the more, the merrier? not for the narcissist

I'm getting reminders left and right regarding how messed-up my family is. There was apparently some minor family drama regarding the holiday get-together that my siblings and parents have every year. The tradition in our family is that on even-numbered years, the kids (my sibs, and me until I opted out) and their families visit my parents on Christmas day and have the usual gift exchange and Christmas dinner. On odd-numbered years, the significant others' families get precedence on the 25th and some other weekend is chosen for the family gathering. You are expected to appear for sure on the even years and few things are considered a decent excuse for not appearing on the agreed-upon weekend (i.e., the one my mom has designated) on odd years.

This year, my sister is in a new relationship. She mentioned bringing her new significant other (sis would be spending the 25th with the SO's extended family) and apparently my mom got really quiet and weird. My mother is never quiet. She rules all things, loudly and firmly. So when she's quiet, it means you have successfully thrown her and she's scrambling to regain control of the situation. In this case, she pointed out to my sister that the family doesn't really know the SO. My sister pointed out that this is a good chance to start. Mom countered that this really is a family-only event, and they left it at that. Sis fumed and considered not attending at all (she ultimately decided to go and said that she was going because she needed to have a face-to-face confrontation with la madre about it).

While this is not the most egregious narcissist behavior in the whole world, it's pretty typical for my mom. She is really strange about meeting her kids' friends and significant others. I recalled the time, almost 20 years ago now, when she met my husband, who was then my boyfriend of a mere few weeks. She was picking me up from college and there was really no reason for him not to hang around and meet my mom and say hi. I mean, nice people do that, right? It wasn't like we wanted him to meet her because we were planning to elope or anything. Anyway, he was around, he met her, we chatted for maybe 5 minutes, and then I left with my mom. No big deal, right? Wrong. My mom went on and on about how strange that was, as if there were something wrong with him or with me for the introduction. Later, when we had been dating for years, she was odd about holidays. I wasn't allowed by my mother to spend a holiday with his family until we were engaged (I was still in college and financially dependent upon my parents, and she exerted quite a bit of control). He didn't spend Christmas with my family until after we were married, at which point I guess he was officially "in" enough to be allowed.

When I was a kid, we never just brought a friend home for dinner. In college, we never brought friends home for a school break or a weekend. Other families do these things. Other parents are excited to meet somebody who is important to their kid and welcome them into their home. My husband's family, who has their own dysfunction for sure, is always happy to set another place at the table. Thinking about my kids, I always try to say yet to friends coming over to hang out or spend the night (barring things like previous plans that can't be rearranged, or overnights on school nights). I try to be flexible. I can make dinner stretch farther. I can find a place for somebody to sleep. Someday there may be girlfriends or boyfriends coming home with my kids. Why would I ever, ever turn them away? How would that be good for my relationship with my child, my child's relationship with their friend or loved one, my relationship with the other person?

It occurred to me while talking to my sister that maybe for my mom, it's not really about keeping family gatherings private and family-only. Maybe she's actually uncomfortable around new people? A person should be able to relax and feel comfortable and not have to be "on" in her own home, I can totally see that. But then, if that's the case, why not just say, "you know, meeting somebody new makes me feel a little on edged and stressed-out; can I meet him/her before then?" or "It would be really nice to get to meet them when it's just you and him/her, not the whole chaotic family group, can we get together next weekend?"

I mean, so many ways that my mom could meet her own needs (whatever they are) while still being kind to her kids and inclusive of the significant others. Excluding people without a really good reason only builds ill will. Why would you ever do that? Narcs shoot themselves in the feet and screw up their own good time while alienating their kids.

(Is it awful that I'm kindof hoping that my mom is on bad behavior when my sis confronts her? No word yet on how that went.)

1 comment:

  1. My parents were "OK" with my husband until, after eight years, we got engaged and he officially became family. From then on, the gloves were off and they treated him like shit.

    None of us really liked to have outsiders around at Christmas because that was one time you could 100% count on NF to have a rage of epic proportions. Odds were, he wasn't the center of attention until he sarcastically handed back a carefully chosen gift or went nuts because you poured him a drink 5 minutes before the appointed time.