Narcissist Parents Leave You Too Little and Too Much Space

Amber Fraley
6 min readAug 11, 2021
Image by John Hain from Pixabay

Growing up as a kid with my brother, we learned early to not have friends around too often. My friends had easy going, friendly parents who didn’t mind if the kids got their own snacks or watched whatever they wanted on television. I loved visiting my friends’ homes where it felt relaxed and at ease, which was totally different than our house. Our parents, by contrast, were moody, easily offended and didn’t particularly like it when my friends came over, especially if that meant sharing our resources.

My parents had rules upon rules upon rules, rules that were fussy and weird and didn’t seem to make sense to anyone except my parents. My brother and I knew most of these rules were made out of pure selfishness, either to avoid spending money or just for pure control.

My mother always kept a fruit bowl out, but we weren’t allowed to pick single grapes off the bunch. We were to take smaller bunches from the big bunch, and if a friend of mine happened to be over and wanted some grapes, I had to explain this. Of course my friends could never understand why we didn’t have “normal” Eighties teenage snacks like cookies or chips or Twinkies, which were banned because my parents didn’t approve of my weight. At one point my mother made a rule that I could only use four squares of toilet paper when I went pee because she decided I used too much.

In summer, Dad would sometimes sign us up for Parks and Rec classes, but he never asked what we’d be interested in taking. He’d just sign us up for the classes he hoped would helped with what he saw as our deficiencies. Dad was often irritated with his sensitive son whom my dad thought of as weak, so to him it made sense to sign his son up for karate classes, when my brother just wanted to learn about dinosaurs or rocks. Because Dad thought of me as overweight and unfeminine, he once signed me up for ballet, which I had no interest in. A writing class, though, would’ve been heaven for me. In both our classes we felt awkward and uncomfortable. Karate class didn’t make my brother any tougher. Ballet class did not make me more feminine; if anything I felt like a freak as the tallest, biggest, clumsiest girl in the room.

A couple of times while growing up, my mother redecorated our rooms without saying anything to us. I…

Amber Fraley

Writing about abortion rights, mental illness, trauma, narcissistic abuse & survival, politics. Journalist, novelist, wife, mom, Kansan, repro rights activist.