Last night I had two glasses of Pinot Noir and three double chocolate Milanos for dinner. After a few days of ungodly hell with my ex, I decided to treat myself with a decadent, nutrition-less repast. Also? I ate this dinner in front of my kids and a friend of Franny’s and I didn’t feel at all bad about it.
Yesterday morning got off to a rip-roaring start when I tried to fill up my gas tank, only to learn that my debit card was declined. This is odd, I thought, since there had been plenty of money in the account when I checked my on-balance the night before. When I got home, I logged on to my on-line banking page and saw that $888,888 had been debited from my account.
As you can imagine, I then had just the slightest spike in blood pressure.
So I spent the morning of my coveted every-other-Friday off from work on the phone with the Bank of America fraud claims supervisor trying to get him to release the hold that had been placed on my checking account when Prince filed a fraud claim on it. $888,000 is the fraud code B of A uses to freeze accounts. Fun fact, for those who didn’t know.
Flashback to the night before:
Livid over the confiscation of his powerboard, Luca engaged in a texting war with his father. He told him he was ruining his life, and also informed him that he was a sociopath, after asking me how to spell it. Disrespectful, perhaps, but certainly an apt description.
With every text barb Luca hurled at Prince, Prince upped his punitive ante. He told him he was selling the powerboard. He refused to give Luca his clothes. He refused to give him lunch money. He told Luca he was changing the locks on his house to keep Luca from coming in to get his powerboard. And, for an extra dose of sadism, Prince told Luca he was going to debit $500 from his savings account to pay for the lock change.
I begged Luca to stop engaging with his dad. I told him to forget about the powerboard. I told him his dad wanted to see him hurt, and he needed to stop giving him the satisfaction.
But, being sixteen, and being unable to think past tomorrow, Luca howled about his life being over. All that mattered to him was the powerboard. There was no chance of anything ever getting better. Prince would send him away. He would win.
“My dad always wins,” he moaned into his hands.
When he told me he might as well jump off the roof, I started to get alarmed. I didn’t think he would actually jump off the roof, but 16-year-old boys are impulsive, and killing yourself in a flamboyant manner is a great way to stick it to your narcissistic father.
It was at this point that I had a slight lapse in judgment. A little more than slight, actually. Luca was desperate to reclaim a modicum of control over his life. He was furious that his dad was going to raid his savings account. So he asked me for my bank account number so he could transfer the $500 into my account.
My desire to keep my son off the roof trumped my common sense. I gave him my account number. He transferred the money. We both fell asleep, drained, exhausted, but bouoyed by this small victory.
Bank of America, however, was not concerned with the hand of justice. It turned out the savings account was part of a trust and Prince controlled the trust. Luca did not have the right to transfer the money and Prince was now accusing me of fraud.
Fortunately, Prince released the claim once I explained what had happened to him and to B of A, and that I had no interest in the $500, which was immediately transferred back to the savings account.
I then called my attorney to run the whole thing by her. She said the judge would most likely see Luca as an out-of-control teenager defying his father who has the right to set limits. I envisioned a histrionic Luca in court, next to the calm, charming, reasonable persona Prince dons when on public view. Given this scenario, there was a good chance Prince would be able to send Luca away. So I had to try a different tactic.
I OFW’d Prince and told him I would like to help defuse the tension between him and Luca and perhaps he could tell me what his rules were so I could help enforce them. Had he changed the locks? Was Luca not allowed to enter the house at all? Would he consider giving us the rest of Luca’s clothes temporarily?
I then told Luca he was to stop texting and talking to his dad. He had to stop threatening to quit school because that could get me arrested and DCFS at my door, at which point his dad would win the custody grand slam because he’d end up with both kids. I told him that I would give him $500 to put in a new savings account with his own debit card.
“The last thing I want is your money, Mom,” Luca said to me last night.
“You don’t have a choice. It’s a condition of staying in this house. You will go to school and you will stop acting crazy, although I completely understand why you feel crazy. But you’re sixteen, your life is just starting, and it’s time you learned to man up.”
He looked up at me and I saw myself reflected in his brown eyes. I remembered how narrowly I looked at things at sixteen, how ambitious I felt, yet lacking in confidence to propel myself into independence. Like Luca, I was impulsive and passionate, and made some really stupid choices. If I’d had a mentor to slap some sense into me, and to focus on what I could do for myself instead of trying to control externals, I would be in a much different place now.
“You have to listen to me, Luca. If you do what I say, your life will get better. It’ll take time, so you have to be patient. You have to take the long view and stop trying to win every battle. If you don’t listen to me, I can’t help you, and things will get worse. You want some autonomy, right? Well, this is up to you.”
He didn’t answer, but he didn’t argue, either. We stared at each other for a moment, and then a flicker of hope flashed across his face.
“Do we have anymore Milanos?” he asked.
Luckily, I hadn’t eaten them all.
Charity Hollingsworth says
You are awesome!
Pauline Gaines says
Lisa Thomson says
You’re giving your son solid advice and setting the right example!
Cheryl Nicholl says
I am so exhausted reading your story over these past several months. I can only IMAGINE how tired you and your children are, however, you are their mother, and I know how THAT feels. I’m serioulsy giving you [[hugs]] as I write this and asking the Universe to intervene on your behalf.
Pauline Gaines says
Oh, Cheryl, I hope you have a pipeline to the Universe. Thank you.
Moxie Clementine says
I can not fathom what you are going through. You have such strength. That narcissist personality is a beast to deal with daily. Good thoughts for you and your children.
Lee Sears says
Oh, how I have walked in your shoes (as much as another can walk in your shoes…). In the end, so much is solved in this world by a good cookie and a glass of wine. Sometimes, that is all we have! Just keep going:)
Lee Whitt says
Luca is old enough now to earn his own money, is he not? I would imagine some level of financial independence might possibly be a game-changer.
Bernadette Pasteris says
My goodness. I am just beginnin my struggle to have a life away from all the insanity of my ex. My heart bleeds at the knowledge that there are still years of struggle ahead for my boys. My only hope is that they will gain strength from it. Thank you so much for sharing. Soo good to know there is a way to cope. Bless you.
Miss Lola says
I just stumbled onto your article by pure chance, and while reading it tears started streaming down my face at work. I agree with everything you said. But what to do when you finally decide “no more”, and set the boundary, and the narcissistic parent is perfectly willing, almost EAGER, to cross it within a few hours? I am the quintessential “fat” daughter of a now-retired narcissist with a very successful career at a Fortune 100 company. I was “normal” looking at photos, yet my weight was always his preferred topic of conversation even when his friends and colleagues were over. My meals were grilled chicken and salad while the rest of the fam chowed down on pasta… I could go on… Let’s just say I am now a pretty good looking 42 year old, who DID IN FACT fulfill the prophecy and get fat… I am a lawyer, single, alone, and depressed. After I hit 200 lbs (from my usual 130), I paid through the nose to have a gastric bypass after finding a Dr. even willing to do it.
The result to this rant? I got SUPER skinny, I work out a lot, and I am very thin. I am also now permanently anemic and vitamin deficient, but THIN! Half my hair fell out. My concentration suffers. Thank God I was blessed and none of that is too noticeable. The catch? Since he could no longer criticize the “fat” he found something else… he now blames me for my mother asking him for a divorce almost 10 years ago….
The point to my long rant is that if you are in this situation as a daughter (or son), don’t wait until your 40s to set your boundaries, and make sure you follow through. If you MUST cut off contact because your parent choses to continue, then so be it. You may orphan yourself but will hopefully gain some self-love in the process. My heart goes out to anyone stuck with a narcissist in the family or at work, but there is hope for some people. 🙂