If you're trying to figure out if you have a narcissistic parent, there are lots of nifty checklists in self-help books to help you do just that.
Basically, you score your parent on a whole bunch of different traits. Things they do or say or don't do.
There's one I'd like to add.
Would you, could you....ever go to your parent for comfort if you ever had a problem?
How would they react if you did?
How would you feel after you confided in them?
I never, ever would have taken a problem to my mother or father.
I quickly learned, probably as a young child, that no comfort would be forthcoming. In fact, I discovered I then had the additional burden of reassuring them it wasn't a big deal and that they shouldn't worry. Later, I realized that any drama I might have would turn into their drama.
***When I was around ten, I had to have a growth removed from my forehead. This required an overnight stay at the hospital and a biopsy. My self-centered adoptive mom carried on saying, "You don't know what you're putting me through" and generally making a fuss about how terribly worried and upset she was because the growth might be cancerous (it was not). Apparently not worried enough to stay overnight with me at the hospital. This she refused to do because it was, "too boring" and uncomfortable. Adoptive Dad had the good sense to realize this made them look like bad parents, but he couldn't make her stay although he tried. They even argued about this. He couldn't stay because he needed a good night's sleep because he had to work the next day. It fell to me to reassure them that I'd be fine by myself. I presented a cheerful face to them and the nurses.
***When I was around sixteen, my much beloved first boyfriend broke up with me. I held it together long enough to escape into the house, where I burst into tears. Amom rushed into the living room and asked me what the hell was wrong. So I explained. She was furious. About as angry as I'd ever seen her. How dare I scare her like that? She thought I'd been raped, the way I was carrying on. Then she slapped me. And sent me to my room. "For God's sake, he's just a guy. Get over it." Any mention or tear shed for him earned me an angry lecture. So I had to hide my misery.
***Fast forward to middle age. I mentioned to Adad that I was acting distracted because I was worried about a biopsy I'd just had and was waiting for the results. He panicked. "What's going to happen to me if you die?" he demanded. "You're all I got!" I asked if he shouldn't be more worried about his poor granddaughters who would be left motherless. He said, "Forget them, they have their father to take care of them. If you die, I've got nobody." So much for any comfort. He then called, repeatedly, to ask for the results of the biopsy...which only added to my stress. When I told him my good news (negative), he said, "Thank God!" and said, "You don't know what you've put me through," then announced he had to hang up and take a nap because he, "could finally relax."
See how this works? Or didn't work. No comfort. No reassurance. No sage advice or wise words to help their child through a tough time. There will be no hugs or cards or phone calls to say, Just Thinking of You. They will not ask, What Do You Think About All This? or Gee, You Must Be So Worried." There will be no acknowledgment of your pain or whatever challenge you face. There is only them and what they "are going through."
Maybe this works differently in other dysfunctional homes with a narcissistic parent. Don't know. Maybe the kid gets a free pass when it comes to illness and the child finally gets some quality attention. I have a cousin with a narcissistic mother. She dealt with this by never admitting she was sick, even if she was staggering around with the flu. She even "worked sick" and dragged herself to school sick as a dog.
As always, please feel free to leave a comment if you have any observations or any experience you'd like to share.