Schooled by a Narcissist

Source: Apple Dictionary/Thesaurus

narcissism
noun
his emotional development was hindered by his mother’s narcissism: vanity, self-love, self-admiration, self-absorption, self-obsession, conceit, self-centeredness, self-regard, egotism, egoism. ANTONYMS modesty.

Kindergarten through 2nd grade before and after school transitions were very rough for Zack. He was with Missy before, during, and after school, so when Sam entered this mother/son bubble for their father/son time, Zack displayed extreme anxiety at the exchange. Most days, he would be calm and laughing minutes after he and Sam left the parking lot, but nearly every PM pick-up was stressful.

During these years, Sam saw little of Zack’s paperwork or completed schoolwork except for the occasional spelling list, math paper, or drawing Missy would allow Zack to share with his dad. Sam asked Zack once if he had any “important papers,” in his take-home folder. Zack replied, “Mom takes out all my important papers.”

When Zack was in 3rd grade in a new school (not where Missy worked) and Sam and Melanie still lived out of his school district, they, plus Grandma Baker, moved mountains (modified work schedules, missed meetings, etc.) to get to Zack’s school to drop him off and pick him up on Sam’s parenting days. Missy wanted Zack to ride the PM bus to her first, then Sam could pick him up later. Missy also figured that if Sam couldn’t get Zack to school on the one school morning a week they had together, the Wednesday overnight would have to end. Sam had hopes that this school year would be better for Zack, and his stunted independence, without Missy as a daily intermediary. The average mileage on the days that involved BOTH a pick-up and a drop-off was approximately 170 miles round trip. If Zack had sports practices or school activities, that number was higher. Zack, understandably, sometimes complained about all the time spent in the car and likely saw Sam as the reason, even though Missy was the one who chose to move away. During one trip Zack and Melanie were driving home from Zack’s school and saw lots of houses for sale. They started acting like they were choosing one and would comment on the houses’ yards, curb appeal, etc. Zack stopped the game by saying, “It doesn’t really matter what house I’ll like because the girl will pick it anyway.”

That third grade year was a definite improvement, but Sam and Melanie concluded that a move to Zack’s school district, even though it was farther away from both of their jobs, was worth it for their vulnerable family. Zack could have school friends as neighbors at his dad’s, and he could ride the bus every day — sometimes to Mom, sometimes to Dad. Missy resisted again insisting that Zack was better off following the same bus schedule every day. Even though Zack did eventually stick to the alternating bus plan, at the beginning he complained about missing time with his friends on the other bus. A very familiar refrain continued from both mother and son, always with Sam as the cause of Zack’s hardships.

Now, after two years of uneventful and efficient transportation, there is a new school and another conflict, this one the worst so far. Although the bus routes and schedules are nearly the same, after an entire summer of contact denial, Zack has refused to ride the bus to his dad’s house on what should be their time together as a family.

Who can possibly be blind to this pattern of the neverending grasp for control?

 

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Evolution of contact denial 2006-2017

Missy said:
You can’t pick him up because…
He doesn’t want to come to your house today because…

“You can’t get the the car seat he needs into your car.” (Sam had already visited the police station to have them check Zack’s car seat safety before Missy said this.)

“He has a fever and wants to be with his mommy.”

“He wants a special day with his Grandpa.”

“Melanie doesn’t even like small children.” (Stepmom Melanie worked at a junior high when Zack was a preschooler.)

“A new bus schedule will confuse him too much.” (This when Zack began 4th grade and Sam & Melanie moved to Zack’s school district over the summer — Missy had moved Zack further away from Sam’s house when Zack began kindergarten.)

“He doesn’t like the food at your house.” (See Story #3 “Food Fight”)

“He’s bored at your house.”

“If he’s not with YOU, he should be with me — not Melanie or your mom.” (This when Sam took grad school classes that were sometimes scheduled on Sam’s parenting days. Sam was upset when these conflicts occurred because he hated missing the time with Zack AND because he predicted Missy would object to Zack being with Melanie and/or the Baker grandparents. He was right.)

“He’ll miss being with his cousins.”

“He wants to be with his friends whose parents are MY friends, so YOU can’t take him to their house.”

“You make him read too much.”

“He just doesn’t want to be with you. I’ve told him someday he’ll be old enough to choose. And you’ll see, he’ll never want to be with you.” (Zack was about 6 or 7 years old when Missy said this to Sam for the first time.)

And this summer, Zack said,

“I’m not UNcomfortable at your house, I’m just MORE comfortable at my mom’s.”

“I can’t believe you’ve put me in this position.”
So Zack is without his father. And Sam is without his son.

And Missy claims innocence.

Practice, practice, practice

In a recent text exchange between Sam and his 12 year old son Zack who has chosen, with his mother’s blessing, to refuse time with his Dad this summer, Sam asked how Zack’s baseball practice was.

Zack’s reply, “You’d know if you had been there.”

First of all, this snide response sounds nothing like Zack and everything like his mother, Missy. Zack’s typical reply to a text question like this would be, like many 12 year olds who text at lightning speed, a one-word answer like, “Fine,” or “OK,” or “Good.”

Zack has been playing sports since he was four years old. Missy originally denied Sam any information about Zack’s sports practices and games. Sam had to contact the coaches or the leagues (some of whom had been “warned” about Zack’s Dad by Missy), and he often encountered obstacles when asking for information about his son’s participation. Eventually, along with an order to share medical and school information, the court required Missy to share Zack’s sports league information with Sam. She began obediently providing information, but usually not until the week or the day Zack’s practices or games began, and she has NEVER communicated with Sam when she signs Zack up for activities. When Zack was younger and Sam was still fighting to receive information about his sports’ schedules, Sam would attend Zack’s practices as soon as he heard about them. Missy resented Sam’s presence at these practices if they fell on “her day,” and she told him he was not welcome there. Zack often ignored Sam altogether at these practices, and Missy would go on the field or court to help Zack pack up gear and would hustle him to her car to avoid any contact with Sam. On the flip side, when Sam took Zack to practices on “his day,” Missy, and sometimes the Smith grandparents, would attend and would go so far as to go on the field of play to greet and hug Zack ensuring that the Smith family, unlike the Baker family, could not be ignored. (See “Do the Math,” Story #10)

This recurring kind of situation, created by Missy and the Smith family, is exactly why her behavior is harmful to her own son — a fact she cannot recognize as its creator. Eventually Sam attended few, if any, sports practices on Missy’s days.

So, not only is Zack’s sneering response to Sam’s inquiry out of character, he and Missy have made it perfectly clear in the past that Sam is not wanted at Zack’s practices. (Also keep in mind that coaches and other players’ families witness this dynamic and see Sam and his family put firmly in their place as fringe characters.)

The conversation between Sam, Melanie (Zack’s stepmom), and Grandma Baker (Sam’s mother/Zack’s Grandma) after Sam told them about Zack’s spiteful text and his upcoming first regular season game was this:

Melanie:  If you had called Zack this morning and asked if he’d like you to be at his practice, there is absolutely no doubt that he would have said No.

Grandma Baker:  Does this mean we won’t be welcome at his game next weekend?

Sam:  Mom, we’ve never been welcome.

Smooth moves

Story #14

When Zack began preschool, Missy planned with her father a special Grandpa Smith pickup day on Wednesdays, Sam’s parenting day. When Sam objected, she said that Zack was looking so forward to those special days with his grandfather and that Sam could just pick up Zack at Grandma and Grandpa Smith’s house later — effectively keeping Sam away from the preschool and any school information and contacts he would get. Sam refused to allow this. Missy was furious and told Sam that he would have to disappoint his son by telling him that he was depriving him of this special time with his grandfather.

Missy repeated the exact same devious tactic this year when Zack was twelve (see Story #6 “In the No”). The Smiths planned a Memorial Day party on a weekend Zack was scheduled with his Dad, and they told Zack all about what he would miss if his dad wouldn’t let him go. Zack was, predictably, upset with Sam when he told Zack that there were already plans set with the Baker family, Zack’s paternal grandparents. Zack insisted on going to the party and missing his time with Sam. Missy approved with what became her incessant line, “He’s old enough to choose.” This empowered Zack to continually say no (ironically) to Sam and was the ultimate catalyst for an entire summer of contact denial.

Present – August 16, 2017

…[O]nce you become the target of a Vindictive Narcissist, she will try to destroy you. You may have challenged her superior status in some way you don’t even recognize, and as a result, she needs to prove you the ultimate loser by destroying you. She’ll talk trash about you to friends and family. (CHECK) She might try to get you fired. (CHECK) If she is your ex-wife, she might try to turn your children against you and spend years tying you up in family court. (CHECK).

From: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/shame/201509/5-types-extreme-narcissists-and-how-deal-them (CHECKs are this author’s)

Three updates.

  1. Sam and Melanie, Zack’s dad and stepmom, met with a counselor at Zack’s new school to share information and concern about Zack and this summer’s contact denial as well as the long-term impacts of alienation. The counselor was guardedly supportive and said she would talk to Zack and invite him to join a group of students who meet because of family issues. When Melanie asked if Missy could object to Zack’s involvement and ultimately forbid it, the counselor said that Missy does have the final say (see “Mommy’s in charge,” in Story #2). The counselor went on to say that if his mother recognizes that Zack is negatively impacted by the custody drama, surely she would agree to Zack getting some support. Based on nearly all of Missy’s past predictable behavior, she will not only object, but she will quickly find a way to make Sam pay (wielding Zack) for talking with the counselor which she will see as a violation of her authority. Stay tuned.
  2. Today was the “pre-trial” in county court (the same backward county court system that gave Missy full custody ten years ago). Again, stay tuned.
  3. Now that the school year has begun, the regular weekly parenting schedule should resume. Sam called Zack and Zack actually answered and spoke to him. Zack not only sounded willing to ride the bus to his Dad’s on their established day, but Zack told Sam that he had been talking to a neighbor friend (a neighbor when Zack is at his Dad’s) about playing together. The call ended with Zack saying he “might come,” and he would let Sam know ASAP. Almost immediately after they hung up, Sam received a text from Zack saying he would not be riding the bus home to his Dad’s on Wednesday (today). A conclusion could be drawn that either Missy intervened or Zack is unwilling to be dismissive voice-to-voice, but can reject Sam comfortably via text.

Present – August 10

From: https://www.avoiceformen.com/men/fathers/the-impact-of-parental-alienation-on-children/

Hatred is not an emotion that comes naturally to a child; it has to be taught. A parent who would teach a child to hate or fear the other parent represents a grave and persistent danger to the mental and emotional health of that child.

What began as Zack expressing that he’s not UNcomfortable as his Dad’s, but he’s just MORE comfortable at his Mom’s therefore he wanted to spend Memorial Day weekend with her… has turned into an entire summer of contact denial. Zack’s communication with his Dad has deteriorated. Sam has received fewer and more hostile texts from 12 year old Zack as the summer has progressed. Missy, in rare exchanges with Sam, repeats that she is respecting Zack’s feelings, and that he is old enough to choose to not see his father. As school begins, the regular parenting schedule should resume, but Sam has received no information from Missy or the school district regarding Zack’s transportation plan to and from Sam’s house on what should be their evenings and mornings together.

Meanwhile, no strides have been made in court. Missy received papers in early July regarding the contact denial (which elicited an angry text from Zack to Sam about Zack’s outrage that Sam has “put him in this position”). Missy’s attorney filed for, and won, a continuance. A meeting between attorneys and court officials is finally due to happen on the same week that school begins. Summer 2017 has been an unequivocal loss for Sam and Zack and the entire side of the family that Zack, with Missy’s blessing, has rejected.

Arrogance. Check.

Story #13

From http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/narcissistic-personality-disorder/basics/symptoms/con-20025568

Many experts use the criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association, to diagnose mental conditions.

DSM-5 criteria for narcissistic personality disorder include these features:

Having an exaggerated sense of self-importance
Expecting to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant it
Believing that you are superior and can only be understood by or associate with equally special people
Having a sense of entitlement
Taking advantage of others to get what you want
Having an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others
Behaving in an arrogant or haughty manner
Although some features of narcissistic personality disorder may seem like having confidence, it’s not the same. Narcissistic personality disorder crosses the border of healthy confidence into thinking so highly of yourself that you put yourself on a pedestal and value yourself more than you value others.

Sam went to pick up Zack, and Missy answered the door to tell Sam that Zack was at his Smith grandparents’ house and didn’t want to be with Sam. Sam, again, stressed that Zack’s time with his father’s side of the family is just as important. Missy said, again, that she was simply respecting her 12 year old son’s choice. When Missy was asked about her family helping keep Zack away from Sam (see Story #7 “Beach Vacations” regarding narcissistic alienators’ mob tactics), she said her family was only, “supporting Zack.” Missy was then asked directly, “Do you think your family is better than our family?” Her response was, “Well LOOK at your family.” Which is a definitive, “yes.”

10 and 2

Story #12

From: http://warshak.com/blog/category/overcoming-parental-alienation/
Any aggression that you show, either verbal or physical, will merely play into the hands of your ex. Your behavior will be taken out of context, blown out of proportion, and then used to justify the children’s rejection.

There are countless stories and articles about African American parents who have “the talk” with their children about what to do if they get pulled over by the police. One of the things usually mentioned is the driver keeping their hands on the wheel at the 10 and 2 clock position. And sometimes it still doesn’t matter. Injustice prevails. Alienated dads like Sam grit their teeth and keep their hands at 10 and 2, and it makes no difference. These fathers follow all the rules — don’t get angry, show up even when they know they’ll be rejected, be patient and hope for an enlightened attorney/therapist/judge, etc. Injustice prevails again and again and again. Ex-wives continue to lie and win custody in court. Children become so entrenched in the alienator’s world that re-connecting seems impossible. It’s been 53 years since the US Civil Rights Act was signed, and discrimination remains rampant. Fathers, stepmoms, grandparents, and the CHILDREN suffer at the hands of empowered toxic Narcissists, and are nowhere close to organizing sit-ins, marches, and freedom riders. We scream our little blogs out to 2 or 3 readers and hope it’s a start for small victories and eventual justice. Will someone deliver an “I Have a Dream” speech for alienated families soon? Or ever? Who will listen?

Meanwhile Sam keeps his fists locked at 10 and 2.