Illustration: Naomi Wilkinson


My son broke his first bone and my heart broke with guilt

Toddlers are boisterous and Robyn Wilder's son is no exception. Taking him to A&E, however, was a whole new world of pain for them all

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By Robyn Wilder on

Here are my toddler son’s favourite games, in no particular order.

1 “Running”

In which he thunders around the house with no care for corners or, frequently, doors, while his socks slip ominously against the hard floors as though he’s a character at the beginning of Casualty.

2 “Sofa parkour”

Which involves him running at speed back and forth along the top of our sofa with the speed and enthusiasm, if not the skill, of a world-class freerunner.

3 “Going halfway up the stairs, then balancing on one leg while leaning backwards to give your mother a cheery wave”

I really, really hate this one. Particularly as, just before Christmas, he did this and then fell down the stairs and broke his collarbone – and I didn’t even realise it for half a day

Just to put it in context, it wasn’t that dramatic a fall. This summer, during our holiday in France, my son wriggled out of my arms at the top of a solid wooden staircase so steep and polished that it may have been a vertical plank, pirouetted through the air and hit every step on the way down. Had he not wailed so loudly and lustily when he reached the bottom, I’d honestly have assumed the worst. He was fine, it turned out. Not a bruise on him. I, meanwhile, was a gibbering wreck for hours, kept threatening to “turn myself in to Childline” and had to sink myself in several glasses of cheap plonk from the hypermarché.

In comparison with that fall, plus the daily knocks and slip-ups he puts himself through reenacting the Wrecking Ball video whenever my head’s turned, this was a gentle spill. He lost his balance, rolled down four or five carpeted stairs and I broke his fall. After checking him over for bumps and bruises, I patted him on the bum, stuck him in the buggy and we went shopping.

Then your baby breaks a bone on your watch and you realise life is just a series of luck and accidents and near-misses, and you’re not in charge of anything at all

But, later, he grew pale and sobbed for me, and screamed whenever he used his left arm. “He’s boisterous,” my husband and I had told each other as we sat in A&E. “It’s probably a sprain.” But, staring at the stark undeniability of his X-ray – a sweet little collarbone, with a chunk missing – with the doctor asking me, only half-jokingly, if I’d pushed him, the guilt came slamming in.

It took me right back to the first day I was discharged from hospital after the birth and I wanted to run back to the infinitely more serene and skilled and qualified nurses and midwives, and tell them that they had made a giant mistake. I couldn’t look after a baby; I frequently fell over great lumps of nothing in the street. I still counted on my fingers. I wasn’t capable of this. But then time passes and you become capable – at least to a degree. And then your baby breaks a bone on your watch and you realise life is just a series of luck and accidents and near-misses, and you’re not in charge of anything at all.

Also, though, it was a little sadness that this bone – this tiny baby bone that had grown in my abdomen – was now broken, reminding me that my son was mortal and one day other bones may break for him, and worse.

The nurse came over and put a sling on my son. “Not sure this is going to work on such a little one,” she said, biting her lip – and she was right; as soon as she’d put it on my son solemnly removed it and handed it back to her. 

He didn’t need it, though. Within three days, he was back to sofa parkour. A week later, he was skidding around the house in his socks again. And he still doesn’t understand why I get shouty when he dawdles on the stairs.

My son is fine. I would like another glass of that cabernet hypermarché, please.


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Illustration: Naomi Wilkinson
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