Today Julianna turned 8.
Yesterday she got the flu for the first time in her life so this isn’t the most exciting birthday she’s ever had. I suppose your actual birthday is just a checkpoint on the road so, whatever, its just a day; a day that marks the end of a great year and the beginning of what will be another.
Each year I feel like I write about how much she and Chloe have grown up in the last 365 days. I write about all the things they’ve accomplished and maybe the challenges they’ve faced (and hopefully overcome). This time, its going to be a little different.
Certainly, there were big achievements. As I’ve written before, Julianna is highly sensitive, highly empathetic. As a result, its been very difficult for her to experience a lot of things other kids her age experience. In some regards, “we” are behind on that front. Please don’t get me wrong: I don’t mean “behind” in any sort of negative way. I mean, many children who are 8 years old, have seen lots of movies, in theaters, or at the very least, at home. Julianna just isn’t there yet, although I can see the cracks forming at the end of the tunnel. I love that she “feels” so strongly.
Recently, she came home from school on a Friday and told me that her friend, [redacted], was going to see the movie Zootopia this Sunday and could we go too. Before she even finished the sentence I said yes. I got in touch with the other parents and found out exactly when they were going and where they were sitting (pre-selected seats in our theater). I got 2 tickets right next to them. It was the first time she had ever asked to go to a movie. I was cautiously optimistic. The reviews were out and the movie was supposed to be great, although apparently the underlying message in the movie wasn’t so subtle, which I figured might be trouble for Julianna. Leading up to it, for the next 2 days, I talked up how much fun it was going to be and how excited I was to see it and so on.
We got to the theater, and I was fully ready to completely spoil her in every possible way. We got popcorn, candy, a slush thing, a bottle of water, and then I even got her something. We met up with her friend and all went to sit down. Then she wanted a hot dog. We went to get that. No problem. Then she had to pee. We went to do that. Then the movie, and the tears about 4 seconds later, started.
[SPOILER ALERT] The opening scene has our young, main character rabbit getting bullied but what I imagine is a slightly older, teenage fox. He shoves her to the ground. She fights back. He slashes her across the face with his claws.
We power through to the next scene where the rabbit, against all odds, becomes the first rabbit to attend to the police academy, graduates at the top of her class, and gets a job in the city of Zootopia. Cut to a scene where she, now post college, or whatever level of education a rabbit must have to be a police office, is going to board a train to Zootopia. On the boarding platform, she is with her parents; the father rabbit sobbing uncontrollably telling her how much he’ll miss her. She boards the train.
Julianna looks to me and says (sobs), “can we leave? I miss mommy and Chloe like her daddy misses her. I feel like I’m in Zootopia. Isn’t she going to miss her family?”
So, approximately 13 minutes into the movie, we head out. I’m not going to torture her (or the other theater patrons who are trying to enjoy the movie). When we hit the lobby, she starts to immediately calm down, a sense of relief washing over her.
She looks at me and asks: “Daddy, how much did the tickets cost?”
I say, “That’s not important, why?”
She says, “I want to save up my money and pay you back for them. I know how much you wanted to see the movie.”
I’m sorry, but how often does an almost-8 year old say something like that? You had to see her eyes when she said it. I wasn’t angry or anything. I fully expected (and actually txt’d my wife before the movie with my prediction) that we’d leave early. I told her that of course, she didn’t need to pay me back but I greatly appreciated the offer and that whenever she was ready to try again, we could do so.
So we went for ice cream instead.
Its this level of emotional depth in her that amazes me. I’m not sure I’ve ever met anyone like her.
All year, she’s been getting more and more daring, relatively. She used to be afraid of animals. 2 months ago she decided she wanted to try riding a horse. She’s been a good swimmer but has been afraid of jumping off the diving board. Over the summer, after a number of false starts and backpedaling off the diving board, she steeled herself, and just did it. When she came up from under water, she had a fist raised in the air triumphantly.
So she takes her time to get to where she’s going, but she gets there, every time, with dignity and with a sense of humanity that makes me incredibly proud; each day more than the last.
Let’s see what she achieves next.
Happy Birthday Julianna.