When raised in a narcissistic family, there is a strong message that you are valued for what you do rather than for who you are. This causes long-term devastating effects because children are not taught to focus on building a solid sense of self. Children in these families spend their childhood energy twirling to get parental love and approval, doing for and taking care of their parents. As discussed in prior posts, the hierarchy in these families is skewed. In a healthy family it is the parental role to take care of the children not vice versa.
I also think about how we strive for this perfection ourselves during the holidays. We seem to easily raise the bar on our expectations of idealized scenes of perfect gatherings, beautifully prepared food, just the right gifts, lovely decorated houses and of course super model weight loss that should happen before next week. If we are not currently Wonder Woman or Superman, we must morph quickly.
For adults these kinds of expectations can cause unnecessary stress, depression and anxiety. Then we also start labeling ourselves as good or bad and self-esteem can be knocked down with each thing we can’t perfect. Do we really want to create all this for our kids and ourselves? What could be a greater gift to us all than to practice compassion and love without this pressure to be perfect.
My Santa doesn’t bring coal or watch children with an evil eye expecting not one pout or cry. Does yours? I envision Santa flying overhead modeling love, the spirit of giving, and showing empathy towards those things he sees that need improvement. Remember Santa even stopped bullying when Rudolph was having problems with his peers. He didn’t tell Rudolph to get over it already and pretend that all is well. He didn’t say, “ You better not cry, you better not pout.” He didn’t demand perfection. He said instead, “ You can guide my sleigh tonight, red nose and all!” Ahhh!
I was often compared unfavorably to one of my cousins, and the 2 girls who lived next door. My cousin and one of the girls who lived next door were a year ahead of me in school. The other girl next door was at least 2 years older than me. Looking back at it now, I realize how unfair it was because one year is a big deal in developmental terms for children.
I even have a Santa memory about it from when I was probably about 5. My family is Christian and we celebrate Christmas. At the time I didn’t know that not everyone was Christian and not everyone celebrated Christmas. When I was talking to the 2 neighbor girls about Christmas, I asked them they were asking Santa for. The one closest to my age simply replied, “he doesn’t come to our home.” My neighbors at the time are Jewish. But I didn’t know that and I kind of freaked out a bit. I thought if my neighbors who my mother kept holding up as examples didn’t merit a visit from Santa, I was definitely getting coal in my stocking! But I didn’t know what to say to my neighbors about it. Even at that age I sensed it would be rude to ask why. So I asked my mother when I got home and she explained some of the different religions and their religious celebrations. Our families invited each other to part take in each other’s celebrations. That’s one of the things I think my mother handled well.
But not the comparisons, especially when they were so skewed. Ironically, she hated it if any of my teachers (I’m older than my brother) tried to compare him unfavorably to me. She would remind them we were different children and that I was older.