Children, to the narcissist, are like kegs of narcissistic supply. You tap them when you need to quench your thirst for attention and admiration, stashing them away when you go to drink somewhere else.
Narcissistic fathers only spend time with their children when it will fulfill some narcissistic need. As a kid, you catch on quickly and learn not to say to your dad, “Hey, you want to help me build this model?” He’d just stare as if you asked him to help you rob a bank. With a disgusted shake of his head, he’d go back to watching golf on TV.
But a narcissistic father will presume you’re interested in whatever he’s interested in. Which makes sense, because according to the way he thinks, who wouldn’t want to be just like him? So the child of a narcissist may find themselves one day heading for the last place they want to go.
Like a baseball field.
My Narcissistic Father’s Attempt to Make a Mini-Me
Both of my parents are narcissists who divorced when I was six. I resided primarily with my mother and spent every other weekend at my father’s. One Saturday my father arrived unannounced. He had me get in the back seat of his car and said “Here, catch”
An over-sized, leather baseball mitt landed in my lap.
“Uh-oh” I thought.
Back then, my father was a prominent businessman in the town bordering my mothers. So he didn’t take me to little league tryouts where my friends would be. Instead, he took me to the field in the next town over where all his business contacts’ kids were trying out.
See, my father was some hotshot—by his accounts—baseball player in high school and college. Since I was his son, he figured that I’d have the same talent. So he took me to where he could show me off by having his kid mirror his talent. Essentially, he was looking for me to outperform all his friends’ kids so people could see how great he was.
He really should have played at least one game of catch with me first.
When You Don’t Measure Up
I was nine years old. I only possessed enough hand eye coordination to get my fork into my mouth two out of every three tries. We arrived at the baseball field. Packs of boys roamed about.
The coaches sent us kids onto the field to warm up by playing catch. Everyone paired up with their friends. I didn’t know a soul. One of the coaches directed me to play three way catch with a pair of kids.
“You take good care of him, Tommy,” shouted my dad from the fence. “That’s my boy.”
“Well,” said Tommy laughing. “Maybe we should make him bat boy, then.”
“Screw you, T,” said my dad. “He’s a chip off the old block.”
One of the kids threw to me, the chip. The ball sailed past my glove.
“What the f*ck you doing Chase,” my dad shouted. “You have to catch it.”
I picked up the ball. When I threw it, it landed exactly in the middle of the other two kids. They stared at me in disbelief.
Coach Tommy was laughing. “Chip off the old block, Don? You ain’t kidding.”
“Jesus Christ,” my dad shouted.
I did lousy at fielding and missed all twenty pitches while batting. It felt like all the other fathers were laughing at me while I was out on the field. Dad disappeared before much of the morning passed.
At the end of the tryouts, I found him slumped down in the front of the car as if he were hiding. It wasn’t noon yet, but he was already drinking a beer. I asked if I could get a piece of pizza from the concession stand. He gave me a sour look and said, “Just get your ass in the car.”
He spun gravel pulling out of the lot. I thought he’d take me to his house; however, he dropped me back off at my mother’s, not even stopping the car fully as I got out.
When The Narcissistic Supply Runs Dry
Much to my father’s dismay, I actually made a team. We were the worst team in the league and I was the worst player. I’m not sure how many games my father showed up for—my mother didn’t come to any.
There were no more declarations of “That’s my boy!” that season. Dad didn’t want me as a mirror if all I reflected back was baseball incompetence. He didn’t have the chance to use me to pump up his false self. As a source of narcissistic supply, I had run dry.
Putting me in a baseball uniform was never about me learning the sport. It was about how dad could use me to inflate himself. If it were about me learning how to play ball, Dad would have played catch with me and taught me how to hit. But teaching me the game never crossed his mind.
That’s because he expected me to be born with his athleticism. When it became apparent that I didn’t possess a natural ability at sports, I became useless as a mirror for his grand vision of himself. So when my brother was born—a natural athlete—he began introducing me as his “first and worst son.”
Narcissistic fathers don’t do things with their kids so they can spend quality time together. They only spend time with them for attention. Either they want to use the occasion to show off something they do well or impress others by showing that they do things with their kid. It’s always about maintaining an image—their false image.
And that’s all that matters to the narcissist.
On a side note, my father didn’t take me back for a second season. He didn’t even ask if I wanted to play. Years later, after a decade long estrangement, I told him my boys are pretty good baseball players. He asked where they got the talent. I just stared straight ahead with a slight smile and said, “Not from me.”
As you look back on your childhood, reflect on those moments when you were criticized by your narcissistic parent.
Was the criticism about you? Or was it that you weren’t conforming to some image your parent wanted you to reflect back at her?
Realizing the truth can be a healing experience.
My wish for you is to heal and love yourself.
Peace be with you.
How did your parents use you as a mirror? Tell us about it in the comments below.