What is a narcissist?”
I grabbed her and hugged her tight. My mind swirled with what could possibly be the best answer right now, an answer her 12 year old mind would understand. My mouth wanted to explode with curses at her sick father and educate her on what her narcissist father is doing to hurt us all.
I held her tight and told her a narcissist is someone who has no conscience, they never think of others, only themselves, and have no compassion for others. I told her she is not a narcissist. She is honestly one of the most caring and compassionate children I have ever met. Both Grant and Kristy are. They are the first in their classes to always try and help new students feel welcome. I have heard from their teachers their entire lives examples of compassion they show others.
She seemed to accept that answer, then we switched the subject to something funny and kept decorating. I didn’t even keep dwelling on it in my mind. The old me would have. I can’t keep living that way because it is not healthy for me and always leaves me pissed as hell, which effects my mood during our time together. This was an opportunity to have a fun time decorating with Kristy and I was making the most of it.
While eating dinner that night, I was teasing Kristy about something, she looked at Grant and exclaimed, “Ya, since I’m a narcissist!” Grant looked at me and asked if I knew what a narcissist was. Again…what words do I choose? Like any parent searching for the right thing to say, I turned it around asked him his definition, careful not to say what I really wanted. He replied that a narcissist is someone who has no empathy and is controlling. I told him his sister is not a narcissist. She is very thoughtful of others feelings and when she tries to convince him to do something, it is out of thought for him, not herself. I went on to simply say, “I know I have been called a narcissist countless times by dad, and I want to make sure you know the proper definition.” He replied, “I know, mom, you’re not.”
So, how do parents dealing with an ex who is a narcissist prevent their children from walking the same path? It’s been an answer I have been searching for quite some time.
What have I learned? No one can. A child is ultimately going to choose the path they want. Many narcissists in their need for revenge and drive to cause pain, will also try to alienate their children against the other, or “target” parent. This brainwashing has led to countless parents losing all contact with their children for years.
There are behaviors the target parent can choose, however, to try to prevent this from happening. The first is to have total and complete empathy. Close out all negativity, all of the hatred and frustration with the ex. Easier said than done, right?
Feel it, then let it go in order to be the best parent possible. (Yes, you can even sing Let It Go from Frozen, like I do, if it helps.) The number one focus must ALWAYS be on the mental health of the children involved. They did not choose this, but they are stuck in the middle and may be doing whatever their brains will allow at the time. I learned a medical fact recently while researching dementia. The female brain is not fully developed until she reaches her mid 20’s, the male brain in his early 40’s.
Our children’s brains are nowhere near developed enough to deal with what they are forced to go through. They deal with situations the best they can. If this means to align with the alienating parent in order to make their lives easier, that is the path they will choose at the time.
It is up to us, the target parents to recognize this, and never ever show our emotions over their choices. We must show nothing but unconditional love, acceptance (even with the knife sticking out of our back the child just placed there), and fun. Yes, fun. If we offer them a little escape from life and drama for the time we have with them, their memories and feelings during those times will have an impact on their feelings toward us, the target parent, whether they feel they can show it at the time or not. I think in some situations, the target parent will be labeled the “Disneyland” parent when this is their true goal.
All children have the right to love both parents, and during my parenting time, we have the right to be free of the drama and upheaval Ted constantly tries to create. We rarely talk of Ted. By not talking about him, I am less inclined to allow my thoughts related to his behaviors slip out of my mouth. This is MY time with them. By allowing the negative thoughts in, he is controlling our time together.
I am on the path to healing because I am just sick and tired of thoughts of Ted looming over me. He was still controlling me by remaining in my thoughts. I am done with that. God will deal with him and my job is to work on me, and leave the rest to God.
By not allowing thoughts of him in, I am able to focus on the quality time Grant, Kristy and I have together and being the example of love, empathy and compassion I want them to have.
Is it easy? Oh hell no. Is it necessary? It’s as important as breathing.