Stress Fracture

Let me take you back some years. I am sitting on a bed in A&E. My right hand hurts like hell and is swollen to twice its normal size. A nurse arrives with the X-rays. She hands them to the doctor.

“It’s definitely broken,” he says. “How did you say you’d done it?”

“I fell.”

“That’s unusual,” he says, “Because we call this a punch fracture.”

“Really?” I say, and resign myself to only using one hand for the next fortnight.

And now to Saturday. Around two in the afternoon. Hot is not the word – and our youngest son has announced that he’s off to the beach. No, of course he won’t tell us who he’s meeting.

“Well put some shorts on. It’s far too hot to go in tracksuit bottoms.”

“I haven’t got any shorts.”

“You’ve some upstairs.”

“They’re too short. Like those stupid short ones Dad wears. Only old people wear short shorts.”

I ignore this – clearly mistaken – comment on my fashion sense and point out that he has other pairs. “No I haven’t, they’re all in the wash.”

“Well Mum’s done the washing.”

“Then they’ll be wet.”

“Let me check for you. They’ll probably be dry.” Jane heads for the kitchen.

“And I’ll look upstairs.” I race up to Tom’s bedroom. There must be a pair of shorts somewhere. Would Ben notice if I try and convince him that the shorts are his, not Tom’s? I wouldn’t have done at his age…

I rummage in the bottom of Tom’s wardrobe. Swimming trunks…more swimming trunks. Good God, how many pairs of swimming trunks does one teenager need? Ha! Shorts, as I suspected.

I run downstairs in triumph and show them to Ben. “I haven’t got a pair of shorts like that, Dad. If I had a pair of shorts like that I’d phone the Samaritans.”

I knew he wouldn’t notice…

“And they’re not dry at all are they?” Clearly, events are not going well in the kitchen. “It’s alright. I won’t bother going. It doesn’t matter.” With that he storms up to his bedroom. There’s a loud bang. We shake our heads and look at each other. Who will ever understand the mind of a teenager?

A couple of hours later he’s back. More like his normal self. “Er…” he says.

“You clearly want something. What is it?”

“Have you got one of those wrist supports?”

“What do you need a wrist support for? Have you been on the Xbox for too long? You should have been outside on a day like this.”

“No, it’s not the Xbox.” A slightly embarrassed shuffle. “I punched my door.”

“What? Why?”

“Because you and Mum were being so stupid.”

I conduct a quick medical examination. Clench your first. Wiggle your fingers. Does it hurt if I press here? All the advanced stuff. Then I take him upstairs and start rummaging through my underpants.

“There’s a wrist support in here somewhere. Probably haven’t used it for ten years.”

“Ten years? In your underpants drawer? Maybe it doesn’t hurt that much…”

Here it is. Safely tucked behind some condoms. Better not offer those to my son. Especially as they have ‘use before June 2004’ stamped on them.

And then I explain to him that once upon a time I too was so angry that I punched a door. And not when I was fourteen either. The door escaped unscathed. My right hand didn’t. “It’s not a good idea,” I said.

“I can see that. I was just, you know…frustrated. Stressed. And then you came down with Tom’s shorts.”

“At least you didn’t have to go to hospital.”

“No… That must be awful. How humiliating…”

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