We are working our way through a list of class choices for her freshman year when the girl's anxiety begins to show.
She begins high school in the fall, and as chair of the household Education and Paperwork Committee, it's my job to ensure that all 987 pieces of paper associated with registration and class selection are filled out, lost and then rediscovered in a pile of dust behind the couch at the last possible minute.
He sits at the kitchen table using a set of tiny tools to replace a cracked screen on the girl's iPod. I shuffle paper and try to convince her that the debate team is way more fun than any of the actually fun classes. She sits between us, her head in her hands.
"It's my life," she says dramatically.
I am a little surprised by the sentiment even if the melodrama is just for laughs. Just a few weeks away from her 14th birthday, the girl is ordinarily a stockpile of optimism, who doesn't sweat the small stuff, the big stuff or any of the other-size stuff in between. We depend on her for the family's entire supply of sangfroid.
Then again, at the risk of sounding sanctimonious, it must be said sanctimoniously: learning has always been a priority in our home. You wouldn't believe the pile of books we had to move to make room for the Xbox.
So while it might be a little out of character, is it so hard to believe that our littlest scholar and werewolf enthusiast would fret over making the right educational choices?
"It will be fine," I say.
"I'm so afraid," she says, casting a look at her father, who is too engrossed in his repairs to even recognize the pressure she is putting on herself, academically speaking.
Dean's list, I am thinking. Maybe a valedictorian. I don't want to brag, but it's obvious that my system of surrounding the children with the high-quality reading material they use for drink coasters has paid off in intellectual ambition.
And by "obvious" I mean "not impossible" because it's the iPod surgery that has her worried.
I knew that.