My daughter just finished the first week of her junior year of high school. I have absolutely no idea how it went for her, or how this year’s going to be, despite my daily attempts at Dad Recon from her bedroom doorway each afternoon.
Me: Hey! How was the first day of school, Miss Junior Year?
Her: You know, it was pretty good! I know where my classes are, and they’ll all pretty close together except for environmental science.
Me: That’s good! Did you have any of your friends in your classes?
Her: Yeah! Brianna is in my English, and John and Rain are in my math.
Me: How was your “mock trial” class? I know you were bummed about having to take it, but I think it might be really great for you.
Her: I think it’s actually going to be interesting! Mr. Tormey is teaching it, and I had him for history last year, and he’s really funny. So that’s really cool.
Her: I know! Also, I hung out with Grace, Drewes and Eliana at lunch. I really missed them.
Me: Well, that all sounds great!
Her: AND … I think I may really like my English teacher this year. Her name is Ms. Speers, and she seems super nice, and she’s young so she won’t be all boring.
Me: You like your English teacher? A first! How awesome!
Her: I know!
Me: First-day success! Let’s celebrate with ice cream!
Me: High five!
[Enthusiastic high fives ensue.]
Me: Knock, knock! Hey there, Junior! How was school today?
Her: [Muffled, due to the pillow over her face.] Shitty. I hate everyone.
Me: But … but … your friends?
Her: What friends.
Me: You said yesterday that … never mind. How was your cool English teacher today?
Her: She’s awful. She hates me. We already have a research paper. And I was late to science today because it’s too far away from English, and so that teacher’s going to hate me, too.
Me: O … K. Well, what did you do in mock trial today?
Her: I had to speak in front of everyone and I sucked. Everything sucks.
Me: But … but …
Her: This year is gonna be the worst year of my life.
Me: I’m sorry. Um … high-five?
Her: Don’t even talk to me.
Me: [Knocks gingerly then opens door just a crack.] Um … Knock knock?
Her: [Ignores me due to ear buds.]
Me: [Waves to get her attention.] Yo. Junior. Hello.
Her: [Plucks out buds reluctantly.] Hi. What.
Me: How was Day Three? Dare I ask?
Her: [Sighs.] It was OK, I guess. I don’t know.
Me: You don’t know? Was it bad?
Her: [More sighing.] It was school.
Me: Meaning what?
Her: It’s gonna be the same as last year. Only harder.
Me: Why harder?
Her: Because it’s junior year. I found out that junior year is, like, the hardest year of high school.
Me: It is. Why?
Her: Dad. Have you ever heard of college?
Me: Yes, youngling. I’m familiar with the concept.
Her: This is the year when grades count the most. Everything is about grades for college. If you screw up your junior year, you don’t get into any colleges anywhere. AND, I need to take the SAT this fall.
Me: Why so soon?
Her: Because the first time I take it I’m going to suck at it, so I need to get that out of the way early.
Her: I’m going flunk out of school, I won’t get into college, and I’m going to have to live in a box under an off ramp.
Me: Wow. I can see why you’re bummed.
Her: Whatever. It’s school. And life. Plus, Brianna isn’t my friend anymore. We had a thing at lunch today.
Me: That’s too bad. I’m sorry to hear that. What was the thing about?
Her: It doesn’t matter. In 100 years we’ll all be dead anyway.
Me: Sounds like you’re in a malaise.
Me: [Lifts one hand.] Melancholy high-five?
Her: [Eyeballs roll, ear buds reinserted.] Maybe later.
Me: [Knocks on door.] Hey, Kid.
Her: [No answer.]
Me: [Peeks head in.] Just seeing how school was today. Didn’t want to intrude if you want to be alone.
Her: [Stares at me with laser eyes.] Just so you know. This year is going to suck, and it’s basically your fault.
Me: MY fault? Why?
Her: I can’t believe you didn’t make try out for the fall play two years ago.
Me: [Confused and disoriented.] Oh. Wait. What? What are you talking about?
Her: OH MY GOD, Dad. The fall musical? When I was a freshman? I wanted to try out, but I didn’t, and you just let me not do it instead of making me audition, like you should have. And now there’s no way I’ll ever be able to be in the play this year because all those theater people started doing it two years ago, and now there’s no room for me. So THANKS A LOT. [Focuses laser stare at me until I feel my face getting uncomfortably warm.]
Me: I’ll talk to you later.
Me: [Gently knocks on door.] Is it safe?
Her: Huh? What do you mean?
Me: [Opens door a crack, peers in with one eyeball.] Just wanted to see how we’re feeling now that the first week of school is officially over. I can come back later.
Her: Just come in, Dad. God. Why are you being weird?
Me: [Enters room cautiously, scanning for booby traps and quicksand.] How … how was school?
Her: It was fine. Why are you acting like you’re surrounded by wolves or something?
Me: Just wanted to check in and see what you think about your first week as a junior. I can come back later.
Her: [Face of innocence.] Dad, it was completely fine.
Me: How’s that English teacher?
Her: She was cool. We learned about logical fallacies. She asked everyone what a “straw man” argument was, and I totally knew.
Me: And how was it getting across campus for science class? That sounded pretty hard to do in so little time.
Her: [Brushes away with one hand.] It’s not a big deal. I just cut through the art building and behind the auditorium, and I’m there in plenty of time.
Me: And Brianna? Is she going to be a problem?
Her: What do you mean? She’s one of my best friends. She was just having bad cramps and had temporary Bitch Syndrome yesterday. I told her I get the same way. We’re totally cool.
Me: Oh. Well, that’s good. Are you still worried about grades and stuff? It’s junior year, after all.
Her: Dad, it’s fine. I mean, it’s school, but it’s fine. There’s an SAT prep class I might take, and it’ll be a couple weeks before homework gets too crazy, I think.
Me: I see. That’s a relief, then. OK. I’ll let you know when dinner’s ready. [Withdraws and starts closing door.]
Her: Hello, it’s Friday. Friday high-five. [She waits, hand raised.]
Me: High five, indeed.
[The highing of fives commences. I leave her room, confused, exhausted, and needing aspirin. Happy First Week of School, everyone.]