I was bombarded all week with warnings that if I told my children they were special, I’d be turning them into narcissistic adults. I saw it flash up in Google News. My friends shared it all over Facebook. NPR devoted air time to it.
Having interacted with some narcissistic individuals, I found the prospect alarming. I began to wonder if I fell into the “you are special” parenting camp. I didn’t think so, but… you know, that teenager does have a strong sense of entitlement and a frequent inability to empathize with others. Then again, she’s a teenager. That’s exactly how she’s supposed to be. So maybe that’s not a good indicator.
I wondered about it for several days. Yesterday, no one was going to work or school. A holiday, of sorts. We were not in a hurry to get up or get moving. Around 8:30 or so, Jane came wandering into our room.
“Have we ever told you that you are special?” I asked.
“No,” she said, as she reached down to retrieve her ipod cord she had left in there the day before when she, apparently, took over my bed space as hers.
“Never told you that you are better than anyone else?”
“Never said you deserve special things?”
“No. But I do. I am special. I deserve special treatment.” She grinned and then crawled onto the bed.
“Right. You aren’t special, honey. Not at all.”
“Well, fine. I’m going to go back to my room and cry now.”
“Oh, we love you. I just don’t want you thinking you are anything special.”
About then, Hal came bounding onto the bed.
“Hal,” I said. “You aren’t special.”
“Yes I am!” he responded with way too much sunshine in his voice. “Because I’m just so cute!”
We laughed and messed around, enjoying each other’s company. At one point, in response to something ornery they had done, I said, “You kids are awful.”
“Wow,” my husband said. “In just a few short minutes you guys went from special to not special to awful!”
“No!” I said. “They were never special – remember?!”
“You guys are special to me,” he said.
“This,” Jane said, as she snuggled up to his arm (while stretched across me), “is why I’m a Daddy’s Girl.”
“Fine. You guys are special to me too. Just as long as you understand that you aren’t, like, special. You know.”
Probably not my most subtle parenting, but I think they got the drift. Guess I can check that parenting-panic-of-the-moment off my list. Done.
Oops. Except Daryl. He was still passed out in his bed. Guess I’ll have to give him the news bulletin sometime soon. Then again, he’s a Mama’s boy. He is kind of special. To me, anyway. Is that enough to turn him into a narcissist? I sure hope not. Maybe I’ll say something. Just to be safe.