Was I Sometimes Raised as a Golden Child?

I have been feeling really off lately. I keep having flashbacks. I also keep having what I’d describe as flashforwards, where I imagine my parents’ reaction to the different possible outcomes of the long-term care situation. These then lead to more flashbacks. One particular flashback I keep having is to a phone conversation I had with my mother when I’d just been admitted to the mental hospital in 2007, or maybe it was shortly before then. She yelled at me “You can’t even wipe your butt without your support worker there”. While this was and still is exaggerated, I do have issues with my personal hygiene, including sometimes with toileting.

I have noticed that there’s a lot of shame attached to my needs. Like, there is this constant nagging voice in my mind saying that I really do manipulate everyone into giving me more care. After all, am I not getting by? This part of me is telling me to erase everyone from my life and just go live on my own, since even if I lived with my husband and no support, there was still my husband to be manipulated.

I was discussing all this with my nurse practitioner last Thursday. He said even if I do manipulate people (and I no doubt do, as does everyone else), these people also let themselves be manipulated. Like, if they have an attitude like they’d rather help me with every little thing than endure my frustration, it’s no wonder I become dependent.

There was this show on Dutch television last Sunday about a second grade class. I didn’t see it, but a term used in it that was repeated often throughout the week, was “curling mother”. I have no idea whether that’s the correct English term, but it refers to a parent who helps their child with everything until they’re eighteen and then magically expects them to have learned independence and leave the nest. My nurse practitioner was reminded of this when I described my parents. It feels odd, because even though yes my parents did help me with every little thing, this expectation that I move out at eighteen was made very explicit from an early age on. It wasn’t like my parents were hoovering over me not realizing that they’d not be there for me forever. In fact, I’m pretty sure they couldn’t wait for me to move out. It just ugh, feels so off. Like I was spoiled somehow because my parents did everything for me.

At this point, I remember a discussion in an inner child healing group in which the original poster commented on some author or speaker saying that the golden child of narcissistic parents suffers a lot. This person was confused, because the golden child is the child favorited by the narcissistic parent, the child who doesn’t get abused (or so it seems). Some people said that the golden child suffers a lot because, well, they are only the narcissist’s favorite as long as they live up to their perfect standards.

I was raised in a household where the golden child/scapegoat roles reversed repeatedly. For those not aware, the scapegoat is the main target of obvious abuse in a narcissistic family. As such, I can relate to a lot of golden child attributes. Like, I was often praised excessively, bragged about and let off the hook. Then again, I was, and this was always very clear, expected to livve up to my parents’ perfect-image plan for me. Once I stopped doing this, I was placed in a clearer scapegoat role.

It still feels off to think of myself as having been spoiled. I know Pete Walker says spoiling is a severe kind of trauma too. However, in society, it is often treated like the spoiled child is to blame for being spoiled. And they definitely aren’t. Only as adults can they choose to undo the effects of this trauma, but they have to admit it first. I have to accept this.

Good Mother Messages

I am currently working in the book The Emotionally Absent Mother by Jasmin Lee Cori. My first response to it was: why mothers? I was, after all, raised primarily by my father in my early years. Since my mother didn’t breastfeed me, I’m not even sure she was there much at all when I was an infant. Besides, I spent the first three months of my life in hospital, so didn’t have either parent as a primary caretaker then. As such, my main reason for downloading the book was to work through emotional hurts from my past regardless of which parent inflicted them on me.

In the first chapter, the author talks about “good enough” parenting. She goes on to list “good mother messages” children raised by good enough mothers received. Today, I want to share these and my thoughts on them.

1. I’m glad that you’re here. This message shows that as a child we’re wanted. It isn’t black-or-white though, since many children feel unwanted at times, but this message can be countered by a greater sense of being wanted. Some clear memories pop up into my mind now. The countless times my parents, mainly my mother, threatened to institutionalize me when I attended a school for the blind as a non-residential student from age nine to twelve. Also, when I was fourteen, I was rejected for a summer camp and had a meltdown. At some point, my parents were angry and so was I. I said they’d just as well put me in a children’s home, at which point my father said: “None wants you.”

2. I see you. This message is conveyed through our parents knowing what we’re interested in, how we feel about things, etc. I am not sure about this one. On a deep, emotional level I feel consistently unseen, but no clear memories pop up. My father was relatively tuned in to my interests.

3. You are special to me. The author points out here that this message needs to be paired with us being seen for who we are. Yes, so true. I was seen as special, a genius even, by my mother, but only for superficial achievements such as calendar calculation. I hated this.

4. I respect you. God, this one strikes a chord. The author explains that a parent who sends this message, allows the child to discover and express their unique self rather than having to conform to the parents’ blueprint for them. One particular memory comes up, which isn’t a traumatic memory but is a funny example of the larger scheme of things. When I thought I was a lesbian at age fifteen, I tried to figure out whether my parents would be open to this before coming out. My mother said: “I accept you as you are, even if you turn out to be a conservative.” Well, that said enough: she didn’t accept me as I am.

5. I love you. As the author says, some children hear this multiple times a day, while others go a lifetime without hearing these words. They also need to be felt as sincere. In my case, my mother would often say “I love you” when we’d just had an argument. She was physically affectionate, but it was usually in a ritualized way. Like, I was given a goodnight kiss each night until I was at least twelve. One memory in this respect, happened when I was around eleven. My parents required me to read a certain number of pages of a Braille book. If I didn’t finish them, I could go to bed but without a kiss or any affection. This is probably a relatively minor incident, but it is again a sign of how affection was used generally.

6. Your needs are important to me. You can turn to me for help. This one is a mixed bag. I was helped, yes, sometimes too much so, but I wasn’t taught how to do things on my own. Then once I turned eighteen, my parents expected me to be fully independent. My needs are currently definitely not important to my parents. As I sometimes half-jokingly say, they fed me for eighteen years and then they thought their job was done.

7. I am here for you. I will make time for you. See above. Until I was eighteen, my parents were a relatively consistent presence in my life. They never actually institutionalized me and they’re still together. Then when I turned eighteen, they said I had to take care of myself and more or less vanished. This was clear to me from an early age on, too. As my father at one point told me, a family is like a business, it has to be run efficiently.

8. I’ll keep you safe. I am not sure. This one feels odd on a deep, emotional level. One memory that pops up though, is my parents consistently blaming me for being the victim of bullying. My parents also were pretty much the opposite of helicopter parents. Like I said, they were hardly involved in my life past age eighteen. Not that I care much now, but it feels as though I was hardly protected by my parents. The author says that those who don’t receive this message, feel small and unable to explore the world. Yes!

9. You can rest in me. I’m not sure. I don’t understand this message really. It conveys feeling at home with your parents. Definitely not. However, I don’t feel like I can be at home with anyone.

10. I delight in you. This one is mostly conveyed in non-verbal ways, of which I’m not aware due to being blind. As a result, I’m not sure of this one.