Lights! Action! No, wait, too much action

Amy Fenster Brown, Special to the Jewish Light

It’s not raining at my house right now, it’s pouring. Don’t even ask me if the old man is snoring. I’ve got two teenage boys and between them there are three broken bones, two separate jacked up dental issues and puberty hormones I’d rather not discuss. 

Our family life is like a ridiculous word problem on a grade school math exam. It’s mid-April, and I think we’ve already hit our health insurance deductible for the year. Parents reading this right now are saying, “Been there, done that.” 

I think back to the year we hit our insurance deductible by the end of January. My older son, Davis, had to go to the doctor for something, which required a lab test and medicine. My husband had pneumonia, which required an urgent care visit, medicine and a follow up doctor office visit. My younger son, Leo, broke his ankle. Walking down the hall. That’s right. He didn’t trip over anything, didn’t touch anything, wasn’t shoved by his ill, medicated brother. He was just walking down the hall and fell over and broke his ankle, which of course required X-rays, a cast and a walking boot. 

And that very same day, Davis broke his trombone. That’s not code for anything. That’s not a euphemism. He broke his trombone that we rented for him to play in his middle school band class. That was our signal that band might not be for us. 

There was the time that Leo, who as a child was small for his age, thought it would be a great idea to wrestle his older brother’s friends, who were large for their age. Leo dove over the back of the couch in some sort of WWE maneuver to fly over the giant kids. It didn’t work out the way it did for John Cena or The Rock. Broken wrist.  

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, or maybe it was just my brother’s huge friends.” – Leo Brown.

Monthly columnist Amy Fenster Brown is married to Jeff and has two teenage sons, Davis and Leo. She volunteers for several Jewish not-for-profit groups. Fenster Brown is an Emmy Award-winning TV news writer and counts time with family and friends, talking and eating peanut butter among her hobbies.

Each time, I am heartbroken. Everyone who has dealt with this tells me it’s par for the course with kids, especially if they play sports. While part of me wants to commission a bespoke bodysuit made of bubble wrap for them, most of me knows I shouldn’t keep them from the activities they love, nor do I really want to. 

But I wouldn’t mind some more protective gear. Who says you can’t wear a helmet, shoulder pads, knee pads and a maybe a maxi pad for good measure during soccer? It might make running more difficult, and maybe kicking, but I guarantee you that the parents of the goalie who repeatedly dives with all his gusto to stop the ball would agree.

I remind myself it could be worse. That doesn’t take away the tremendous guilt I feel, as if I could have gotten anywhere near them to prevent it from happening. Imagine moms lining the sports courts, hurling their bodies in front of their children to block every single ball, puck or opposing athlete from touching their precious angels. It would add a whole new dimension of competition for the crowd to cheer on. Or jeer on. Oy, the mom guilt. The Jewish mom guilt.

I remember hearing somewhere, probably from Oprah or Rabbi Amy Feder of Temple Israel that you should operate from a grateful place. You know, when something bad happens you should think about an aspect of it you are grateful for. For example, it could have been worse, no one needed surgery, we have great health insurance, we have a support system of people near and far who come out of the woodwork to help. Many tend to bring chocolate, which always works. At that point it becomes coping chocolate. Medicinal chocolate. Emotional support chocolate. 

Speaking of chocolate, it’s not all fun and games. Chocolate can be very dangerous. Case in point: Just last month we brought an adorable solid chocolate seder plate to my in-laws for Passover. Davis took a bite and one of the brackets on his braces broke off. Just popped right off his tooth. From chocolate. That’s not fair. I once heard, probably from Oprah or Rabbi Feder, that chocolate is good for us because it has antioxidants, so I considered it a health food. Turns out it’s a health hazard. 

And a seder plate? We had not dipped our bitter herbs once, let alone twice, and here was Davis, innocently tasting the chocolate seder plate, when this bracket came flying out of his face. Poor kid. It made me think of a fifth question: What if Davis is emotionally ruined on chocolate forever? I know they can fix his braces, but I worry about his mental health surrounding chocolate. 

The night before taking Davis to the orthodontist, he had a soccer game. This kid plays hard, like a pro. And wouldn’t you know it, he collided with some kid on the opposing team and boom! Injury. You know it’s bad when the coach actually waves the parents onto the field to get their kid. It was his knee.  

In pain and swollen, he powered through the orthodontist appointment, and we headed to the orthopedist. It was a double ortho day. As predicted, our support team came out of the woodwork. One friend gave us crutches to borrow. Another brought over chocolate, but I worried Davis would have PTSD from the Great Passover Braces Incident, so I put it away for later. 

Five days later, I went searching for that chocolate, when Leo broke his finger during a flag football game. The deal with flag football is you don’t tackle each other, you just yank a flag hanging from the player’s waistband by Velcro, and the play is made. No one ever has to touch each other. Broken finger.  Orthopedist. Splint. Guilt, guilt, Jewish mom guilt.  

Too bad Davis and Leo already had their bar mitzvahs. We could have gone with an injury theme. Each aliyah would be read by the boys’ doctors. Dinner would include barbecue ribs and chicken fingers, but they’d all be broken. Drinks would be served over crushed ice, the photo booth would be set inside a boxing ring and we’d give out first aid kits with our logo as party favors. Instead of traditional numbers we would mark each table with X-rays floating above centerpieces fashioned from casts and splints they’ve worn over the years. The cocktail hour would look like this: 


Carrie: “Hi Nancy! Where are you seated?”

Nancy: “I am at the ‘wrist growth plate fracture’ table with Jenny. Where are you?”

Carrie: “I’m sitting at the ‘double break from a soccer collision’ table. Oh look! I see Laura over at the ‘basketball tooth injury table!’ Let’s go say hi.”

I would be at the sweets table, munching on emotional support chocolate. 



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