Tag Archives: books

Reviewing the Book: Protecting the Gift

As a way to finally stop flogging the deceased equine I’ve been working on for the past two weeks, I’d like to review an excellent book on the topic: Protecting the Gift by Gavin De Becker.

Like Wonder Weeks, I knew when I started this blog that I wanted to write about this book. Given the topics I’ve been discussing lately, now seemed like the best time for it.

De Becker is an expert on threat assessment and predicting violent behavior. His firm has consulted for government agencies, high-placed officials, and corporations. From what he reveals in the book about his own childhood, De Becker became familiar with most of the threats children can face at an unfortunately early age. When he turns that expertise towards the dangers facing children the result is a book full of concrete, practical information… 

“Wait,” I say. “Won’t your readership think you are talking about safety like, don’t leave diaper pins on the floor and make sure slides are some mathematical equation high to prevent traumatic brain injury? Isn’t it important that first thing they understand that this is a book about keeping your kids safe from child predators and sexual abuse?”

So The Dad says, “While I finish the dishes will you write about Protecting the Gift?”

“I’ll try,” I say. That was 5 minutes ago.

About 2 hours ago LifeLock alerted me to the fact that a violent sexual offender has moved into our neighborhood about 2 blocks away.  Before I read this book, I might have been tempted to freak out silently and then pretend I didn’t know.  That is common.  That is being a “denier” and it is dangerous for kids.

People who fixate on the wrong issues pretend that sexual abuse could not happen to their child or a child they know, or think that their money, power, or religion make them immune to such awfulness are in denial.  Denial is dangerous.  It robs a person of knowledge and knowledge is power.  Protecting the Gift helps identify the real risks children face and how to navigate this world without being afraid.  As a bonus it helps teach parents, teachers, daycare workers, and anyone else who works with kids how to raise children to be confident and capable but also protected.

When we were young parents and needing to hire a babysitter for our precious first child we did not have the alacrity to look someone in the eye and ask, “what would you do if you realized the child you were minding was masturbating?” or “Have you ever suspected that a child in your care was being sexually abused?  What would you do if you suspected a child in your care was being sexually abused?”  Of course we wanted our darling to have an amazing caregiver but we had no idea how to get from home wanted ad to actual safe, reliable sitter.  De Becker’s book opened our eyes to the importance of discussing these taboo things with anyone who was going to be a consistent care giver for our children.  It also informed our process for referencing of babysitters.

De Becker also lays out all the prerequisite skills a kid needs to safely navigate the world alone.  How does one know that a kid is ready for the wide open world of shopping at the mall with friends at 12, going to a slumber party at 9, or being left at a playdate under the other parents’ supervision at 4?

Lastly, and most importantly, Protecting the Gift talks about intuition and instinct.  About honoring it and acting on it even when our societal preference for nicety and quiet have to be thrown out the window.  It gives a permission that is lacking for most people—the permission to actively and without hesitation act to keep children safe.

This should be required reading for every parent.  End of story.

(That was a million times better than my first crack at this. Thanks, Dear!)

Wonder Week

Little Z has seemed a little extra fussy the past day or so. He wants to be held more. This morning, he had a four-hour stretch where he didn’t nurse — usually when he’s awake, he gets hungry every couple hours. He didn’t take much milk throughout the rest of the day. What’s going on? Is he getting sick?

No, he’s just started going through a “wonder week.”

If you’ve had children, you’ve probably noticed that they grow in spurts. You just wake up one day and their clothes don’t fit anymore — it’s like they gain a quarter of an inch overnight. The same is true for a baby’s mental development as well. They’re going along fine and then — BAM — they undergo a dramatic neurological change and their brain reorganizes itself. Once that happens, they are suddenly able to experience more of the world. From their perspective, they wake up and everything seems different, the world isn’t the same as it was before.

That’s enough to make anyone upset.

Fortunately, a husband and wife research team collected 35 years’ worth of data on the the development and behavior of babies (and other primates as well; they started out with Jane Goodall observing infant chimpanzees). Once they had analyzed all their information, they found that babies experience fussy periods at predictable times that coincided with their developmental leaps and the resulting change in behavior.

What’s even more fortunate (for me, anyway) is that they wrote a book for parents about all this called The Wonder Weeks.

The Wonder Weeks is usually the first purchase I recommend to new or prospective parents. I figure other people will give them good recommendations for more standard things, but no one else is likely to mention this book. A crying baby is one of the most difficult things to endure as a parent, and it’s made even worse when you can’t figure out the source of your child’s distress. Knowing that my baby was undergoing a developmental leap — one of those wonder weeks — gave me immense relief.  Even if there wasn’t anything I could do, at least I knew why and I knew it was a phase that just had to be weathered.

Any time they go through a wonder week, your baby will have a period where they cry a lot and are extra clingy. It’s the kind of behavior that can get annoying to even the most loving, patient mommy or daddy. I was able to be more sympathetic towards my little ones when I knew this was because their universe was being upended and they needed comforting.

A newborn only experiences things in the moment and doesn’t know much beyond their basic needs. But just when you, the new parent, get the hang of meeting those needs, they suddenly acquire more without letting you know. Your child becomes able to be bored. They start to have opinions about things they didn’t seem to even be aware of before. They grow capable of understanding that when they don’t see Mommy in the room it means that she’s gone and they are powerless to do anything about it. Imagine what it’s like for a baby when that realization sets in. Sorta explains why one would suddenly start crying whenever Mommy’s not right there, huh?

Little Z is now going to be able to experience things about his environment he wasn’t able to notice before. Once he gets over the shock of that, he’ll also find he has a new set of skills he will slowly start to grow into. To the rest of us, he will start to act differently and have a wider range of behaviors.

According to my copy of the book, the signs of the particular leap Z is due for include: craving more physical contact (check), crying more easily (maybe), taking longer to get used to new people (dunno, haven’t had the chance to test that), wanting to be entertained more (not that I’ve noticed), and wanting to be breastfed a lot but not really drinking much (that’s a big “yes”). The Wonder Weeks also tells me some of the new skills or behaviors we’ll start to see in him. Sure enough, he’s holding his head up much better, shifting his weight forward while sitting up, making short grunts or repetitive sounds.

The book devotes an entire chapter to each developmental leap, detailing the new way your baby sees the world and the new things he or she has going on in that expanding mellon. There’s a handy section on how you are likely to be feeling when your tyke is going through his cranky period (here’s a hint: it’s not any different than when your child has been a wailing mess for any other reason). It also includes activities and games that will emphasize the new skills he will start to develop now that he’s leveled up. If your three-week-old doesn’t seem to particularly get it when you play peek-a-boo, just wait another three months.

There is a Wonder Weeks app, which is no substitute for the book but is a handy accompaniment. You can put in your baby’s birth date and it will make up a calendar to track their state of wonder weekage. When Z was extra fussy and not really eating, I remembered to whip my phone out and check the app. Sure ‘nough, the chart had him at the beginning of a stormy phase. I could skim the abbreviated information the app had until I had a chance to pull the book out and read the relevant chapter.

The good news is, he should only be a mess for another eight days or so. The other news is there’s another wonder week due right on heels of this one. And so it goes for the next year.

In fact, it looks like he’ll start perceiving “the world of events” during our upcoming trip. Speaking of which, I likely need to downshift my posting rate soon as we will be on the road. But stay tuned! I’m sure to have some tales about our first time flying with three children that will be hilarious to those who didn’t have to live through it.