Glen and I made it 14 years and 360 days into our parenthood journey before one of our children broke a bone.
Dan joined the wrestling team this year and quickly fell in love with grappling. I’ve been very impressed with the sport too. Dan likes the focus on discipline and body control. I like the comprehensive approach to training, with physical work on strength, flexibility, and coordination, and mental work on goal setting, toughness, and persistence. I could see Dan’s improvement in all of those areas almost immediately.
Even better was the excitement that accompanied Dan home after every practice. Each night, he was eager to show me what he’d learned or practiced. One night included a demonstration of how to do a cradle – using me as his opponent. Never in a million years could I have imagined that our living room floor would be a wrestling mat or that I’d be folded into a cradle by my son, but it was a blast. A couple weeks into the season, Dan told me, “Mom, I like wrestling as much as I like shooting trap – and that’s a lot.”
Unfortunately, his rookie season was limited to just two meets. 
A week before Christmas, Dan came home from a Friday night meet with his hand in an ice pack. He said he fell on his hand during one of his matches. His hand was swollen, but he could move all of his fingers. I figured it was just jammed and told him to keep icing it.
Over the weekend, though, the swelling got worse and worse. By Sunday night, his normally lean hand looked like a pudgy toddler mitt. I brought him in Monday to get it checked out.
“Yep, it’s busted,” were his doctor’s words after the x-rays came back. The films showed a neat spiral fracture of the middle metacarpal bone in his right hand.  “We’ll put you in a splint today and then cast it next week.” 
I watched as they molded a fiberglass splint around Dan’s hand and wrapped it up with an ace bandage.
“Um, don’t you have something a little more durable than an ace bandage?” I asked. In my head, something more durable meant something more barn-proof.
After we got home, the more-durable solution occurred to me: vet wrap.
I covered the ace bandage with royal blue vet wrap, leaving Dan with a much more waterproof, barn-proof splint.
The next question that came up regarded showering. The doctor’s order was to wear the splint 24/7 with absolutely no removal. I knew the solution for showering the second Dan asked: A.I. sleeves. So there’s been an A.I. sleeve hanging from the shower curtain rod in our bathroom for the past month, and it’s kept Dan’s splint and cast perfectly dry.
The harder challenges to overcome have been the emotional ones.
One of Dan’s wrestling coaches encouraged the wrestlers to write their goals down and post them where they’d see them every day. When I saw Dan’s goals scribbled on a note and stuck to our refrigerator, I thought to myself, “This is exactly why extracurricular activities help kids develop into well-rounded, successful adults.”
Dan took those goals to heart. And the disappointment on his face and in his voice when he told me – “Now I have to wait until next year to pin someone.” – were heartbreaking.
But sports – and other extracurricular activities – also teach our kids valuable lessons in overcoming setbacks. We started listening to the book “Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand on our Thanksgiving road trip; Dan finished listening to it during Christmas vacation. It’s a magnificent book about a World War II soldier in the Pacific Theater. The soldier’s stories about perseverance and resilience came at the best time.
Especially with movement-limiting injuries, it’s easy to fall into thinking about everything we can’t do. Resiliency grows when we focus instead on thinking about everything we can do. The switch in Dan’s thinking was evident as he began listing off all the things he could do with one hand, both with the wrestling team and in the barn.
Dan talked with me and his coaches about ways he could maintain his strength and fitness while casted, and he’s been diligent in doing those activities. He’s looking forward to summer wrestling camps and becoming a better wrestler. And his goals for this season are still on our fridge where they’ll stay until he checks them off next year.
Getting a cast for Christmas was definitely not what Dan wanted, but I believe one day he’ll see the lessons he learned during this time as gifts.
Sadie and her husband, Glen, milk 100 cows near Melrose, Minnesota. They have three children – Dan, 15, Monika, 12, and Daphne, 9. Sadie also writes a blog at www.dairygoodlife.com. She can be reached at sadiefrericks@gmail.com.