Monday, August 23, 2010

"Parenting with Grace" by the Popcaks: A Book Review

Parenting with Grace: The Catholic Parents’ Guide to Raising Almost Perfect Kids, 2nd Edition, by Gregory K. Popcak, PhD., and Lisa Popcak, and a foreward by Dr. Bill and Martha Sears, is an authoritatively written text outlining everything the authors believe a family should do in order to bring up their children in a Catholic way.

The Popcaks offer practical solutions to many of the difficult situations faced by parents, including sleep problems, tantrums, dating, and technology, within the framework of the Catholic faith. Every chapter has quizzes for parents to see how they are doing in a certain area, as well as suggestions for how to improve.

Integrating The Theology of the Body and the philosophy of attachment parenting into every chapter, the Popcaks make a good case for their method of parenting. They show us why Catholicism can and should be a part of how we parent, and how it should set us apart as a special breed. They argue that, because Catholics believe in learning by natural law, science and the Catholic way should work hand-in-hand to show us what is the best way to raise our kids, from breastfeeding in infancy to sending our teenagers off to college.

After outlining the basics of Catholic parenting, the Popcaks go into great detail on each stage of development: infancy, toddlerhood, early childhood, school-age childhood, and the teenage years. They talk about faith development, sibling rivalry, childhood fears, dealing with technology, and working parents. I thought it was amazing that they were able to touch on so many various topics. This book is in touch with the modern parent and issues of today, and yet the authors are not afraid to put forth opinions that many will disagree with.

The Popcaks never say any of this will be easy. Their suggestions for improvement are rather methodical and specific. While most of what they say resonates with my own family values, I think that it would be difficult for many families to follow their instructions on improving family life. However, I do think their methods would work for parents that are set on fixing the things that have not been working in their family.

Be forewarned that their point of view is Conservative Catholic; if you are not looking for this then you will not appreciate the book. If you disagree with the attachment parenting espoused by Dr. Bill and Martha Sears, which includes co-sleeping, breastfeeding, and carrying your baby in a sling, you might have a difficult time with the book; or, you might start to see these practices in a different light.

The book end with chapters devoted to natural family planning, motherhood, fatherhood, marriage, and family maintenance. Appendixes include “The Natural Institution of the Family” by Herbert Ratner, M.D., and “Ten Reasons We Can’t Spank: A Catholic Examination of Corporal Punishment”.

I highly recommend this book for all Catholic families with kids of all ages.
This review was written as part of the Catholic books reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Parenting With Grace, 2nd Edition.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Send-Off

“Promise me you won’t swim on the ocean side,” my husband warned our thirteen-year-old daughter. She was packing to visit her friend on Fire Island overnight.

A few days prior, we had a small scare with my son at the ocean beach at Smith Point. The kids were within yards of me and my eldest daughter yelled over that it looked like her brother was having trouble.

She came over to hold my four-year-old’s hand while I dove under the first breaking wave and got to where he was. He was swimming against the riptide, hard, and getting tired.

Another wave was coming. “Quick – dive under it” I warned. We both took a tumble under it – when we came up we were right next to each other and I guided him to shore. The lifeguard had us in his sights and was ready to dive in to assist if necessary.

I asked him to take a drink of water and lie down for a while. He was a little shaken, as was I. The rest of the time he chose to dig tunnels in the walls of sand, and I kept our little one busy making sand castles while watching my two older daughters and their friend like a hawk.

I worried about my daughter’s upcoming trip, knowing that the riptide would be worse on the barrier beach and I would be a ferry-ride away. As much as I love the beach, I was glad when it was time to go.

Monday morning I took her to the ferry. Her baby sister came to see her off. We were the first ones on line, and I had to fight not to cry as the time for her departure came upon us. She is a big girl, taller and stronger than I, with a good head on her shoulders. Yet sending her off to sea was a big step for me.

One of her friends was dropped off to leave on the same ferry, and I was glad she would have company on the way there. I gave her a big hug and asked me to please call me when she got safely to the other side. The gates opened, and they walked through, crossed the ramp onto the boat, and seated themselves on the top – on the opposite side, where I couldn’t see them.

My four-year-old and I waited for the boat to leave. We watched it as it got smaller and smaller, until we could no longer see it. I saw her going off to high school – which she will be doing in two weeks – and eventually leaving for college.

When I got home, my husband heard me sniffling in the kitchen. “What’s the matter?,” he asked.

“What – you don’t know?” I finally answered.

“Don’t worry – she’ll be fine,” he comforted me.

“No it’s not that so much – it’s just hard to send her off like that when I’m so used to all my kids being close to me.”

“She’ll always be our baby, no matter how big she gets,” he said, completely understanding my thoughts.

Saturday, August 7, 2010


“CAUTION STRONG RIPTIDES NO SWIMMING ALLOWED” the sign read at Smith Point, our nearest ocean beach. It was 5:30 PM; the lifeguards were just leaving and we were just arriving, avoiding the $8 parking fee that is charged until 5:00.

Walking along the boardwalk that is adjacent to the Flight 800 Memorial, lined with flags representing the countries of origin of those who went down in the controversial plane crash, we watched as the lifeguards waved all the people to shore. As soon as the lifeguards were off the beach, the people waded back in.

Looking down over the guardrails, we could see new fences that had been put around the boulders at the base of the boardwalk’s foundations. There was now a twenty-foot drop from the boardwalk to the beach below. Last year this time, those boulders were not visible and the sand had almost reached the level of the boardwalk. This was all the work of erosion, and it was fortunate for us beachgoers that the beach was even open for our enjoyment.

The kids were excited by the wild waves, which became deceptively calm as they came closer to shore. As a former lifeguard who has had herself to be assisted in the riptide at Montauk Point, I have a very healthy respect of the ocean. I held on tight to my four year old with two arms and watched my three older ones like a hawk – they were instructed to go no deeper than the knees and no farther than ten feet from me.

We all went together for a sandwich break behind a sandhill, which had been built by the lifeguards to keep their watch stand in place. They all began building a sandcastle, and I was able to lay there, admiring their youthful enthusiasm, with the backdrop of the blue sky and the awesome ocean.

The stress of the busy summer and decisions for fall commitments dropped away as we enjoyed the present. What had kept me away from my favorite place? How much more would I put on my plate so that there was less and less time to fritter away here?

Erosion is the wearing away of a natural surface by redepositing its particles elsewhere. It is a natural and inevitable process; the beach must be watched and seasonally built back up by transporting more sand to renew its levels. Otherwise, before you know it, it’s gone. We can allow our souls to be eroded if we don’t keep careful watch and allow ourselves to be renewed on a regular basis.

St. Paul knew what it meant to be worn down and he encouraged the first Christians at Corinth to be present to the everlasting renewal offered by Christ. Today’s distractions are very different from those of that time period, but the message is more apt than ever.

2 Corinthians 4 : 16-18
Therefore, we are not discouraged; rather, although our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.
For this momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,
as we look not to what is seen but to what is unseen; for what is seen is transitory, but what is unseen is eternal.