Facebook memories can be a great reminder of what you were doing on this day on different years, great memories of trips and firsts for the family. It can also be a not so subtle reminder of less than great times. This morning a picture came across my feed that I stared at for a few minutes and didn’t know how I felt about it. On this day in 2015, the doctor removed the cast from my son’s leg and I immediately felt the overwhelming guilt come back. It got me thinking about if guilt ever faded.
To relive that terrible day in May of 2015 is one of my worst nightmares and though I am able to joke about it now, it does still bother me. A quick version of the story is that I was coaching Brennan’s soccer game and we actually got scored on (we hadn’t all season up to this point) and he started getting mad and throwing a fit. Even though he was the best player on the team I sat him down until he could calm down. He never calmed down and kept crying so he sat the rest of the game and we ended up losing despite other parents trying to get me to put him back on the field. Once we got home he apologized and asked to kick a ball with me in the back yard. I agreed and we were having a good time until it happened. He wanted to race me across the yard so I obliged. We started running and as he cut in front of me, he stepped in a hole and started to go down, I tried to jump over him to avoid landing on him and he rolled right under me and my knee landed on his leg. Fast forward a few hours and I get a call from Lauren saying the X-ray showed it was a broken tibia. The drinking that started right after the incident dramatically increased.
I cannot even begin to explain the amount of guilt that I was feeling. Worst of all, I was leaving to go to Chicago in 2 days for work. Luckily my daughter was already asleep and didn’t see my in that state but I cried like a baby for a while. I was thinking of how terrible of a person I must be to break my kid’s leg. Who would do such a thing to a 6 year old? He won’t be able to go in the pool or ocean all summer, I’ve ruined his summer! What if it doesn’t heal right and he limps, or worse, he has pain in it for the rest of his life? Why did I have to actually run and not just lightly jog to let him win? Why didn’t I dive the other way? I could not turn my brain off for days about this and I skipped quite a few meals. I got so many encouraging messages from my friends telling me it was an accident and is ok, and many horror stories from their kids or their childhood which helped but I couldn’t get rid of that feeling in my gut and was scared that I never would.
He was classic Brennan when he got home and I went outside to carry him in the house when I apologized for the 100th time he said “That’s ok Daddy it was an accident, but couldn’t you have gone the other way?” He is so calculated in his thoughts that even while on pain killers and without being prompted by my wife, he said it was ok followed by a wise crack. When my wife told me that insurance wouldn’t cover the waterproof cast and we had to pay out of pocket and was that ok, I told her I didn’t care if we went into debt for years to pay for it, let the kid have a summer! Turns out it was only $50 but he would be in a cast to his hip for a month and then a new one up to his knee for another month. He used crutches, a tiny walker and even a wheelchair that a friend let us use but his favorite transportation was either daddy carrying him or the hiney scoot. He cracks us up!
He had some people sign his cast and it was a tough few months but he got to play in the pool and even a few trips to Busch Gardens in our double stroller. We took him to the beach even though he couldn’t go in the ocean (he was ok missing the sand but that’s another story). He had a pretty normal summer and every time I felt like it was ok and my mind was moving on, someone would ask him how he broke his leg and he always said his daddy did it. I also didn’t appreciate the friend of mine who pointed out that the most broken bone of child abuse is the tibia. It’s good we can laugh about it now and even glaze over the fact that I broke my kid’s leg in casual conversation but it is still in my mind.
Luckily he has no ill effects of the break and is back running, playing soccer and enjoying our trampoline. This is just another reminder that no parent is perfect and while the dad is usually the one to play harder and rough house, we need to be careful with our tiny humans because they are, for lack of a better term, breakable. Every time I am reminded of the incident or see a picture, I get that sick feeling in my gut and close my eyes to remember that time. Lauren still tells me almost every time that I go on the trampoline with them not to break anyone’s leg, also not appreciated. Know that accidents happen and kids survive, and we move on with our lives but beating yourself up about things doesn’t help anyone. Just think of all of the memories made.
Be strong out there dads and remember that it will be ok!