Friday, January 1, 2010

Flash Cards

Ever's cry is so beautiful. It makes me think of Sylvia Plath
And now you try /Your handful of notes;/The clear vowels rise like balloons.
Her cry is round and full and rises- but not far- until it pops easily against the air, her father's face, the space between her and I. It hums upward like this: hmmm mm....hmmmm hmmmmm..  Her cry is so clear and crystalline and free of all the muddy hurts of life. Her cry is river water over rocks. It is also a calm cry, a cry that expects fully to be met with tenderness, loving voices, hands, a bare breast pressed into her mouth.  It breaks me open.  I am worried for our D., our oldest child, and that worry is etching itself into my face in the lines around my mouth and the one between my eyes. In the hollow distracted expressions a camera catches from me before I can offer something else.  I have been worn down with the bright cracking love of a new baby, and I am tender to the bone. Slight hurts invade my skin..I wrote once. True again.  I am shy, easily embarrassed, prone to misting over in the eye, self conscious and apologetic over things that I know logically aren't my fault, or anyone's. But still I am sure they are my own to fail.  I feel ashamed of my fumbling. I wanted four children. I have four children, and now I am fumble fucking around, making lists one minute and falling asleep on the chair, mouth open drool down my cheek the next. 

In Starbucks this morning I talked to the mother of a boy in Lola's class. I tutor the math in class, she said. Lola's having a really  hard time with the multiplication tables. I opened my mouth to respond but she kept talking I told her she should practice. We do practice, I said quietly, biting the inside of my cheek, screaming YOU WILL NOT CRY MOTHERFUCKER in my mind.  Oh I know! I told her...and she kept talking.  And it was mostly a lie. Mostly, we haven't been practicing. Mostly, I bought flash cards three weeks ago and still haven't remembered to use them once.  Mostly, I get off work at 4 and have to be lying in bed nursing my baby to sleep at 7. In the hours between 4 and 7 I have to spend time with all of my children, take one of them somewhere, eat or make and eat dinner, fold and put away one load of laundry, shower myself and or Ever, and possibly on a good night, like tonite, blog.  We are letting Ever stay up late tonite, because I had to write. Or my head will pop, not like Ever's kitten cries, but like a big, bloody pustule of adult frustration.  In addition to the things listed above, there are the other four million things, like teaching Lola how to ride a bike (feeling  horribly guilty we haven't regularly taken her out to learn) calling people who used to be my friends but might have given up on me at this point, returning emails, keeping my  house from the brink of filth and hoarder status, picking up groceries, going through Lola's backpack with her, signing papers, opening mail, paying bills, organizing the month's schedule, organizing whatever needs to be done for kids outside of school ( lately: summer camp forms, payments, phone calls and Insurance forms and phone calls and emails and phone calls to both L and D's schools about separate things ) spending 'special time' with Lola, doing homework with Lola, talking to D ( who has been wanting to talk nightly and who I MUST respond to because 1. he's almost seventeen and his time as my son as a kid is almost over and 2. he's having a hard time ) and oh my God...sex...my husband. I miss him so much. 

I've forgotten so much. And no matter how much I do- we do- I am always failing somewhere important. It's important, all of that. It's important that Lola's homework is done and one time and we make the kids school lunches so they don't eat like shit and our house isn't disgusting and I always, always have this feeling of anxious urgency.  At work, I can barely stand it sometimes, thinking of all the day going by and all the things I need to do.

And sleep, and Ever's teething and waking up all night,

and I have a tremor and a twitch in my left hand and today, I dropped not one but two drinks, just let go of them like an old lady, not even tripping or slipping, just my hand letting go for no reason.  

Not only do I feel like a failure, I feel like everyone agrees that I am.  Everyone but Mr. Curry, of course, who is, as always, my biggest supporter.  Everyone being the lady in Starbucks who knows my daughter isn't good at math and that I'm not tutoring her ( I work with S. every night with flash cards, she told me ), the people who wrote the complaint at my work about my baby holding propensities, and my nine year old daughter, who while she says I'm the best, also acts like I'm monumentally fucking up every time I have to ask her to wait a minute or to stop talking for TWO SECONDS CAN YOU JUST STOP TALKING FOR TWO SECONDS or tell her, no, Mommy can't play dolls tonight, I'm too tired.  I want to cry just writing this. I'm too tired for my sweetie at night, I just can't have focused play acting with her more than once a week right now and it's what she wants more than anything. I offer other things- sit with me, snuggle me, let me read a book to you- but it doesn't make her feel important the way playing does.  

Two nights ago we did have a dance off. Mr. Curry was the judge and Lola won by 12,000 points. I did the Sprinkler wrong and got -1. I love you Mr. Curry for giving me a negative one for our daughter.

And I'm sleeping with her and Ever, and after Ever falls asleep, Lola and I cuddle, every night. But still she doesn't seem to feel IMPORTANT enough, her big blue eyes are a little sad, and she acts so hurt over everything we can't do for her.  I feel like I'm ruining her happy heart. Dakota wasn't like this when Lola was born. What I could give him- which was much the same- was enough, he felt loved and important. Lola needs more.
I keep trying to prioritize. I keep rearranging. I keep trying. I keep failing. I'm always forgetting something, something that can monumentally fuck my kids up. ( If she doesn't get this now, she'll have a horrible time in fourth grade, she said. And it's true.  ) Like flash cards.
NodToStyle said...

nervous energy. yes.
is there something in the air?
my hands twitch with a nervous, antsy adrenaline as the anxiety courses through my veins.
best wishes towards finding a balance!

caro said...

I am furious at that woman on your behalf--for her inappropriate talk and holier than thou tone. WTF.

I don't know how anyone gets through raising a baby, let alone baby plus older kids, but I know that people do, and I'm starting to understand that at some point everyone spends some time feeling like a miserable failure at it. But you're not. You're really not.

Miss Tricky said...

Or how I can't afford to get my son's cavities fixed and now they hurt him. Or all the other bills, the now dusty to-do list I drag to every room and the impending move. And I only have two.

You will find a groove and it will start to work. Promise.

N said...

I've been a lurker for months and months; as a young single parent ( I had my daughter at 20), you are everything I hope to be in my near future. This blog, along with some others, keep me going when I feel like my life fucking sucks. Thank you for being You.

Still Life With Coffee said...

"keeping my house from the brink of filth and hoarder status"
me too!!! I'm kind of hoping its a sign of a creative family... right? Love your post. Don't fret about Lola's math. She will learn when she is ready....no need for other moms to freak out about it. Seriously.

Elizabeth said...

You need to stop kvetching about your "failures" and relax. Really. Lola will learn her multiplication tables eventually -- that woman is full of shit. Or maybe she might not for a while, and really -- in the scheme of things, who cares? All will be well. All will be well. You have a new baby -- it's hard. It's hard for everyone. Lola will survive and knows that she is loved. She will learn independence. If it makes you feel better, I don't think I've EVER gotten down on the floor and played with cars with my sons. NEVER. And they're fine. I read a great book once, that I don't remember the name of, but it basically said that when a mother is stressed, she needs some help and that that help can come from her children and that children as young as three should have jobs to do, to be a part of the family, to help. She also said that so many of our children grow up to feel empty inside -- and that this emptiness is because they are not independence -- well, I'm now hijacking your blog and I only wanted to tell you that it'll get better and to go easy on yourself.

(and your writing is gorgeous!)

Mary said...

So anyway as you know I am doing lots of therapy because of J's bi polar and his stupid affair and things are settling down. The very strong current that runs through the sessions is that what has kept me moving forward is that i grew up feeling completely and totally loved. That even though I was the eldest child of seven kids (the youngest being born when I was nine!!!) and there was never ever individual attention as far as I can recall , I never doubted that I was loved.

And that - at the end of the day - is how you and Mr Curry are raising your kids. They will never doubt that they were/are loved.

And they will not give a flying fuck about multiplication tables when they are all grown!

~Amber Elise~ said...

Fuck that lady in Starbucks. Who is she anyway?! You are a mother to 4 children. New babies are a handful and older children are a handful, PLUS you have Needs as well. Don't beat yourself up Maggie, You are not a failure. This too shall pass. May your heart be filled with Peace and Love and Balance.

January Dawn said...

I believe the 'kvetching' is therapeutic (gorgeously written kvetching) and we've all felt the overwhelmingness (not a real word I know) of having SO much to do and no time or energy to do it. You just need to believe you are doing the best you can (because you ARE) and take it day by day (or minute by minute if you have to).  Heck, I have 2 little boys and can barely handle the days sometimes...you have 4! You are doing a beautiful job.

Mel said...

Maggie, hang in there! You're tired and things will get better, they will. I think you need to delegate - let the boys help with the multiplication tables, it will be good for everyone. You can't do it all, nobody can. If it's any consolation, I feel like a failure on any given day - my house is a wreck, I look like hell, my kids are going off the rails, I forgot something important - again. I do what I can, and every day I get up and I try again. Some days I cry, some days I laugh, some days I'm too tired to know what i feel. Stephen Stills sang some days you eat the bear, some days the bear eats you.... hope you have a big bear sandwich soon.

Julia said...

1. Multiplication.com It's FREE. She can play different games every day. Math drills are the perfect use of the computer because the computer Never. Gets. Bored.

2. Allocate one day for each person in the family (including you). If it's Tuesday, that's Lola's day, and it's the day that you make her your priority.

3. It's actually okay to put the baby down and let her fuss a bit so that you can have sex. Really.

maos said...

i totally rock at multiplication. i also used to teach pre-GED and found these sites very useful. good luck! http://www.math-drills.com/multiplication.shtml look at the 5 min frenzy and http://www.mathsisfun.com/numbers/math-trainer-multiply.html

clearness said...

I STILL don't know my multiplication tables and you know what? I made a B in Statistics and a B in College Algebra. Those teachers let me use a calculator. You are on the west cost so the SAT's are probably the big college test but out here we have the ACT's and I scored a 24 on the overall test *don't remember the math section* (which is pretty good).

There is this CD by Twin Sisters Recording???? Maybe?? Anyway there is a CD called Multiplication Rap. I wonder if she listened to it, she'd do a little better.

ALSO, during the summer you can do finger numbers. If she needs to work on her threes.......start on her left thumb and write the number 3, then pointer finger 6, middle finger 9, ring 12, pinkie 15, right thumb 18......and so on.

Each week do a different number.....

You are a fabulous mom. That's why I read your blog.

Sara said...

Girl, hang in there. You are doing a great job, even if it doesn't feel like it's enough sometimes. It's a hell of a lot more than I got, and a lot of kids get. And your kids are as lucky to have you as you are to have them.

Annie said...

Hi Maggie,

You are doing everything you can, to balance everyone's needs. Believe that. And any time you feel you are not, is probably the time to care of yourself, to take a few moments to re-energize, just like you did here, writing all of your feelings down.

You are not alone. Everyone- everyone, feels they are not doing enough, even the volunteer Mom. She probably worries about your Lola and all of the other kids, and her intentions are probably good- not to make you feel bad- She probably thought she was offering some help- Either that, or she is a self pompous ass. What's important is what you know about yourself.

The suggestions are good to help Lola learn her multiplication tables- ultimately, it is Lola's responsibility to learn them with whatever method works for her- memorize, memorize, memorize; or use computer games. I remember, as a little girl, no one helped me (my Mom had five kids)- I knew I had to memorize them myself. I made the mistake with my own son, of attempting to work with him too much (unsuccessfully and frustrating for both of us), because it needed to be his responsibility.

As far as playing with Lola, like someone said, she knows you love her. If D. wants to talk to you, that is an excellent thing. My seventeen year old no longer confides in me, and it is sad.

Your hormones may still be out of wack, zapping your energy, along with everything that you have to do. So, of course, you need to forgive yourself, and make sure you are eating right, sleeping, all those good things that are so hard to do.

The bottom line: You have four children and you and your husband are both working parents. You do everything you can, and there will always be something left undone. It's hard, hard, hard- but it's all worth it. Life and love.

Amelia said...

G's first year of life was a constant competition of how much I needed to get done, and how long it took for a mental break down. She's my first kid, and I don't even have a job. So you totally win. But I wanted to tell you I get it. I get feeling frantic and not enough and crying for no reason because all there is is reasons to cry. And I hope it gets better soon.

Vodka Mom said...

from this teacher to YOU, i never had the time, either. But I wrapped them in love, and know in my heart that all will be well in the end.


(press the ignore button.)

Daina said...

I know you feel horrible, disorganized and lacking the ability to effectively parent-- we all go thru those days-weeks--and I had a solid year of feeling like a schmucky mom. Breath. Take each day as they come and you'll be OK.
I have 4 kids and I don't go thru one week without some drama, often my own that I carefully develop in my own mind, but I stop, breath and count my proverbial blessings.
You WILL be ok.

PS That mom in your daughters class had NO business to talk to you about the math tutoring. That is the teacher's responsibility.

Maggie May said...

BLOGGER!? What have you done with all my comments? My lovely precious comments!? I'm melting...melting..ah what a wicked world...

Middle Child said...

Please sweetheart be kind to yourself - all you need to do is to love yourdelf, your kids and Mr Curry - all else will follow.

People from outside have not a clue and have not the right to criticise...

I am 57 - my daughters 36 and 33 - my husband and their dad was killed by the "system" and it was shocking - but we follow the path of just ignoring what "they" say is good and right and what we know is good and right - not so important that dishes are washed and clothes ironed - what is important is the love shared with you, Mr curry and your lovely and individualistic kids - ok

liverwortlaura said...

although I am not yet a mother, and can only imagine how exponentially that avalanche of love and fear must aggravate what I am familiar with, I KNOW what you're talking about. That feeling of being a complete failure. Then on top of it the frustration of oh my god I am spending all my time and energy on other things and am constantly exhausted and for what? because i'm still fucking everything up.
...
but really, it's not true. Being aware of it all, the limitations, the realities, our shortcomings (even though it hurts like hell) is so much better than being completely oblivious. Or believing that whatever harsh methods of time management or parenting employed are actually good.

I have complete confidence that you will find a way to meet all your needs (and part of that might be that YOU are not doing all of it...) Are there any members of your community that might be able to double as math tutor? are there any other times that might work better to connect with D? I'm not really trying to offer unsolicited advice, but I know sometimes I have the hardest time getting the creative ball rolling to think of new solutions when I'm so exhausted, and sometimes just a few queries can help.

Holding you in the light, dear woman. You are so full of light and love yourself, but I know that feeling when it seems so dim....

Caroline of Salsa Pie said...

Maggie, I read this the other day but couldn't comment because Blogger was down. The comments were lovely.

You don't need any advice from me. I'm the one who comes here FOR the advice! :) You are doing all the right things--just loving your family. And anyone who does a living room dance off with their family is more than awesome in my book.

sending lots of ♥.

katiecrackernuts said...

Four kids. Four. Three still at home, one out in the world but sometimes I feel her wanting to claw back in. One who may never break from the routine that holds her sane. One ready to fly, blind faith carrying her as it always does. She plunders that one. She only moves forward. Some days I think she's the one who will survive. Another who, like me, waits and listens and does and is and watches and sees and knows and then moves. He is patient that one. He watches Star Wars for the action but I know it's the sage, the wise Yoda, that carries him further. A partner who has no time and studies fulltime and works fulltime and me who commutes four hours a day and works full days and then on the weekends bakes and cleans and washes and launders and irons and gardens and takes photos and runs and tries to patch it all up for another round. It's life hon, it's just life. I don't know that you can break it. If it doesn't break you, you can't break it. There's some push/pull law of nature that keeps everything together.

katiecrackernuts said...

Four kids. Four. Three still at home, one out in the world but sometimes I feel her wanting to claw back in. One who may never break from the routine that holds her sane. One ready to fly, blind faith carrying her as it always does. She plunders that one. She only moves forward. Some days I think she's the one who will survive. Another who, like me, waits and listens and does and is and watches and sees and knows and then moves. He is patient that one. He watches Star Wars for the action but I know it's the sage, the wise Yoda, that carries him further. A partner who has no time and studies fulltime and works fulltime and me who commutes four hours a day and works full days and then on the weekends bakes and cleans and washes and launders and irons and gardens and takes photos and runs and tries to patch it all up for another round. It's life hon, it's just life. I don't know that you can break it. If it doesn't break you, you can't break it. There's some push/pull law of nature that keeps everything together.

anymommy said...

You, like us all, are WAY too hard on yourself, sweet Maggie. Long after those dolls are are gone to Goodwill or stuffed in a chest and forgotten, long after Lola has decided to go into law or creative writing or social work or a million other things because math isn't her favorite (maybe, who knows?) she will remember your warmth, your touch, your snuggles, your love. I know it. I promise you and I promise myself.

Sadie said...

I can't give you any reassuring words about parenting- that is a road I've yet to travel. But I can say that anyone who feels so strongly about being a neglectful mother cant really be that neglectful a mother. If that makes sense.

Also, this was really a beautifully written post. I hoped it helped you feel a little better.

And finally... If it helps, I was AWFUL at long division and ended up doing just fine in math that year.

Thanks for stopping by my blog. :)

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