And the worst parent award goes to….

I like to keep it real with you people so I’m going to admit to a recent low parenting moment.

I was in the middle of a very busy day last week when my 10-year-old son, Aden, came home with an ice pack on his slumped shoulder and a miserable puss on his face. He’d been tackled while playing football at the park with friends.

He was wincing–but not crying– as he summoned all his medical knowledge to explain that he had dislocated his shoulder. I’m no doctor but I know that a dislocated joint looks nasty and causes constant pain and discomfort, similar to labor.

There was no way he dislocated his shoulder.

I was headed out to volunteer in my younger son’s art class and luckily my mother was visiting and agreed to stay with Aden while I fulfilled my smock duty.  I gave him a pain reliever and instructions to ice the spot on and off for the next hour.

But as I went through the motions, all I kept thinking was what a pain in the ass this sudden injury was and how it was completely disrupting my day. And then what a rotten mother I was to think such evil thoughts.

It’s easy to feel empathy and want to comfort my kids when they’re feverish or throwing up. I’ve been on many a playing field, clutching my stomach with worry over a bad hit or a wound gushing blood.

But this was one of those nebulous, ‘could be nothing’ injuries that drive me nuts.

By the time I got back, Aden was sitting on the couch, engrossed in some Disney channel show and seemed just fine to me. When he realized I was in the room, he grabbed at his bad shoulder and slumped it further down to Quasimodo standards.

It’s not that I thought he was faking exactly, but I was pretty sure he was experiencing a dull ache and a sharp need for attention. He continued to insist the shoulder was dislocated,  and whined about the pain.

I reluctantly called the orthopedist. The nurse said their X-ray technician had left so I could make an appointment– the soonest one was two days later.  Or I could go to the emergency room, wait two hours for an X-ray, and have a physician’s assistant tell me to go see an orthopedist.

I opted to wait and see.

I also called a close friend who’s an orthopedic surgeon who told me that of course he couldn’t diagnose him over the phone but he definitely had not dislocated it, and would probably feel sore for at least a week.

Both medical opinions made me feel a little less guilty that I was basically neglecting my child.

Aden slept fine and didn’t complain of pain in the morning so I sent him to school. Within two hours, I got a call from the nurse claiming he was in so much pain he couldn’t finish the day and I had to pick him up and not return until we had seen a doctor.  She didn’t ask him to take his sweatshirt off (a sweatshirt he managed to pull over his head without apparent distress that morning) to examine the injury, she just acted on his pain complaints.

Sprained arm on

Instead of feeling bad for the kid,  I was annoyed that I had to pick him up early and couldn’t get work or errands done. The nurse added to my errand list by suggesting I go immediately to CVS to buy Aden a sling to relieve his pain.

When I picked him up, he got in the car grinning and asked what we were doing the rest of the day, like it was a sunny Saturday afternoon.


(I’m a terrible horrible person.)

I was snippy with him in the car as we drove to CVS, and refused to get him candy at the register. “There will be no treats! There will be no TV! You should be in school!” I yelled. He shrugged his one good shoulder and skipped out of the store. We had tried on the sling to make sure it fit, and he was smiling ear to ear as we walked to the car.

” I kind of like it when I get to wear a cast or a sling,” he admitted cheerfully.

Remember, he’s my middle child of three boys. His brothers each have huge personalities, talk incessantly, and often suck all the air out of a room. So when Aden can briefly grab the spotlight, he milks it.

Realizing that made me soften a bit and drop my sassy attitude for the rest of the day.

The next morning, the orthopedist looked at the slight swelling in Aden’s shoulder and asked him to move his arms to demonstrate his range of motion. He took an X-ray and guess what?

Sprained arm on See the tiny little line at the end of his collarbone? Hairline fracture!

That little stinker has a medium sprain and torn shoulder ligaments and a tiny fracture on his collarbone!

It’s basically the equivalent of an adult’s separated shoulder, but kids are so rubbery and active, it heals much faster. Course of treatment? Three weeks in a fancy sling (upgraded from CVS model) and no activity whatsoever until he sees the doctor again.

I was surprised and chagrinned.

Sprained arm on

I still don’t think a trip to the emergency room was necessary that first day, but I might have offered a little more compassion.

In the end, Aden wasn’t looking for sympathy, he just liked having something that made him feel special.  Everywhere he goes, people ask what happened and he happily explains the injury and diagnosis in great detail.

I’m thinking the novelty will wear off in about a week when people stop asking and he realizes he still can’t play on his fall ball team or with his friends for another two weeks.  Then he’ll really need me, and I’ll make sure to be there for him.

That is, if I can work sensitivity into my busy schedule.

9 responses to “And the worst parent award goes to….

  1. Pingback: Puppy 911! | carpool candy

  2. This story reminds me of when Garrett was 8 or 9 at summer day camp and I was at work in NYC (downtown) – a good hour drive from camp. I got a call from camp saying he fell off the monkey bars and hurt his arm. They suggested I come get him and take him to the dr. I told them to let him rest with ice and call me back if the camp nurse really felt I needed to come get him. They called back and said they really thought I should come….I begrudgingly left work – turns out, 1 xray, 1 pediatric visit and an ortho visit later, he had fractured his arm… a cast for weeks. Guess I should’ve taken the first call more seriously….but as a busy mom, we sometimes just can’t be bothered!!!! you are not alone.

  3. Good story. I broke my finger in high school and my parents told me to shake it off. After a night of agonizing pain we went to the doctor to find out it was broken. It happens. Its really hard to tell what is real and what isn’t in the kid pain/drama department.

  4. Good story….yes, we have all in a busy moment done this and assumed it was the usual NOTHING. Many years ago when I was taking my son Eric to school he complained about his stomach not feeling well. Of course I assumed he just did not want to attend that day so I said “you’ll be fine, just roll down the window”….Then I heard the special sound of gaggin along with liquid flying around my back seat. You guessed it! Never did that again. Now, it would a quick pull over to the curb.

    Thanks Brooke for sharing…..I still smile everytime I think about “Looking hot in a Mini van”

  5. I think I might come in a close second… Will fell off a stool when he was about 3 or 4 in our kitchen and did something to his toe Howled and screamed BUT it was Superbowl Sunday and we were somewhere in the middle of third quarter… and we weren’t going anywhere. I remember telling him sloshily to “rub some dirt on it” or something insane. Next morning his pinky toe looked like a purple fingerling potato. Oops, better take him to the doctor. Sure enough, broken! good thing about toes is there’s not much you can do. He got to wear a walking cast for 3 weeks, but the memory of my horrible mothering skills will last a lifetime!

  6. Don’t feel badly. Ask Jon what happened to him and his leg, and how his father reacted. You are not alone.

  7. I’m not a big blog reader, wait, check that. I never read people’s blogs but after scrolling down after reading your email I just decided to click on. I’m glad I did. I was smiling as I read it because it made me think of John when he fractured his toe. My initial thought was that it was just a temporary pain that would subside after a while. Besides i reallly didn’t want to sit in the e.r. for a couple of hours so I waited 2 hours before I took him to the Care Station (best kept secret) on 22 and found out the extent of his injury. I wasn’t upset with myself for waiting those 2 hours, I was just happy I took him before Monique came home and saw her son writhing in pain and me saying “it’s nothing, he just stubbed his toe” 🙂