Smiling boy with broken arm

My son broke his arm at the playground and he’s okay

Though I didn’t have a name for it at the time, my life as a parent of a total kid began the day my son fell from the monkey bars and broke his arm.

It is forever imprinted on my brain. In slow motion now, as it was then, his grasp slips and he falls. He pushes up. He stands. He’s fine, I think, relieved. But then I see his face. Ashen, fearful, pained. He stumbles toward me clutching his tiny arm. And I know.

Emergency room. X-rays. Cast. Fracture clinic. Another cast. And the worst start to summer vacation a boy could ever have.

But here’s the thing: I don’t think I’d change any of it, even if I could.

My son is a daredevil. I am not. We used to go to the playground and have constant debates about what he should and shouldn’t do.

Then he broke his arm.

Suddenly we were both afraid. On doctors’ orders we stopped going to parks and playgrounds and our lives slowed right down. Secretly, I was happy. We were able to focus on the other activities he (and I!) loved – reading, drawing and imaginative play.

But without his usual physical activity level, he suddenly couldn’t concentrate on the quiet things, either. We were both devastated.

Then he started running again, and being his usual wild and crazy self. And when he asked, hesitantly, to go back on the monkey bars, I could see the nervousness written all over his face. But there was a great determination there, too.

It took everything I had not to keep him away from those monkey bars. Everything.

But I needed him to do it as much as he needed to do it. Me, because I will be faced with that boy doing “dangerous” things for the rest of his life. And him, because he needed to face his fear and get back to his active life.

A year later, the parents in the playground still ask how I can stand it. How can I watch this boy of mine flipping, hanging, swinging from the very bars that threw him off a year ago? And I tell them that, to me, it is a gift.

He discovered the realities of taking risks, acquired a sensible level of cautiousness, and learned that just because he made a mistake one time doesn’t mean he should give up and never try again.

I learned that this boy of mine, as different from me as he may be, inspires me. He brings me out of my intellectual shell and forces me to play tag, to attempt a cartwheel, to catch a Frisbee.

And I have his broken arm to thank for teaching me the greatest benefit of raising a total kid: that I’ve become a total adult in the process.

It took everything I had not to keep him away from those monkey bars. Everything.

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