Her Teen

Today, Julianna turns 13. I am fah-reaking out. She’s a teenager, like, officially.

I mean, now we are going to have to have puberty and relationships and…and…MAKEUP. I’m not equipped for this sort of thing. What am I going to do when she brings home some person she wants to date, introduces me followed by me trying to do some classic fatherly intimidation followed by me getting a wedgie from the date?

You know, a few weeks ago Julianna got contact lenses. She’s been wearing glasses for years and now, on a daily basis, she touches her own eyeballs.

We’ve spent a lot of time together during the whole pandemic thing and so I’ve had a front-row seat to watch her go from a kid to a legitimate young woman. I’ve been reflecting over the past few days on some of the “etc.” things from this past year and figured I’d share them here, at least some of them that she won’t skewer me for a few years from now:

I really love (mostly) car rides with Julianna. We have been playing this game together for the last year where she tries to close her door at the exact moment I close mine. She sucks at this game. This game is like playing hide and seek with a toddler who is hiding by standing with a washcloth over their head thinking that if they can’t see you, you can’t see them. Every car ride starts the exact same way. I’m not making this up. I’ll use our rides to school in the morning as an example.

She gets out to the car first (because she’s trying to win). I come out and catch a glimpse of her pretending to not pay attention to me. Her door is mostly closed but just slightly cracked open. I can tell because a) I can see it, and b) because the overhead light in the car is on. She hasn’t figured this part out yet. Don’t tell her. I pretend to be busy doing something and not paying attention. I open my door and climb in and then move to close my door. I stop short and she closes her door. Or, when I determine she’s picked up on that pattern, I move to close my door and just keep going knowing that she thinks I’ll stop – so she waits. I win. Every. Single. Time. Each time though, and I’m talking about what feels like thousands of times at this point, she screams at me with a huge grin on her face, “DARN IT!”

The best part is when there’s someone else in the car who doesn’t know the game. For them, the ride starts with Julianna seemingly yelling at me for no particular reason.

And off we go.

If it’s just the two of us in the car, many of the rides are spent listening to music. She’s always the DJ and I have to say, much of the music she chooses is…how do I put this…not good. This year was when I realized I was the “get off my lawn” old man. There are times, however, when she chooses music I like. She loves to stare out the window and day dream. If she puts on a song from a TV show or a movie, I know what she’s daydreaming about but I usually ask: “Do you want to talk about anything or would you rather stare out the window and daydream?”


I listen to podcasts a lot of the time when I’m driving but I used to listen to music all the time. I also love daydreaming (while remaining completed focused on the road of course) but daydreaming to a podcast doesn’t really work. There are no podcasts that help me to imagine I’m Rudy Ruetigger lined up for Notre Dame with the whole stadium cheering my name as I take the field, finally, and ultimately sack the quarterback on the last play of the game. If you don’t know that moment, spoiler and getting the chills alert, it’s from the end of the movie and you should pause reading this to watch that right this very second:

Am I right? We don’t daydream enough. Not Julianna. She daydreams all the time and I love and respect it. I let her. I sit there quietly, driving, enjoying that’s she in her head living some big moment. Sometimes we discuss it. I ask her what scene she just re-lived and which part she played. She’s not shy about it at all. She generally doesn’t enjoy “quiet” the way Chloe does but these moments are her exceptions.

Did I mention that she also really took an interest in cooking? She loves making stuff in the kitchen. We recently got a Peloton bike. I love it. Our bike is in the basement. Just the other day, I finished a ride and was feeling great – what a nice way to start the day right? I walk up the basement steps, which leads into our kitchen area, and I find Julianna cooking waffles in the kitchen – for me.

“Dad, do you think 4 waffles is enough or would you like more?”

4 is plenty. What am I going to do? Not eat them?

She makes them for me before she makes them for herself.

Then there are the times when she’ll be home for a remote school week, and I’ll be sitting at my desk working. She’ll knock on the door and bring me a “cake in a mug” situation. I’m not going to lie: it was delicious.

She has always been a helper – she loves doing things for other people and this year, perhaps more than others, has been even more apparent that amongst her friends, she is the connector. She is the one they tell things to and trust with their secrets.

She’s an incredible friend and an even better sister. She and Chloe don’t always get along like any set of siblings but much of the time they do, and especially when they don’t think anyone is looking. They still love having sleepovers together and I can often hear them whispering about important things that mom and dad are not allowed to hear. These moments are the ones that I find to be the most validating. These relationships she has formed and cultivated prove, for me, what I’ve always believed and known.

This is similar to when your baby is born, and you are 99% positive that she is a cute baby but you’re also like 1% positive that she is not and maybe it’ll be nice to just hear from someone else that she is, in fact cute. You aren’t seeing that baby through your own rose-colored glasses. I’ve always “known” that she was a great friend and a great sister but when you see it and hear it from people who are slightly less “proud” of it, it feels all the more meaningful.

Julianna is an amazing person. I think that’s really how I’d sum it up.

But wait. I just had a thought that, if true, wouldn’t surprise me at all: What if she’s letting me win the car door game because she knows what a kick I get out of it? Hm….

Happy Birthday Julianna.