The Toxic Parent Quiz

(Warning: Brutal Honesty Ahead)

I have severe obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): things-must-be-placed-“correctly” OCD, “Don’t touch that!” OCD, I-rarely-leave-the-house OCD, I-rattle-doorknobs OCD, and I-often-despise-myself OCD. But I did not kidnap the Lindbergh baby, I did not shoot JFK, I did not vote for Trump, and I did not ruin the Star Wars franchise by making The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi.

In other words, don’t lay the bad things that happen in this going-to-hell-in-a-handbasket world at the feet of my mental disorder. And don’t blame me for your baggage, your issues, your mistakes, and your miserable life. Yes, certain family member, I’m talking to you.

Newsflash: If you want to see the person who makes my wife cry, scream, and curse after she hangs up the phone because you have bullied her into silence and frightened her into pretending everything is fine, take a hard look in the mirror. Take an even harder look in that mirror if you want to see the person who my wife has had to parent since she was just your little girl. Go ahead and tell her again that she should have married someone else, that I was the reason she didn’t visit you when our son was a baby, and that your relationship is a mess because of me. Borrowing a quote about you from my wife, I say, “You’re batshit crazy.”

Another newsflash: Of the 100 times she’s called you, 99 of them were because I, holding the cordless handset, asked her if she should call you. And if you think her visits to see you were her idea, think again.

Ironic, isn’t it?

And that irony begs at least two questions: Why did I encourage my wife to stay in touch with you? and Are you a toxic parent?

The first question is easy to answer and a poor reflection on my ignorance of the nitty-gritty of my wife’s childhood. I wasted so much time projecting my feelings about my relationships with my own, divorced parents onto my wife’s “relationship” with you. Even though I’m grown, I still need my parents in my life . . . in different ways than when I was little, but I miss them terribly, living far away from each of them as I do. I had a hard time believing that my wife has wanted little, if anything, to do with you since before I met her. So I nudged and hinted, but it has been painfully obvious for several years now that my wife’s old scars are still very painful and that you are hell-bent on injecting guilt and heartbreak into her life as you make everything about you. So, I’m not going to hand my beautiful lady the phone any more or encourage her to visit you. That batshit is over.

Answering the second question requires help from Holly Chavez, a freelance writer, journalist, entrepreneur, and woman I have never met. In her article, “13 Signs Of A Toxic Parent That Many People Don’t Realize,” which is available here, she presents 13 situations. I re-formed those situations into a quiz, which my wife took regarding your behavior. After answering yes to 12 of the 13 questions, her conclusion was clear: You are a toxic parent.

For the readers of this post who would like to take my Toxic Parent Quiz, whether about themselves, their parents, or others who touch their lives, here it is:

(Substitute the pronoun “she” to fit the particular situation.)

Does she provide you with affirmation and security?
Is she overly critical?
Does she demand your attention?
Does she make toxic “jokes” about you?
Does she cause you to justify terrible behavior?
Does she not allow you to express negative emotions?
Does she scare even you, her adult child?
Does she always put her feelings first?
Does she co-opt your goals?
Does she use money and guilt to control you?
Does she give you the silent treatment?
Does she ignore healthy boundaries?
Does she make you responsible for her happiness?

For explanations of the 13 situations, as well as suggestions on how to manage toxic persons, click over to Holly Chavez’s article, “13 Signs Of A Toxic Parent That Many People Don’t Realize.” (Source:

Of course, no parent is perfect. No child is perfect. And none of us is entitled to perfection when it comes to family. But imperfection is not toxicity, and at some point it’s ridiculously unhealthy, emotionally speaking, not to distance yourself from that toxic someone or to remove him or her from your life. Easier said than done, I know, but you must try.

I have no doubt that if my mother-in-law created some sort of Loving Daughter or Son-in-law Quiz, my wife and I would fail it with flying colors. We’re both okay with that. What we’re not okay with is the 92.3% (12/13 X 100) chance of regretting answering the phone. At least for now, there’s a 0% chance of that.

Ain’t call blocking great?

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