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Shield Theory

My son and I both had rough days yesterday, and right before bedtime, my wife and I were talking to him about good days and bad days, limits, and why at a certain point we all start to feel overwhelmed and fall apart. I considered bringing up spoon theory, but thought it would be a bit too abstract for him. So instead, I started talking about about Captain America’s shield.

Captain America's Shield

Because in general, every day has good stuff and bad stuff. And just like Cap, we all have a shield we can use to deflect some of the bad stuff and keep it from getting to us. But sometimes there’s too much stuff to block it all, and Cap gets hurt. We all have bad days like that sometimes, where there’s just too much.

What makes life trickier is that your shield can change size. If you’re hungry or overtired, your shield might shrink down to the size of a saucer, which makes it harder to deflect anything. On the other hand, if you’ve had a good night’s sleep, gotten some good exercise, and had fun with your friends, you could end up with a super-shield that’s as big as you are. (Or even a full suit of Iron Man armor. We went off on a tangent at this point, wondering why Tony doesn’t go to Wakanda and make an Iron Man suit out of vibranium.)

As a metaphor, Cap’s shield worked well. We talked about why something might not bother you one day, but the same thing might really get to you on another, depending on how big your shield is that day, and how much else you’ve been trying to deflect. It also seemed to be a good way of talking about self-care, and ways to strengthen your shield so it wouldn’t shrink or crack.

Don’t know if it will be helpful to anyone else, but it was a good conversation with my son, so I figured I’d put it out there.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.


( 26 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 22nd, 2016 06:26 pm (UTC)
(Or even a full suit of Iron Man armor. We went off on a tangent at this point, wondering why Tony doesn’t go to Wakanda and make an Iron Man suit out of vibranium.)

This? Right here? Just hit a spot.

My family loathed things I liked so I never had this moment with them. That in the middle of a moment like this you both went off and you both wandered away for a bit... together? The respect for your kid and the playfulness and the care and ... just.

Jim... that makes you a hell of a person, right there.

Apr. 22nd, 2016 07:38 pm (UTC)
Thanks. Mostly, I think it makes me a geek, and my son definitely takes after me in that regard. But it was definitely a good moment :-)
Apr. 22nd, 2016 07:58 pm (UTC)
Let me be a bit clearer.

I was raised that during A Talk there was no sidetracking or such. We talked about Serious Things and it was driven by them. If I'd said "I wonder why..." there would've been trouble. I'd have been told clearly I was being a problem.

To see a parent do what you're doing here hits a spot for me. Because of where I came from what I end up seeing in these moments are things like a parent treating their child like they're important enough to sidetrack with them and answer the question, without derailing entirely. They, the kid, is important enough to pay attention to and nurture. That it's all in the context of a conversation about how to handle rough days - and NOT in a "just get over it, suck it up" that I know I certainly got and it seems a lot of people of my generation did?

It looks to me like a parent who cares about their kid enough to be truthful and honest with them, to do their best and value them. To want to give them the tools to deal with life and to let that life be THEIR life with their own interests in it.

It's an overstatement, obviously, when put out like this. But in truth it's in there. And he'll know that one day.

From here. Just.. wow.
Apr. 23rd, 2016 10:40 am (UTC)
Same here. I very much grew up in a "stop crying or I'll give you something to cry about" family. I cannot even imagine being parented this way, and that's one lucky kid. Wow indeed.
Apr. 22nd, 2016 06:37 pm (UTC)
When Captain America wields his mighty spoo-oon,
All those who chose to mess with him must swoon!
When he’s down in a funk and he can't make do,
With some food and some friends and some rest he'll come through,
When Captain America wields his mighty spoon!
Apr. 22nd, 2016 10:20 pm (UTC)
I love this :-)
Apr. 22nd, 2016 10:27 pm (UTC)
That's a deep cut, right there.

Apr. 22nd, 2016 06:49 pm (UTC)
Thanks for this. I had a teen in meltdown today, and may well use this when we get to talk about it.
Apr. 22nd, 2016 07:38 pm (UTC)
I hope it's helpful.
Apr. 22nd, 2016 07:25 pm (UTC)
Thank you for sharing. I find that quite helpful.
Apr. 22nd, 2016 09:00 pm (UTC)
a bit of gushing
Although I remain a staunch believer in Iron Man > Captain America (I have to mention it anytime I see someone talk about Captain America, I cannot help it), I have to say two things:

1) oh my gosh that's the coolest conversation I feel like I've heard someone discuss having with their kids in ages. I don't have kids, so I basically use a combination of what I personally believe I would try to teach and cultivate in my child and what I wish had been taught to and cultivated in me during my childhood (which, okay, was not long ago and I'm not sure it's over yet anyway, at twenty-six) to determine how loudly I applaud or don't applaud someone else's technique, and you definitely get a standing ovation for this. Especially because

2) I'm thinking you identify as a man, right? Having grown up without a father myself and not knowing too many of what one might call "good" or "steady" or "involved" fathers besides my and my sister's two grandfathers (we have separate fathers, so I'm referring to our maternal and her paternal grandfathers), I'm always deeply surprised and impressed and...well, sort of really proud to see/hear about fathers like you.

So I just...kinda want to say on behalf of my younger self I guess, thank you. Christ in a miniskirt, thank you. You frickin' rock, stranger.
Apr. 23rd, 2016 12:18 am (UTC)
Re: a bit of gushing
Okay, let's get the important thing out of the way first: Are you ranking Captain America and Iron Man based on the comics, the movies, the cartoons, or some combination thereof?

It was a pretty cool conversation. Mostly, I'm happy because it seemed to work, and he seemed to get it in a way that he hadn't been up until we started talking in comics metaphors.

As to the rest...you know, normally I'm pretty good at putting the words together, but all I can come up with to say is thank you.
Apr. 23rd, 2016 09:31 pm (UTC)
Re: a bit of gushing
Oh, I'm sure this is going to consign me to geek hell, but I don't really read comic books other than The Sandman series. I'm slowly moving in that direction but in general though I read voraciously I prefer my books not to have pictures, especially since I sometimes find it difficult to follow action when half the story is in the pictures, not the words, as I've seen to be the case with comic books (which of course is as it should be, right? They're meant to tie together).
But it's not Chris Evans or Robert Downey, Jr. that I'm talking about (though I do prefer RDJ to Chris Evans, too). It's the goody-goody All-American boy with the conservative ideals and his strong belief in God vs. the selfish, arrogant genius that I'm usually talking about. I'll take the selfish, arrogant genius any day. Captain America's ideals irritate me.
I don't want to start off on some race rant or something but I'm willing to bet you we wouldn't have been true friends because if I met him he wouldn't be able to ever truly get over the fact that I'm black. lol.

But maybe that's because that's how he's depicted in the movies? Is he like that in the comics, too? The All-American goody-two-shoes, the strapping young lad with his strong convictions about right and wrong and good and bad?

Jesus, I really do overthink things don't I? I can never just say "I like the way you talk to your son."
Apr. 24th, 2016 04:42 pm (UTC)
Re: a bit of gushing
Yanno, it's probably easy enough to make the metaphor work with Iron Man's suit. Sometimes when there's a lot happening, pieces start falling off and he gets injured. Sometimes, if he's not prepared (with sleep, good food, etc) he's going out with an untested prototype and it's not as durable or ready for battle.
Apr. 30th, 2016 12:40 am (UTC)
Re: a bit of gushing
Another fictional example, from Cartoon Network, would be Steven Universe's magically summoned shield--which does canonically fluctuate in size and efficacy, according to his energy, mood, and all sorts of mysterious other variables; Steven is very young and just beginning to learn his way around his powers.
Apr. 22nd, 2016 10:21 pm (UTC)
You're my hero. With or without the shield.
Apr. 22nd, 2016 11:46 pm (UTC)
I had to look up spoon theory, but totally understand shields as a metaphor :) I don't know what vibranium is.
Apr. 23rd, 2016 12:06 am (UTC)
I'm sure we could find someone to tell you more than you ever needed to know about vibranium, if you really want ;-)
Apr. 23rd, 2016 12:08 am (UTC)
Short version?
Fictional miracle-metal. It's what makes Cap's shield work as well as it does, and it's part of the larger backstory of the home country of Cap's fellow Avenger, the Black Panther.

I can point you at longer explanations if you want them.
Apr. 23rd, 2016 07:48 pm (UTC)
Re: Short version?
There's a bunch of other stuff going on with Cap's shield also, but other than that, great short explanation.
Apr. 30th, 2016 12:50 pm (UTC)
Re: Short version?
Thanks. I'm not always competent at keeping it short, but the work continues.
Apr. 23rd, 2016 03:14 am (UTC)
as someone who struggles with disability and chronic pain, i love this. way simpler than spoon theory from my pov and it reminds me i can strengthen my shields and need to work on that some times.

thank you!
Apr. 23rd, 2016 03:34 am (UTC)
I love this! Thank you.

(I am the biggest Captain America Fangirl. My grandpa would read his comics to me when I would visit.)
Apr. 23rd, 2016 02:17 pm (UTC)
That is so incredibly civilized. My family atmosphere was more like just being supposed to get things right.
Apr. 25th, 2016 12:48 am (UTC)
And not everyone is given the same size shield to start, so what one person can handle on what for them is a bad day another can't handle even on what for them is a good one.
May. 7th, 2016 08:36 am (UTC)
That is a great way to explain disability. :D I love how you treat your son with such kindness and respect, and it's so nice how you both bond over geeky stuff. :-)
( 26 comments — Leave a comment )


Jim C. Hines


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