January 2, 2012 was a perfect day in so many ways. That was the day Ryan skated in front of 47,000 people on the kids auxiliary rink at the NHL Winter Classic in Philadelphia.
I have told the story many times in this space. Indeed, it was one of the first posts on the blog and an event that inspired me to start writing regularly about our journey and the enormous role hockey plays in our lives. It does not need retelling here, but if you’re a newcomer, I urge you to read this post to see why it was such a special day for us.
Of all my memories of that day, and there are many, there is but one negative. I recall asking Ryan if he wanted to wear the special Rangers jersey he was issued to school the next day. I asked him if he would tell everyone about his experience.
He answered no to both questions. Puzzled, I pushed.
He told me, matter-of-factly, that he wasn’t supposed to talk about hockey at school.
It’s true. His teachers and aide, in an effort to get him to focus on the tasks of schoolwork, had told him that he was not to bring up hockey during class hours. Because Ryan is of a black-and-white, straight lines, all-or-nothing mindset, he immediately adopted the stance that this meant he was not to even mention his favorite thing from the moment he stepped on school grounds until the moment he left.
Therefore, he would not tell anyone about a day he declared the greatest of his life.
I could write a lengthy post about how I feel about that today vs. two years ago. It stings even now to think about it. But that’s not the point I’m trying to make here. Let’s just say my thinking has evolved.
Fast-forward two years. As New Jersey Devils season-ticket holders, we received an invitation to go skating tonight on the rink that was installed at Yankee Stadium for the Stadium Series (games between the Rangers-Devils and Rangers-Islanders were held Sunday and Wednesday this week).
Ryan was at first ambivalent about the opportunity. He initially preferred to keep up his normal Friday routine of public skating at our local rink. Riley was more excited than he was, but she’s still recovering from a fractured foot and unable to take part. I wasn’t dying to drive into New York City at rush hour on the Friday before the Super Bowl is in town, so I wasn’t going to push Ryan too hard.
But Riley said she was OK with him going without her, and he warmed to the idea. And then he said something that stopped me, and immediately brought back the one negative memory of his Winter Classic experience.
“I can’t wait to tell everyone at school!” he said.
With that, he was committed to the idea. He has
told bragged to many people at school — teachers and classmates alike — about what he’s going to do this evening.
And you know what? I’m thrilled.
I’m thrilled that he has formed social relationships with some classmates to the point he wanted to tell them about something exciting in his life. I’m thrilled that by some accident (yeah, right) of chance, several of his teachers this year are huge hockey fans. Ryan even sends hockey trash-talk emails back and forth with one of them.
It’s all part of the social development we’ve seen in leaps and bounds the last few years. He is no longer just taking in experiences and internalizing them. He is placing them in context, and then finding contextual moments to share them with people.
That means he’s thinking as others’ think. As in, I like hockey, my friend likes hockey, why don’t I tell my friend who likes hockey about this awesome hockey-related experience I’m going to have?
It’s worth crossing the George Washington Bridge at rush hour on Super Bowl Friday and navigating the Major Deegan.
And it’s worth bragging about.