Thanks for this post, because it's good to share these crazy stories about our crazy parents who make EVERYTHING about themselves. We are not alone! The worst is seeing them try the same crap on the grandkids that they did with us. One of the best parts about growing into an adult was just telling Mom nope, my kids, my rules, you want to see them, this is how my family works. She thinks I'm a controlling bitch, and can't see that I learned a lot from her, let alone see an opposing point of view. There is her way and the wrong way.
I could write a book about the futility of trying to advocate for yourself with a narcissist parent. It is a game that can't be won. Every attempt to counter the selfishness disguised as love is met with anger, pouting, crying, passive aggression or suicidal threats. To disagree with or contradict her is proof that you don't love her. Love comes with strings attached. Childhood was filled with landmines and guilt bombs and resentment all around. Adulthood still has some of that too, it ripples.
I am the only child to have children. Mom wants to know what she did wrong to my siblings to make them not want children. She may have contributed to the decision, but can't see any other reasons why people choose not to have kids, or to even acknowledge that she may not be a factor in their life choices. It has to be about her.
I am the only one of my siblings who is not a current or recovering alcoholic, for the most part. Mom doesn't know what she did wrong for them to be alcoholics, and claims it couldn't have come from her side of the family. She had only one sibling, a recovering drug addict and lifelong alcoholic. We grew up around alcoholics on all sides of the family. I quit drinking for 6 years after I near died from an overdose of prescription pain killers and binge drinking at 15. When I awoke, her first words were "How could you do this to me?" Me, me, me! We never addressed the drugs and alcohol or the secrets that drove me to that point, she never asked if I was OK in any way, or saw me for the troubled teen I was, just the embarrassment I caused.
When I escaped the drama and trauma to go to the state university on student loans, financial aid and part time jobs, she charged me rent when I was home for winter and summer breaks and complained to her friends what a strain it was financially with me in college. The only strain was co-signing my loans, which I paid back in full on my own. I honestly think she is more jealous than proud of me for graduating college as she dropped out and never finished. She's probably bewildered that her messed up daughter accomplished anything after being such a disappointment.
I believe that she never expected me or my siblings to actually be human beings with feelings or thoughts of our own. We were all just a reflection of herself and props in the movie of her life. We were supposed to make her shine and all we did was disappoint her. I have come to understand that her mental problems include narcissism, depression and dramatic suicidal ideations for most of her life. Our childhoods were full of episodes of trying not to upset her, or to get her to stop crying, or looking for her when she would just walk out of the house and disappear for hours, usually crying and waiting for someone to find her. I coped by shutting down around her and shutting her out of all my thoughts and giving her only the most superficial parts of myself. It has taken me decades to find a way to pity rather than resent her and to be kind to her without allowing myself to be further damaged by her damage. I thank my lucky stars for a kind and loving father, who's biggest flaw was loving a damaged woman too much. He could never make her happy either, but he tried, we all tried but it was never enough.
I moved very far away which helps, it's easy to be kind over the phone and I haven't visited since Covid began, which for me is a blessing. She is a compulsive shopper and hoarder and it has gone into overdrive since Dad died. She is an overgifter, never thoughtful or necessary, just stuff. I don't do stuff, neither do my siblings. We have repeatedly asked her to stop because we don't like it or need it and she can't afford it. We were told that gift giving is about the giver and we were being selfish not appreciating her gifts. Let that one sink in. It is too much. She is too much. She has never been and never will be happy, even in the supposedly happiest moments of her life. For years I likened her to a black hole, sucking the life out of me whenever I got too close. I have found a distant and stable orbit.
I parented the polar opposite of her, I never took my kids for granted, and I worked hard to make their lives not about me or my dreams for them but about their dreams for themselves. I think I did ok, and at least I know I did my best and selfishness never drove a single decision I made for them. I think we have two choices given difficult childhoods. We can carry on the disfunction, or we can recognize it and try to break the cycle. I know a lot of it is genetics and luck but I hope it helped that I never made them feel belittled or insignificant or unloved. I hope I broke the cycle.