Parenting after Centrepoint
I thought my CP stuff was sorted for many years. I could talk about it with friends if it came up in conversation - though of course it rarely did - and I had discussed it with a therapist in the past. It didn't feel like much of an issue. I really thought I had processed it.
It wasn't until the year that my oldest child was seven and I was observing life so intimately through the eyes of a seven year old, that it all came flooding back in waves that I had not experienced before. I was a seven year old when I lived at Centrepoint. Until my child was seven I had not really been up, close and personal with a seven year old other than myself. I really had no idea, until I was there as a parent, what life looked like from a seven year old angle. In that year I was able to see the innocence, the vulnerability, the dependency and the needs of a seven year old unfolding before me. My mind (to my distress) kept trying to transpose upon my child's day to day the traumas I had experienced at Centrepoint. It was a very real juxtaposition of my own strong needs to protect my child and the revelation of how utterly I had not been protected at the same stage of my development. Frankly, these two things sitting side-by-side one another for a whole year was too much, and what had formerly been a collection of painful memories which I could repress when they infrequently arose, suddenly had a life of their own, rising unbidden over and over again, and intruding unpleasantly into my present.
Quite coincidentally, that year (2015) was also the year that Anke Richter produce her article for North & South. This was the turning point that enabled me to start to unwrap the forgotten emotion, and find the seven year old child I had been hiding from for all those years. I sought out people to help me unpack it all, and in that journey I had many conversations with many people, a lot of whom also had memories of negative experiences at Centrepoint. Their experiences, insights and pain informed and balanced my own. The culmination of this was the development of this website. These many different conversations with many different people enabled me to take the heartbreak of my seven-year-old self, and transform it into something entirely new, and a lot less painful.
So, that brings me back to parenting, and my unfortunate seven year old child, who landed inadvertently into the middle of my pain. Suddenly I found I needed to read alot of parenting books, to negotiate a way forward. One of these books was 'Parenting from the Inside Out' by a well known American paediatrician called Daniel Siegel, along with a colleague of his, Mary Hartzell, an educationalist. They talk in depth about how our own issues interfere with our parenting, and how our patterned, reactive and unconscious responses to the painful experiences in our past (triggered by our interactions with our children who are naive to the back-story) can neurologically impair the development of our children's brains. This book is an invitation to sort out our shit, if not for ourselves, then for our children:
"Emotional relating requires a mindful awareness of our own internal state as well as being open to understanding and respecting our child's state of mind. We need to see a situation from our child's point of view as well as our own. When we are unaware of our own emotions or paralysed by leftover issues and the emotional reactions that come from them, this can be very hard to do.... We often have leftover and unresolved issues from which we react in "knee-jerk" ways that immediately impair the opportunity for joining with our child in an attuned way... Children are particularly vulnerable to becoming the targets of our projection of our non conscious emotions and unresolved issues. Our defensive adaptations from earlier in life can restrict our ability to be receptive and empathic to our child's internal experience. Without our own reflective self-understanding process engaged, such defensive parental patterns of response can produce distortions in a child's experience of relating and reality."
I have been working hard to understand how the negative experiences of my childhood have shaped my reactions to the here and now. I have strived to find objectivity and to learn to be responsive to my hurt and history, rather than simply reactive - or worse, explosively reactive. Without seeing how and why we do what we do, we cannot hope to short-circuit the process of passing down our pain to the little ones who follow after us. Along with this I have been searching to understand what was passed on to me, how I am in a cog in the wheel of generational responses that are self-perpetuating and destructive. I have been trying, in my bird-with-a-broken-wing kind of way, to reconnect with and understand the parents who I was dependent on at that time, who let me down so badly. I know it is an extraordinarily complex endeavour to find a way forward through this stuff - and our children may well be the only good reason to do so - to continue to interact with our parents, who may well never say sorry. They may never acknowledge how their choices resulted in their children coming to serious harm at Centrepoint. For some of us, complete ending of those relationships is the only way. For others, that is simply not an option.
Where ever you are at with trying to find a way to exist with your parents, and your children, outside and beyond the heritage of the past (that often seems determined to climb back into the present), I wish you well with the struggle.