Rachel Bunting

Every child, at some point, believes that there are:

a) monsters under the bed
b) a boogeyman in the closet
c) gigantic spiders beneath the book shelf
d) ghosts coming in the window

Well, maybe not those exact things. But some variation of them. Right?

Jacob is at the age where he is suddenly afraid of things. Earlier this year, I started a nighttime routine with him, based on something I used to imagine for myself when I was a child: before he goes to sleep at night, we put up The Shields. The Shields are imaginary force fields that we put up over specific areas: Jacob’s bed, his room, our home. The rule is that no one can get through the force fields except Jacob, and anyone he gives permission to. The force fields keep out anything bad: bad dreams, things that scare him, bad feelings.

Even if it’s not true, it seems to calm him down.

Every night, we put The Shields up. If I forget, he calls me back into the room and reminds me – “Mommy, we didn’t put up The Shields!” And I have to go back in and push The Buttons That Control The Shields on his headboard, and make The Noise of The Shields As They Go Up as he counts off what’s being protected. One night, he asked me, “Can we put one up over the earth?” I thought that was really generous – a five year old, trying to protect the world. It was such a lovely, unselfish thought that I turned it into a poem (all artists are shameless, regularly exploiting beautiful, private moments in an attempt for public validation), “Reading SkippyJon Jones at Bedtime Is Suddenly Not Enough.”

Tonight, Jacob was similarly unselfish. I read him two stories, turned off the lights and said good night. As I started to walk away, he reminded me about The Shields, and I started pushing The Buttons. After we put up The Shields over him, his bed, his room, our home and the world, he said, “What about Sebastian?”

Sebastian is the neighbor’s son, who is nearly eight years old. Jacob adores Sebastian, and will do pretty much anything that Sebastian wants to do. They have spent a fair amount of time together this summer; I think they are good for each other.

“What about Sebastian?” he said. So we put up shields over Sebastian, over his room, and his house.

He really is an amazing kid.

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