A few months ago, Ryan quite suddenly began insisting everyone call him by his full first name.
Fine, we thought, this is a good sign that he is asserting his independence. If we had to work on how he angrily corrected anyone that called him by a shortened version, we could do that.
At the same time, he decided he would refuse to be called “buddy,” even in passing.
“Hey buddy, you want to play hockey outside?” became an intolerable insult.
This left us puzzled. We could not figure out what it was about “buddy” that he found so off putting. We assumed it was part of asserting his new preference for his full name, except the rule didn’t seem to apply to any other nicknames.
Over time, we all got much better at using the full version of his name, and Ryan got better at not correcting us so angrily. But we never did get an answer about “buddy.”
Perhaps six months after this new habit began, Ryan finally — and quite out of the blue — offered an explanation about the nickname “buddy.”
We were riding in the car, on our way home from picking up the kids from their grandparents’ house, where they had spent Saturday night so that Veronica and I could attend a wedding.
We were riding along happily. Riley was absorbed in her iPod. Ryan was looking out the window, offering occasional requests to change the radio station. Veronica was trying to remain awake in the passenger seat.
“Do you know why I don’t like to be called “buddy?” Ryan suddenly asked from the back seat.
Veronica and I exchanged a quick glance. Where was this coming from? She asked him to explain.
“It’s because when they tell you that you have to leave a hockey game they come up to you and say, ‘Hey buddy, it’s time to go.'”
Instantly, we both recalled the conversation. It had come during the early part of this past hockey season, and it had to do with another of Ryan’s “hobbies” — cursing.
We had told him it was OK to do the “Hey, you suck” cheer after a Devils goal, but that any further cursing would not be tolerated. Never one to accept an answer he didn’t like without probing, Ryan asked what would happen if he said other curse words at the game.
We told him he would be ejected if he kept it up and someone complained. This still did not satisfy his curiosity. He keep pushing. “What if you refused to leave?”
This went back and forth for a few turns until I finally explained to him exactly how it would happen, that a security guard would arrive at your seat, point you out, and tell you, “Hey buddy, it’s time to go,” before physically escorting you from your seat and out of the arena. I may have added that you could be banned for life.
He eventually dropped the subject. It may have come up once or twice in the intervening months, but if so, I cannot recall the specifics.
And yet, for whatever reason — probably the possible banishment from a hockey game — the message stuck with him. But rather than become a reformed curser, he decided that no one would ever, ever call him “buddy.”
Just a few days ago, I explained to Ryan’s street hockey coach that just because he might not look you in eye did not mean he wasn’t listening, that he was likely still absorbing whatever was said. Once again, I need to remember my own advice. When we find ourselves repeating messages to Ryan and wondering if they will ever sink in, we need to recall that nothing gets past him.
Particularly if it involves hockey.
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