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The day my baby broke his leg

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My baby broke his leg while he was sitting in my lap.

When people ask about the powder-blue cast running from Jacob's diaper to his toes, I always mention the lap part right upfront. At first I did this to show that I am not a neglectful parent: My 16-month-old was snuggled in my arms when it happened, not alone on a high ledge.

Jacob and I were swooshing down a playground slide three weeks ago. His foot dropped from my lap and caught on the surface of the slide. As the two of us slid forward, Jacob's foot stayed back. Then he screamed. His tibia had fractured.

Friends, family and random people on the street who want to know what happened to the "poor baby" have kindly assured me that this was a freak accident.

But I blamed me. I had bought him those sneakers with the gripping soles. Shouldn't I have known they could mean disaster on a fast slide? Why hadn't I used one arm to keep his little legs safely on top of mine?

My guilt deepened as I watched Jacob, who walked at 10 months, begin to crawl again, dragging his cast behind him.

It was Jacob who snapped me out of my funk.

He did this by quickly reverting to his mobile, mischievous self. The clunky blue cast that drew sighs of "oh, no" from complete strangers didn't seem to register with Jacob at all. Within days of the break, he had resumed his favorite forbidden habit of climbing into the dishwasher. In a few more days, he relearned to walk. Last week, at baby music class, Jacob hobbled across the room to swipe another baby's rattle.

As it got harder and harder to feel sorry for the kid, it began to dawn on me: The very young comprehend misfortunes differently than adults.

What was going on in his happy little head?

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