|"Houses at Unterach on the Attersee" by Gustav Klimt|
Will I ever drive through a neighborhood again without wondering which families are handling tragedies, or have yet to face tragedies that are sure to come?
Dear Lord, may I please arrive at KMart without speculating on who has a teenage runaway, who has a spouse deliberating leaving, who's facing foreclosure or losing their job and who might be coping with mental illness in their household? Can I please just go back to the way life used to be when I assumed accidents only happened on freeways, not office cubicles? When I believed people reaped what they sowed and a little bit of lovin' cured the ailing human heart...
Life is so complicated now. Sometimes I think we have too much information, too much advice, too many answers, too many experts and it's far too difficult to make a decision because we have too many options. Like going into Walmart for a plastic container and leaving without buying one because I couldn't make up my mind: Blue? Green? Clear? Opaque? Handles? No handles? Narrow, wide, short, tall, with a lid, without a lid, wheels or no wheels, and do you want to have a drawer or not? If so, do you want it at the top of the container......or on the bottom?
When my nephew ran away, we got advice from people on what they would do were they in our shoes. How they would punish any ungrateful kid who ran away from home. How WE should act so so he NEVER insulted his family again. One perfect parent told us he disowned his son for ruining the family's good name. O yea, I've heard it all the past several months while determining how we might encourage a kid to grow up and take responsibility for himself and his mental illness.
One thing we're not guilty of is: Taking His Choices Personally. We've learned a lot about narcissistic parenting (blessings to everyone writing about narcissistic parents). We put this knowledge to use by examining how narcissistic parents enmesh themselves with the child's problems (drama triangle) OR punish the child for threatening the family's good name (ruining the narcissist's image). Those were two options we could eliminate from the list of What-To-Do-With-A-Child-In-Crisis.
The point of learning about pathological narcissism is not to label or denigrate someone with narcissistic traits or a personality disorder. What I've learned most recently (which came as a bit of a surprise) is that the point of our psyche education is to live a peaceful and SANE life--making sure we don't behave like narcissists ourselves. Rather than focusing on my nephew's narcissistic self-absorption, I've focused on myself.
If we grew up with narcissistic parents, we're prone to picking up where they left off, even when we resisted their control and insensitivity. We might fool ourselves by changing the means but ending up with the same goal in mind: control, control, control. In other words, focusing on controlling the child in order to manage OUR feelings and doubts and reputation. These are a few things I've learned so far:
*Establish clear boundaries between YOU and the child-in-trouble
*Allow the child to suffer for his or her mistakes
*Suffer your own grief when your parenting illusions are shattered
*Support the child, but do not alleviate the consequences.
*Deflect public criticisms and judgments. It doesn't MATTER what people think
*Be very clear about what you want your child to learn and then stick to your best plan to help them learn it
*Live the principles you value, don’t be a hypocrite
*Don’t let guilt do your parenting
*Don't be so needy for your child's approval that you're unable to enforce consequences
*If you feel ‘shamed’ by your child’s behavior, deal with it; don’t project your shame onto your child
*Listen to them without talking about you. Healthy parents meet the child's needs, not the reverse
*Don’t blame; don’t encourage them to blame others…not even their mental illness. No excuses permitted!
*Let them make their own decisions; they know what the consequences will be without your interference. In other words, let the law work for you and don't interfere.
*Remember: this is about the child, not you.
I am very grateful for everything people have taught me about unhealthy parenting. It would be easier to let a bipolar child 'off the hook' by blaming his behavior on his mental illness. But that would not serve him well in the end. Nor does it serve the narcissist well if we excuse his or her hurtful behavior by assuming they can not do otherwise.
I have learned a lot. Sometimes I think the past six years only initiated me for what the future would bring. The past was a preparatory period. The present is the test. "Everything is unfolding exactly as it should."
Bless everyone who has offered us the opportunity to examine ourselves and change dysfunctional patterns of the past.