by Erin McCole Cupp
Reviewed by Eileen Quinn Knight, Ph.D.
My granddaughter is getting ready for her reconciliation and was glad about the picture of heaven, she was not as happy with the prospect of living in hell which she pictured as living in a volcano of ash! This fits in well with the author’s understanding of volcanic ash that was spewed out of Mt. Helen in 1980. Volcanic ash does not have nitrogen and so life does not flourish. At first months then years went by, USGS scientists were ever more shocked by how quickly species after species returned to the region, bringing color and life back to the blast zone. A process that that wasn’t expected to start for at least ten years began in only three months. While the area around Mount Saint Helen will always show evidence of the May 18, 1980, eruption, it also shows abundant proof that nature’s default state in the face of devastation is rebirth. For some the experience of childhood – a barren blanket of blasted ash describes many childhoods. The author figures that you will fill in the narrative from your own life. She states that you know what it like to fill to hurt the most at the hands of the people God meant to love you the most. You know what it means to not matter when you should, to be called selfish for asking to matter to never know enough, do enough or be enough to the people who are supposed to love you unconditionally, who shouldn’t ask you to be enough of anything. If you’ve picked up this book, you probably look back at your childhood and see devastation, barrenness, nothing to call nurturing. Nothing to call sacrificial love. Nothing vibrant enough to call “life”. I’ll bet that you too also feel the same dread when well-meaning people chuckle phrases like, “Like mother, like daughter” or “A chip off the old block” or “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree!” Like me, you look at your childhood and know how you don’t want to raise your own children, but you also have received precious little training in how you do want to parent.
The good news is that, if you’ve picked up this book, you are interested in breaking this cycle. What happened to previous generations of children in your family will not happen in yours, not if you can help it. Chances are that you’ve done some reading on the types of wounds carried by adults whose childhoods were less than ideal. Maybe you’ve joined support groups, sought therapy, journaled, and ruminated over what you survived, but all that reading and thinking and working focused on the past. What about your future especially raising your future, your children? Wanting the buck to stop with you, you picked up countless parenting books, articles, blogs, podcasts, searching for a list of things to do, for positives, for words to come out of your mouth that are healing and not rehashes of hurtful slurs once thrown your small and vulnerable way. You grew your parent ling to-do list, but those articles never said anything about what it feels like to give something you yourself never received. They didn’t explain how it feels to give actual, self-donation love to both our own parents and or own children, and not received it back from either direction just yet, because you are flanked by, frankly, emotional children. On the one side, you have your own children, appropriately immature. On the other side, you have your own parents who should have grown up by now.
There’s a gap between healing the past and having a future worth looking forward to. You’re reading this book because you want, with God’s help to create a bridge across that gap here in the parenting present. It is the author’s hope that, by reading this book, you will pick up simple, quality ingredients for what I like to call your “parenting pantry”. Each chapter will provide lessons on how different scriptural principles bring peace and holiness to family relationships, both present and past. We’ll take a look at the painful memories and habits that, were we to adopt them would only perpetuate those cycles we are striving to escape, After facing the negatives with open eyes, however, we will also look at the positive: The simple things you can do differently to bring hoy rather than pain or indifference into your family life, today and for the future. We’ll do this chapter by chapter, looking at how the two greatest commandments and the eight Beatitudes provide us straightforward ingredients, or “Beatitude Basics,” for healthy parent-child relationships. We’ll then create a “Beatitudes Basic Workshop” which will provide some options on ways we can consider, pray, live and model these Beatitude Basics with our families of origin, our children and ourselves. Each chapter will offer a “Holy Family Moment” where we’ll study how each of these principles was lived out by the Holy Family. You’ll also find “Saint-spiration,” brief illustrations of how heroes of our faith who were wounded by these who were supposed to love them, through their attachment to our heavenly Father gave these saints the freedom to love even the people who had hart them most. Finally, each chapter will close with prayers from all ages of our faith tradition that address wounds often felt most keenly by survivors of family abuse and dysfunction.
Finally, this is a book about building a family life that will never be perfect but can certainly be full of joy. A joyful family life might not necessarily even be very good, and it’s not guaranteed to produce “great kids.” Kids are what they make of themselves with the gifts God has given them. In other words, they’re just like you. Joy is the focus of relationships in this book because joy is the fruit of peace. Peace comes from acceptance of the truth. Acceptance is the fruit of repentance of those times we did wrong and the forgiveness we can grow into to offer God’s mercy to others who did us wrong in their own emotional immaturity. This is a great book in conjunction with the Pope’s writing Fratelli Tutti on the family.