By Mordechai Schmutter

If you have boys, things will get broken. For example, in my house, I have this one wall in the kitchen that we’ve had to spackle three times: once because my oldest son threw something at it, once because my second-oldest son threw something at it, and once because my oldest son threw my second-oldest son at it. That was a lot of fun, by the way, parenting-wise, to try to convince each one that it was his fault and that they should work together to spackle it, when they didn’t want to work together in the first place. That’s why they were fighting. It’s like when you ask your kids, “Whose mess is this?” and it’s both people’s messes, so you have to clean it.

So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that one of my sons, Heshy, broke his arm this week. The only unforeseeable part of that sentence was just when it happened, I guess. I did not have time for it. I have a to-do list. He’s supposed to schedule these things with me a couple of weeks ahead of time.

But actually, it was sort of foreseeable. He broke his arm skiing. I did not take him skiing. His yeshiva did. This is not why I sent him to yeshiva. Literally, because the yeshiva is out of state and our health insurance for some reason won’t cover anything that happens out there. Like other states are less responsible than New Jersey. My wife is always saying, “Don’t do dangerous things in the house,” but my kids are like, “We can’t do dangerous things on vacation either. When can we do dangerous things?”

He doesn’t actually dorm at this yeshiva. He boards at relatives, who don’t have time to deal with his injuries anyway, because they have all boys.

He’s actually the last of our sons to get a cast. On his arm. He’s usually more of a knee guy.

Basically, I have a kid who plays sports who gets injuries all the time, and then I have a kid who doesn’t play sports because he’s an indoor kid so he gets injuries whenever he goes outside. But Heshy doesn’t get injuries all the time, so he decided to go skiing.

In fact, he was in denial about whether his arm was broken, and he went straight back to yeshiva the next day. On a bike. He was like, “I don’t have time to go home. I have yeshiva!”

The yeshiva knows you broke your arm. Take the day.

So anyway, the powers that be sent him home on a bus for four hours. And I had to be ready once he got home, because my wife was at work.

First we had to go to Urgent Care to find out if it’s a break or a sprain. Nobody actually knows what a sprain is. It’s a term that doctors use to tell you that it’s not broken, it just hurts, and you sat on a bus for four hours for no reason. It’s like every morning I wake up and my back is sprained.

But doctors rarely say that. In fact, sometimes doctors can maybe be too alarmist about what constitutes a broken arm. You know how you always hear stories about how “You could see the bone coming through the skin!” I’ve never once seen that in real life. In fact, my son had sent us a picture of his arm, and my wife said, “It’s definitely swollen. Do you see that?” And I did not. For all I knew, he was just standing too close to the camera.

So we drove to our local PM Pediatrics, which is located between a veterinarian and a Petco. It’s like people are standing in front of the vet, looking at the prices and saying, “The bunny doesn’t have insurance. Should we just replace it?”

“I don’t know. Can we take care of my arm first?”

The lines were definitely shorter at the vet. And I’m sure they have X-ray machines, for patients who have swallowed other patients. But we decided to listen to my wife anyway, because the line at Urgent Care didn’t look too bad.

I don’t know how availability works at doctors’ offices though. They call you in from the waiting area and give you a room, but then it’s still quite a while before a doctor comes in. And then the doctor walks out, and it’s a while until you get called to the X-ray machine. You get excited each time they call you and think you’re basically on the way home already, but nothing has anything to do with the other. Getting a room does not even mean that the doctor has necessarily come to work yet. There’s just a room open. That has nothing to do with the doctor. He’s off today. But we did give you a bed! Not for you; for your kid. You get to sit on the horrible chair wedged into the corner so there’s no room for your left arm and you have to sit diagonally. I was afraid that the doctor would walk in to find me stretching my back on the exam table.

Who am I here to see?”

“My back is sprained.”

I don’t know about you, but when my son and I walk into a room and there are two chairs, he gives me the better one. So maybe his older brother should have taken him. The one who throws him through walls.

“It only happened the one time!”

But it wasn’t so bad. My wife actually thought the wait would be long enough that they’d have me wait in the car. Though if that had been the case, I would have asked if I could do the Shabbos shopping in the meantime. Or go to a store in that shopping center at least.

MY WIFE: “Why did you buy a pet?”

ME: “We were bored!”

They did make me fill out 80 forms, though. Like they wanted to know how much he weighed when he was born. I have no idea. He doesn’t weigh that anymore, if that’s what you’re asking. He’s 16. Are they going to look at it and say, “Oh, that’s why he broke his arm”? Or is that to verify that we’re really the parents, like a security question?

I feel like they make it such a pain to get X-rays because they want to discourage you from breaking your arm. Otherwise, everyone would do it.

I’m glad I came along, though, because there’s no way my son could have filled these all out with a broken arm.

“So which arm is broken? You wrote something down here, but I can’t read it.”

The Urgent Care Center gave me a CD of pictures to bring to the orthopedist. I have not put pictures on a CD in at least a decade. The medical community has insane machines that can look through your skin and clone your DNA, but when it comes to non-medical technology, they find one thing they like and stick with it to the bitter end. Like they do with fax machines.

We do get to keep the CD afterward, in case we ever want to sit down and look at pictures of broken arms. Or put them into a sheva berachos slideshow.

“Let’s play, “Whose arm was this?”!”

I also got a paper printout so my wife would believe us.

The doctor also said that he should not ski for the rest of the season, and the first thing my son wanted to do was go skiing the rest of the season. He said, “If anything, now I know what not to do!”

“Fall? You didn’t know not to fall?”

See, it’s true what they say. You learn by doing.

So we had to go to the orthopedist the next day, on a short Friday, and fill out more paperwork, because none of that was on the CD, and then they sent us to go wait in the closet. I don’t know what else to call it. It was literally a closet. It had no windows and floor-to ceiling shelves of different color cast supplies on at least two walls.

They were like, “We might as well put an exam table in the closet and save the doctor a lot of walking back and forth.”

The doctor gave us plenty of instructions. Like he said, “Don’t hit anybody with the cast—it’s going to be like a rock. You can knock out their teeth, break their jaw…” He was definitely way too much of an expert on injuries you can inflict on others with a cast. This must be like half his income.

“What happened?”

“My brother said something dumb and I smacked myself in the forehead.”

He did say that my son could go skiing again. He wouldn’t even have to wait until the cast is off.

“If anything,” he said, “your arm is safer in the cast.”

But he has other bones.

Now my son has a cast, and people can autograph it, apparently, though I don’t know why that’s become a minhag. No one signs your shirt. Maybe the person who broke your arm should autograph it, but that’s about it.

The doctor also asked, “Do you need a note to get out of class?” And my son said, “I have a cast.” What teacher would not accept a cast as proof that you have a cast? Did you put that on yourself?

Also, he’s in mesivta, so he’d need like seven separate notes. In my kids’ experience, the teacher keeps the note, and then you’re stuck for the next period.

Maybe the doctor can just sign the cast.

Mordechai Schmutter is a weekly humor columnist for Hamodia and is the author of seven books, published by Israel Book Shop. He also does freelance writing for hire. You can send questions, comments, or ideas to Read more of Mordechai Schmutter’s articles at


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