All of this happened on an overcast Saturday. We were enjoying a calm weekend of doing nothing. We had no plans, no commitments, no place we had to be. It was lovely.
After finishing lunch, my son went out on the patio to see the neighbor boy playing catch with his dad in their backyard. I’m not sure if he was invited over or just decided on his own to join in, but within a few minutes he was playing catch with them. At one point my husband stepped out to ask where our son went and I said he’s playing next door. He walked out and asked our son if he asked permission before he went over and our son said yes, that he asked them and they said it was okay. I think my husband meant did he ask us if it was alright for him to play next door, but the difference didn’t mean much to our son, or us, really. The boys played together so often that it’s not a big deal.
I cleaned up lunch and went out to the patio. I looked on and really enjoyed seeing the kindness of our neighbor sharing his father-son time with our son too. Our neighbor loves baseball as much as our son, although his son isn’t usually as big a fan. I think sometimes it helps their son find interest in playing to see our son come along and be so eager to play baseball whenever he has the chance.
The boys and our neighbor played for a while. Eventually my younger daughter wanted to play too and so she went next door to join in but that only lasted a few minutes. I left my seat on the patio to stand alongside the fence rail while my young daughter was over there playing. She’s young and having 3 kids to one grownup seemed a little much so I wanted to look on a little closer. Eventually the mom from next door came out too and she and I chatted a bit while the kids and her husband played.
When my daughter lost interest and wanted to go back inside, I let her back in to sit with her father. I stayed sitting out on the patio, able to see and somewhat hear what was going on next door but not overly concerned since they’re just playing catch.
And then I heard the screams and cries. I didn’t recognize them as my son’s so I knew it was the neighbor’s boy who was hurt. I looked over and he was screaming and grabbing his arm and ran toward his mother who had just come back outside to see what happened. My neighbor immediately started yelling at our son for being so careless. It seemed the boys were playing rough at times with the ball and on this occasion our son tackled their son which lead to the injury. He told him, in a very loud and upset and serious voice, that he had told them to be careful and to stop playing so rough a bunch of times. He told him that he warned them someone would get hurt.
My husband came outside to see what was going on. He saw our neighbor yelling at our son. I told him to go get him and bring him back home. We both looked on to see how our son was taking it. I think we both thought it’d be good for him to hear anger from someone else about what happened. Maybe that’d make a difference. Maybe this time he’d understand that he needs to be more careful. Our neighbor is a big guy with a loud voice who can be very intimidating. If he were yelling at me, I think I’d shrink down a few inches myself.
It was upsetting to see my son getting yelled at by our neighbor but it seemed fair. If someone hurt my child I’m sure I’d yell or scream at that child too. Our neighbor wasn’t being unfair. His son got injured and he was making it clear to my son that what happened could have been avoided. He said that he had told him and his own son multiple times to stop playing rough and that neither of them listened to him. Now look at what happened.
My son came in with my husband and went upstairs very upset. He was screaming and crying. Obviously he felt bad for what happened to his friend but he was also going through all the emotions of being yelled at by an adult who isn’t family. It was one of those parenting moments that you go through knowing how you handle this situation will really count. We wanted to make sure he knew we were upset with him for playing rough but also still loved him and understood that it was an accident. We also wanted to make sure that he knew we’d have to check on the neighbor boy to make sure he’s okay. The way the boy screamed and grabbed his arm reminded us of how our son acted when he broke his arm a few years ago. We were worried.
I texted the boy’s mom to ask if he was okay and to keep us posted. That was around 4pm, just after it happened. I didn’t hear anything back by 5pm so I texted her again. I didn’t hear anything right away again. We had our son go upstairs and find some good Pokemon cards that he could give to his friend when he goes over to check on him and apologize again. My husband and our son went next door to see if the boy was okay but came home to say nobody was home. The windows were still open, the car in the driveway was gone and there was no answer at the door.
What we feared had happened must have happened. They clearly had left quickly to take their son to urgent care or the emergency room. Shortly thereafter I received a text back from the boy’s mother. She reported that he’d broken a bone and would have to see a pediatric orthopedist to have it set.
The poor kid. How awful. Playing one minute and broken the next. On top of that, his birthday’s coming up. He’s supposed to have a bowling party to celebrate. That probably won’t happen anymore. Man, that sucks. Awful timing.
I went upstairs with the news to tell my husband and son. They could tell by the way I approached them that the news wasn’t good. My husband read the message and then explained what happened to our son. The seriousness of things started to set in.
I replied: “We are so very sorry. Please let me know if there’s anything we can do. We feel so awful.”
I called my mother, who was an elementary school nurse for over twenty years, to tell her what happened and get her input. She immediately told me not to be too worried about it. She said this kind of broken bone is very common injury for children. She said it happens a lot, when kids fall off the swings or play any kind of contact sport. She explained that it’s small bone that can easily break. She said sometimes it hurts a lot and sometimes kids don’t even realize it until they try to raise their arm above their head and can’t. She said it’ll be set, put in a sling and will heal in approximately 6 weeks.
Of course she’s giving me words of assurance, as my mother, but I also appreciate her telling me a bit about this specific injury. I’m wondering how the boy is doing. I’m wondering what the neighbors are going through. I know they wanted to enjoy a Saturday of family time and now this happened and they’re stuck at an urgent care or emergency room.
For us, the incident pretty much ended our day too. The air turned solemn around our house. First we were waiting to hear anything about how the boy’s doing and now that we know, we just don’t know what to say. We want our son to appreciate the severity of what happened, but we also want him to know that we know it was an accident and he didn’t do it on purpose. It’s a fine line to walk, particularly with an emotional 7 year old.
We spent the rest of the weekend and the whole next week wondering. Wondering what the future holds. Wondering how will this affect our neighborly rapport. Will our neighbors “be cool” about it and chock it up to a boys-will-be-boys accident? Or will they feel angry? Or vindictive? Will our boys ever be able to play together again? We feel we have a responsibility to keep our son away from theirs for some time… but for how long? Is this going to define a new norm? Do we need to change bus stops to avoid confrontations? Could it get even worse?
For now we have no answers. We just feel bad. We feel awful for their son and his injury. We feel bad for the family for having to go through this. We feel bad for our son who didn’t mean for this to happen, but it did.
We’re hoping our neighborly rapport will heal with time, like their son’s bone. We’re hoping that everything’s going to be okay.
It’s been some time now and we still haven’t spoken with them. We left a “get well soon” card signed by our son and with a note from the whole family extending our apologies and sympathies again. For the boy’s birthday we left a gift on their doorstep. Despite the radio silence, we’re trying to be patient and optimistic. We’re hoping a broken bone won’t mean a broken friendship.