High School Julianna

Today Julianna turns 14.

Oh wait, I’m sorry.

Today, High School Julianna turns 14.

She’s not even in High School yet but has recently taken to referring to herself, not only in the 3rd person, but with the “High School” qualifier.

“High School Julianna is going to get to keep her phone in her bedroom at night.”

“High School Julianna is going to stay up as late as she wants.”

“High School Julianna will be sleeping until noon on weekends.”

Sound at all familiar to any of you?

Parent Matt is mildly amused by this, sometimes.

Her sister though…not so much: “Middle School Chloe thinks you’re annoying.”

So here we are: months away from the end of the middle school chapter of her life, high school just over the horizon, and another year of development behind us. As is always the case when I’m writing these birthday posts, I reflect on the year that was and analyze moments that, individually, might not have seemed so consequential at the time but when I put them all together, it reinforces for me how much growth there has been for both Julianna and Chloe.

There are some of the “traditional” milestones; things that are more tactile: Julianna has thrived in school this year. I don’t just mean that she’s getting good grades but that she’s actually enjoying herself. For a kid who hasn’t always “loved” the idea of learning in school, had you asked me a year ago if I thought Julianna would ever verbally express a strong desire to go to school each day, I’d have said you were crazy. Earlier this week, Julianna had a cold and in the spirit of trying to minimize any potential germ spreading, we let her stay home and have a day of sleep and rest. The next morning, she was up and ready to go because she “needed to be in health class today.”

Earlier this calendar year, high school preparation started in the form of her current teachers making recommendations about which honors classes she should enroll in for her freshman year. Before those recommendations came out, she told us that she really hoped, if no others, that her math teacher recommended her for honors math. When she was in the 6th grade she had a math teacher who was, frankly, not good for her. Our fear was that she would be scared off from math as a result of this experience. She really struggled through math that year (I suppose it’s a good thing I’m an engineer and a huge nerd who loves math – and no, I didn’t do ALL her homework). Skip ahead to now and she’s getting an A in math, really enjoys it, and was hoping to get the honors recommendation.

I place quite a bit of the blame for her bad experience in 6th grade math on her teacher that year and I give an equal amount of credit to her math teachers in 7th and 8th grades for her resurgence. We have been wildly lucky having incredible teachers for both Julianna and Chloe with this one exception.

The first recommendation she received was for honors english. This was also interesting given that she really doesn’t like to read.

Honors civics. Honors science.

Who is this nerd?

And then: honors math. She was so proud of herself, rightly so. She has worked so hard and earned these recommendations.

When it came time to actually choose her high school classes (you don’t have to take the recommendations), she chose to enroll in honors english and honors math.

You want to know the electives she signed up for? The first one was ceramics. Awesome. I can’t wait for another ambiguous pencil holder/coin tray. If you know Julianna, you might have a hard time understanding this second one: Human Behavior and Genocide.

We’re talking about Julianna here; a person who still won’t watch Frozen because it makes her too sad (don’t even get me started on Frozen 2). I don’t want to harp on all things school here but this is actually a bigger deal than the specific class. Julianna had a chance to take lots of different classes, and without consulting with us, she studied her options and decided that she was going to lean into something that made her really nervous and would be potentially very challenging, and take it on. This is just not something she would have been willing to do in previous years.

She’s growing up. This makes sense, I suppose, given that this was also the year where she had her Bat Mitzvah.

She also volunteered to be a team manager for the middle school girls’ basketball team.

She makes her own plans and most of the time considers the fact that I’m not an uber driver.

She cooks and even better, she bakes.

She laughs at her own jokes (her teachers did not recommend her for Honors Joke Telling).

She found more independence this year than any of us expected but still finds time to call, or at the very least text, my in-laws and my parents to see how they are.

She got her braces off and started wearing contact lenses. Her idea of teenage rebellion, for now, is to not wear her lenses or not put in her retainer at night.

She keeps changing and growing but the one thing that has remained constant: her empathy and sense of emotion.

She regularly interrupts whatever it is I’m doing to just give me a hug. It happens during zoom meetings. It happens when I’m walking down the hall. She’s the master of the sneak-attack hug.

She continues to be a great friend, a great sister, a great daughter, and a great person.

I’m excited to see who High School Julianna becomes over the next few years. I’m sure we will settle in to that version of her just in time for College Julianna to be born…

Happy Birthday Julianna.