Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Hanukkah Tears

            “Look at my eyes,” Naomi demanded.
            I typed two more sentences on my email, clicked “send,” then turned and looked at Naomi.  She had just marched into my room and was standing at attention next to my desk.  Her face was flushed and her eyes were bloodshot. 
            “You’re eyes are red, Naomi.  Have you been crying?”
            “Yes,” she sniffed.  “I cried when the counselor was talking.”
            “Why were you crying?”
            “I don’t know.  I just cried.”
            Naomi had just come back from a presentation by the school counselor on “friendships.”  She can dissolve into a fit of giggles during a grammar lesson, so I have no problem believing she can sit in a meeting on friendships and cry and not know why. 
            “Let’s sit down and see if we can figure out why you were crying,” I said.
            Naomi sat down next to me.  She furrowed her brow preparing to think. 
            “What was the counselor talking about?” I asked.
            “People tell rumors about me.”
            “What do people say when they talk about you?”
            “I don’t know.  They’re just mean.  And I cried.”
            Naomi is continually trying to connect with other girls but she is usually unsuccessful.  She seems to have no idea how to act around other students.  She tends to get her face much too close to people, and she can slip into snorting laughter when she’s trying to join into others’ conversations.  She seems to forget all the coaching tips and planned scripts we give her.  I knew I couldn't solve the problem today. 
            “I’m sorry you were sad,” I told her.  “You’re going to have fun tonight though.” Tonight is the first night of Hanukkah. 
            Naomi immediately switched moods and began running through a litany of all the things she’s going to do in the coming days.  Her family is having company, and there are several special meals planned.  She didn’t stay diverted for long, though. 
            “Why do I laugh and cry so much?” she asked.
            Naomi really is having huge mood swings, and I suspect a lot of it has to do with puberty. 
            “Well, you’re growing up, and you have lots of new things happening to you.” 
            The whole notion of growing up and change is a mystery for Naomi, and she has a lot of questions, but she eventually calmed down and was ready to work.  I asked her to get her math book and we started the next lesson.
            As she flipped to page 384, I heard her quietly mutter, “I can’t believe I cried on Hanukkah.”

Saturday, December 10, 2011

We Are The World

 “Come sit down Naomi.”  I motioned to the empty chair at the table.  “We have a new student.”

Safia was sitting at the table with me when Naomi walked into the room.  Naomi looked around a minute as though she might have walked into the wrong room then slowly walked to the table and sat down.

“Naomi, this is Safia.  She’s new to our school this year and she’s going to be in Study Skills with you.”   I motioned to Naomi, “Safia, this is Naomi.”

Safia was tall, slender, and had luxurious black wavy hair.  She was beautiful.  She was also very scared and very shy.  She looked at Naomi and smiled sweetly.  Naomi stared at Safia and said nothing.

“Naomi, can you say hello to Safia?”

“Where did you move here from?” Naomi demanded.

Safia’s eyes darted to me.  She wasn’t quite ready to speak.

“Safia didn’t move here from anywhere else,” I explained.  “She has lived here all her life.  She just transferred here from another school.”

Naomi was used to transfers.  “Which school did you go to?” she asked.

I turned to Safia and smiled.  “Go ahead Safia.  Tell Naomi the name of your school.”

“I went to the Islamic school,” Safia whispered.

Naomi puzzled over this.  I wasn’t sure if she’d even heard Safia, so I said, “She went to the Islamic school for the last four years.  Now she’s going to be in our school.”

Naomi’s eyes stopped focusing on Safia and I could tell she was thinking about this.  Finally she asked, “Are you Catholic?”

  Safia’s face looked stricken.  She didn’t know what to say.  She looked at me pleadingly.    Naomi doesn’t know what Islamic means.  “Naomi,” I explained, “Safia is Muslim.  The Islamic school is a Muslim school.”  I wondered if Naomi had ever heard the word “Muslim.”  “That’s Safia’s religion.”

Sarah continued to stare at Safia.  Then she said, “I’m Jewish.”

It was Safia’s turn to look puzzled.  I turned to Safia and said, “Naomi is Jewish.  That’s her religion.  Your religion is Muslim and Naomi is Jewish.”

This seemed to satisfy both girls because they both smiled at each other.

“Hello Safia,” whispered Naomi.

“Hello Naomi,” whispered Safia.

“Let’s work on some math problems,” I said, passing out small whiteboards, markers, and erasers.  If only world peace could be achieved this easily, I thought.

I wrote the first problem on my whiteboard and showed it to the girls, but Naomi was already busy working on her whiteboard.  Her head was bent down, tilted to the side, and she was biting the tip of her tongue as she carefully drew a Star of David.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

. . . And Gently Lead Those That Are With Young

            What can capture the total attention of eight adults for three days over the Thanksgiving break?  It wasn’t a football team or book or movie.  It was two infants who couldn’t even sit up by themselves.

            For three days we held the new babies, got them to laugh, watched them spit up, cry, sleep, and started it all over again the next day.  Of course, while we slept, their moms got up with them at least three times during the night.  It’s amazing how eight adults can suddenly have nothing to talk about but babies for three days – how they’ve grown, are they hungry, tired, sleepy, what they need for Christmas – babies, babies, babies.  And we’re adults who one year ago could only discuss jobs, politics, theology and education.

            Two of my daughters-in-law had that zonked out look of a new mom who hasn’t had more than four straight hours of sleep in months.  The young women continually exchanged ideas with the third daughter-in-law whose baby is due in March.  The two new moms had so much to share with the new mom to be, and I noticed the third daughter-in-law began to look a little overwhelmed herself.

            After holding my infant grandsons for just a few hours, I again realized that babies are for strong young women.  I loved the time when my sons were babies, but I’ll never forget how tired I always felt - so bone wearying, would-do-anything-for-a-good-night-of-rest tired.

            New moms need so much tender care themselves as they care for their young children.  Isaiah 40:11 says, “He shall feed His flock like a shepherd, He shall gather the lambs with His arms, and carry them in His bosom.  And gently lead those that are with young.  The NASB translates that last phrase, “And gently leads the nursing ewes.”

            Over Thanksgiving I saw how much care new moms need.  I’m so glad God led Isaiah to include the extra reminder that the Good Shepherd takes special note to gently lead those in his flock who have the wonderful, but sometimes overwhelming task of taking care of young children.     

            So to my dear sweet daughters-in-law, when you are feeling the mind numbing overpowering exhaustion that comes from caring 24/7 for a young infant, know that God takes extraordinary care to gently lead you during this time.  You are amazing young women, and you have a loving, understanding Shepherd watching over you.