There were a lot of little things that used to bug me about people. They seemed so trivial. I used to wonder what in the heck was wrong with me. Why would such small things drive me up the wall, make my skin crawl so? I used to think that it was related to my anxiety. That I just had some irritability and little things bothered me. Then, I found narcissism and the puzzle pieces started to come together. Oh! That's what that is! It's a narcissistic trigger. These small things violated some sense of boundaries in me and I felt helpless. Here are a few examples:
I do not make my son give hugs to older relatives if he doesn't want to. In fact, I don't make him hug anyone if he doesn't want. I have always felt it was such a violation to force a child to let some old aunt slobber all over them if the child feels uncomfortable with it. I felt that it taught the child that if an adult tells you that you have to perform a physical act, you need to comply, even if you don't feel good about it. It all felt like a very slippery slope. Now, don't get me wrong. I expect my son to be polite and respectful. I expect that he will greet and say goodbye to adults in our home. But I feel physical contact should be organic. It should come because someone wants to express how they feel...not how someone thinks they should feel. It should be a two-way street.
This really hit home as guests were leaving my son's birthday party this weekend. We went to the door and I asked him to say goodbye. And there was my NMom. She's aggressively hounding and nagging my son. "Go give Grandma a hug goodbye! Give Grandpa a hug! Tell Grandma you love her! Tell Granny you love her!" She's barking orders, putting words in his mouth. It makes me skin crawl when she tells him exactly what he is supposed to say. I say "please say goodbye to your grandmother." and let him decide how to do it. She says, "Tell your grandmother goodbye and that you lover her. Tell her 'see you soon'. Tell her 'thanks for the gift'!" I want my son to find his own words to say these things. And most often, he is perfectly capable of forming his own sentences. Yes, sometimes he needs a prompt to remember his manners, but I want the words to be his. He's like a puppet on her string. Drives me insane. And when she starts pushing the hugs, I really get annoyed. I can vividly remember being forced to hug some strange relative I'd never met and feeling...well, icky. Not because of some sexually perversion. Just because it felt wrong to hug someone I didn't know. So, I don't make my kid give hugs. When he hides behind me, I don't push him forward the way my in-laws do to my niece. I endure the nasty looks. I don't care. The command to "come give ME a hug" is just not something we do in this home unless we want to. And frankly, why don't people ask if they can give the child a hug, instead of demanding it from the child.
I also do not make my child pose for photos. Yes, I sometimes ask a couple of extra times, if I really want a nice photo of a special occasion. But I hate when the grandmothers push and nag my child for a photo. This past weekend, during the party, my son was getting sick. He did not feel well and was sitting on the couch. My MIL and Mom pounced. "Come take a picture for me!" He replied he didn't want to. They pushed and pushed. "Why can't you take a picture? Grandma wants to take a picture of you so she can show all her friends when they come over to her house!". Huh. I'm guessing the three year old could care less that you want to show off for your friends. I'm sure your wishes and desires are the last thing on his mind. The fact that she thought that her showing off to her friends was enough of a compelling reason to jump up, plaster a phony smile, and do what she asked irritated me. And it never occurred to her to say to her 'precious' grandson that she wanted to take a photo of him because she wanted a reminder of HIM in her home. It was all about her. But again, I am the bad guy for having such a rebellious child, and I don't care. Why all this phoniness? Posed pictures that depict a reality that isn't true so we can show off for people we don't care about? Nope.
I also can't stand when people tell me my son is the spitting image of his dad. Or that he looks just like his Dad when his Dad was little. Or, the worse, he is a "mini-daddy". Why would this bother me so much? I wondered what kind of horrible person wouldn't want their son to look like their handsome dad? And, honestly, he does look like his dad. Spitting image? No. Mini-anybody? No. He has traits of lots of family members. What bugged me was the labeling of my son before he even has a chance to develop. Expectations and ideas that are put on him without any thought to his inner person. That he had to be a little copy of someone. That no one was looking at his individuality. I know lots and lots of people find the similarities of children and their parents. But it struck a nerve with me that people just couldn't let them be. I don't mind the occasional comment. But the ones who go on and on and on and won't let it go irritate me. My MIL, who I know somehow sees the reincarnation of her "golden child" in my son, irritates me. She in fact, felt it was her job to dictate to me and my SIL who could have the first grandchild and I know it was because she wanted to set up some ideal situation and lay the groundwork for her "golden grandchild". And on my husbands whole side of the family, I often feel like little more than an incubator to them, so to have them never acknowledge that I have any part in the "golden grandchild" and that his "ALL (my husband's last name)" is annoying.
My mom is the worst with her comments. She is obsessed with who the kids look like. She has never acknowledged my children look like me at all. She loves to comment how my kids look like my sister. How they could be my sister's kids. Secretly, I bet she wishes they were the golden child's. She loves to tell me how my son reminds her of my deceased great grandfather. Not because they actually look alike or have some quality in common. It's just "something about him". It's weird and creepy, the way she says it and the 'knowing' smile she has. (Which isn't a knowing smile at all. It's the smile she uses when she wants to ACT like she holds some secret knowledge that none of us has. In reality, she's very seldom able to see passed the surface of anything.) She also likes to tell me that I'm a "mini" her. That I dress just like her and decorate my house just like her. That I parent just like she did. She's always claiming I parent just like she did. Unless it's something she doesn't like. Then, I'm just like my Dad. She often has my stepfather claim I'm a mini-her. Fact is, he doesn't know me at all. He only knows what she tells him about me. The half-truths, lies, and manipulations she tells him. How do I know she does this? One, she tells me lies, half-truths, and manipulations about HIM (as well as everyone else) in order to look make herself good (as well as everyone else). And two, my sister has told me the lies mom's told her about me. And so help me god, I hope I am nothing like her. I told my dad one time that she called me a 'mini-her'. He was surprised that it bothered me. "Why would I want to be a mini-anybody dad? Why can't I just be me?"
So, I think I've rambled in a million directions with this post. It's funny how one memory triggers another. And then another light bulb goes off. The puzzle pieces fall into place and one piece leads to the addition of another and soon you can see the whole narcissistic picture.