The Drop-Off

With Ryan on our way to MSG.
I love being your Dad AND your friend. But about that second role? I’m happy to step aside.

Today we celebrate another small victory, another small sign of progress that might have otherwise slipped past unnoticed, were it not for the lens that I have learned to use to view such things.

Where to begin?

Because there are no Little Things, let me count all the bits of awesomeness this weekend included. Ryan was invited to a bar mitzvah. He attended said bar mitzvah. He had a great time. He brought a friend home afterwards to watch the Devils game.

Oh, and we dropped him off at the party, like it was nothing.

Each of those represents a win, a mile marker on the trail that marks Ryan’s progress. Being invited. Wanting to go. Willing to be dropped off. Enjoying himself. Hanging out with the other boys he knew at the event. Coming up with a plan to have one of them to come over to watch a hockey game.

There’s something particular about the drop-off, and it’s more about us than Ryan. I noted his willingness to be dropped off, but he’s long past caring about that. It’s us — we needed to get over the hump and grow comfortable with leaving him somewhere, confident that he would be OK, or contact us if he wasn’t.

This wasn’t a tough decision, it was a party surrounded by classmates, neighbors and most of the boys he considers friends.

But there was still an unspoken acknowledgement between Veronica and I that this was indeed a Big Deal. Ryan’s independence is growing, in dozens of little ways that added together paint a picture of a boy who is growing increasingly comfortable in his world and with his ability to navigate it.

We didn’t really worry, and yet when I went to pick him up I was thrilled that he came running out not to tell me how great it was (although he got to that part eventually) but to ask if another friend could come over to watch the hockey game. They’d already asked his friend’s parents, all I had to do was say yes.

This was new territory. Ryan’s evening game-watching is very regimented. He watches, and flips between games, and disappears to check stats between periods. He usually shows himself to bed right around 9 p.m., before the earliest evening games are over.

But this was different. Ryan was genuinely invested in watching THIS game WITH his friend. There was no channel surfing. There was no running off to his room to type stats. There was no going to bed early. They remained engaged throughout, cheering the Devils to a critical victory from the basement.

When Ryan’s friend was picked up shortly after the game ended, only then did Ryan revert to the comfort of his routines. I looked at the clock. It was nearly 10 p.m. Veronica had taken him to the bar mitzvah six-plus hours earlier. In all that time he had been engaged with friends and peers, enjoying himself, with only the most minimal interaction with us.

When Ryan struggled to make friends, I resolved to fill the role of his best friend. It’s something I’m sure many parents in our position do. When he began to express frustration about his struggles, it only made me more determined to act as a replacement for the friends he didn’t have. I love the time we spend together, going to or watching games, or playing one of our backyard hockey series.

But on Saturday, I did not mind be pushed aside. Not one little bit.

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