“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.”