1. What was the most surprising thing about becoming a parent?
How satisfying it was to be able to meet the needs of my daughter and that I’d want to do so even at 3 a.m. when she was crying. This doesn’t mean I wasn’t exhausted and tired as hell. But I’d worried so much about what I might be lousy at or unable to do well. I had failed to predict how easy some of it would be, how natural and rewarding it could and did feel.
2. Tell us about one of your proudest parenting moments.
It’s when my daughter is soothing or attending to a younger child, especially my cousin’s son. She talks in a sing song voice or takes his hand and is loving, attentive and responsible. Sometimes I’ll catch her repeating things I say. I love that. And I hope it means she’s that gentle, patient and tender with herself when she’s needy or fearful. Plus, when she was a toddler she’d say, “I can do it myself. With help.” She saw no contradiction in being independent and asking for help. It took me much longer to learn this.
3. Was it difficult for you to participate in this project? What strength did you pull from to get past the fear and contribute?
It was hard to write an essay that is honest, respects the privacy of my kid but where I tell the truth about how challenging aspects of parenting have been. And to focus in on only one aspect. Also, my kid is now 13 and so knowing this would get published was another factor in my having a direct conversation about being a survivor, what that means and finding the right time, place and space to say that. Now that my story can be found on a Google search that reality couldn’t be pushed back any more. The strength I drew from is my firm belief that children feel more than they know. Adding facts, age appropriate and specific to the kid and trusting my instincts in my own parenting are balanced with the need for breaking silence in a bigger way so that parenting is easier for others who are also survivors.
4. Do you believe participating in this project has changed you in any way? If so, how?
Absolutely. It has put me in touch with SO MANY others. I had not known any other survivor parent writers who were “out” and when I saw Dawn’s article and heard about this project I was literally overjoyed. It’s been a part of an amazing survivor community explosion and it’s wonderful. Game changing. Liberating. Powerful.
5. What is the greatest lesson you have learned from your children?
I’m a mother and the way I became one is through adoption. Adoption means there was a loss for the child. At least one. Of first family, maybe first culture too. I don’t want to minimize any of that. It’s big. But as a parent, what I love about adoption is that I don’t go into my relationship with my daughter presuming to know who or how she is or assuming x, y or z trait is from this person or that. It’s her. She’s her. It allows me to know and love her as she unfolds. And honestly, I think I’d love better if I did this more in all of my relationships. Sometimes I remember. Other times I do not.
6. When you are not writing or parenting, what do you love to do?
Write. Drink iced coffee. Chew gum. Lean into warm towels just out of the dryer. Read or hear poetry or Moth or TedTalks. Spend time with the people in my inner circle. Preferably sharing a meal or sitting under a blanket or by a fire with dog or cats close.
“The little girl I was wasn’t as confident as my own child is now. Sometimes I watch, stare and marvel.
Sometimes I worry I am parenting to my voids rather than her gifts.
How can I keep my distorted old beliefs from seeping through my floor boards where my daughter’s bare feet cross?”
Little Girl Riding Shotgun in My Psyche
Christine Cissy White
Trigger Points: Childhood Abuse Survivors Experiences of Parenting
Christine “Cissy” White knows blogs, speaks and consults about the healing power of writing, the lifelong impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences, and how breaking the silence helps break the cycle of violence. She’s been published in The Boston Globe, Ms. Magazine online, Spirituality & Health and To Write Love on Her Arms. She’s a columnist at Elephant Journal who is co-authoring the book, “Your Childhood is Making You Fat, Sick and Dead: Write to Heal” with Nancy Slonim Aronie. She facilitates free-writing groups at The Heal Write Now Center in Weymouth, MA. Daily joys are mothering, friendship, poetry, hand-holding and time in nature and with pets.