I’ve managed to make it 40 years without a broken bone or a single stitch. My scars are limited to the remnants of suspicious moles removed by the dermatologist. And I can’t recall an injury that warranted more than a Band-Aid or swab of Neosporin.
My boys, on the other hand, are latticed with scars, their skins patchworks of crusty scabs and inexplicable bruises. At the ages of 2 and 7, they’ve already sustained more injuries than I’ve had in my entire life, this despite my frequent admonishments that riding the laundry basket down the stairs is not a good idea, nor is testing the highest height from which you can jump without snapping an ankle.
The youngest one split his chin open when he was just 7 months old. One moment he was on the couch, resting comfortably next to me. The next, he’d launched himself head first into the coffee table. We worried about it scarring and were relieved when the line finally faded two years later — only to have him split it open again plunging from the car seat.
My first-grader is a magnet for injury. One day he came home from school with a scratched cornea, the victim of a freak accident involving measuring blocks. It required an eye patch — not a cool piratey eye patch but a face-engulfing mound of gauze and tape.
His latest injury came while riding a bicycle. Zipping down a steep hill, he either thought he could make the turn or forgot to use the brakes. Either way, he plowed into the asphalt, leaving him with gnarly road rash and — to my horror — a broken wrist.
My friends tried to console me. He’s a boy, they said, get used to it. And then they rattled off the gruesome injuries sustained by their own boys — broken bones, gashes, twisted ankles, scrapes, bumps and cuts — anecdotes bolstered by the evidence.
Studies show that boys are way more likely to be injured than girls, and they’re 1.5 times more likely to break a bone, accounting for 60 percent of all childhood fractures. When I watch the kids playing at my son’s preschool, I see why. Your risk of a busted knee is high if you’re dangling from a tree branch (boys). Less so if you’re stringing a beaded necklace (girls).
But those statistics are little consolation for a mother who has no stomach for instructions such as “change the dressings twice a day” and “flush the wound.”
Experts theorize that society encourages risk-taking in boys. And maybe there’s something to that. As my son was leaving the doctor’s office with his new cast, a twentysomething guy — also sporting a cast — nodded approvingly. “Keep doing what you’re doing, buddy,” he said to my son.
Even my husband acknowledged feeling proud when my son said he thought he could take that turn without braking. Which is maybe why the bike accident happened on daddy’s watch.
But as a mom, it’s hard to accept that boys will be boys. Societal expectations or not, I’ll continue to follow my sons with a chorus of “Slow down! Use the brakes! Watch out! Be careful!”
Otherwise, it’s terrifying.
When I first saw my boy after the bike accident — swollen wrist, oozing knees — I mentally recited my thank-gods. Thank god he was wearing his helmet. Thank god there wasn’t a car nearby. Thank god my husband was there to scoop up his broken body and haul him home.
Thank god everything will heal, probably just in time for his next tumble. And I’ll be there waiting. Band-Aids in hand.
Renee Moilanen is a freelance writer based in Redondo Beach.