Wednesday, November 22, 2006

I Was Gonna Get Around to that Glamour SPC . . .

I can't seem to shake The Overwhelm. It's stuck to me like wet dough on my fingers. I shake (positive thinking). I shake (some exercise). I shake (healthful eating). I shake (thankful mediation). I shake (extra douses of patience forced on myself). Still there, and I've fallen prostrate to it; I've been shaking less this last week. I didn't get up in time for my run this morning. I just ate 3 fucking flaxseed waffles and drank 2 cups of coffee. Not my usual weekday fair. It's not helping. At all. Now I'm overwhelmed and anxious. Fuck me.

I had a parent-teacher conference this morning with Mina's 2nd grade teacher. And I learned that Mina's not doing so well. I knew I had to push her to stay focused on homework and reading; I knew that she doesn't like much school work or chores or anything else laborious to her, but I didn't know that she was in all the lower-level groups, that she does the very, very bare minimum of work. I heard words like "possible holding back" and "low end of the low group" and my face flushed and the room spun. My stomach hurt. She's bright. I know this. Her teacher knows this. Mina is just in Mina World. She is creative and pensive and stubborn. Her teacher interpreted her as very much a child, baby-like when I see her as old-man like. Her teacher didn't knock or downplay the importance of her overflowing creativity, she just said, "We have to get her through 2nd grade though." I said, "When she's supposed to be doing her work at the stations, what is she doing?" The teacher had already said that Mina isn't overly talkative. She said, "I'm not really sure." Mina World, that's where she is, designing clothes, drawing hair on the cartoons on the handouts instead of putting words on the lines. In many ways, I feel a grand sense of pride that she's so out there creatively and otherwise, but feelings of parental failure gushed at me like a busted sewage pipe. It's just that I thought her reading was coming along fine. It's just that I thought she was actually good at math. She doesn't really struggle with her homework, just needs to be pushed to do it. She doesn't like to work hard at it. And the Overwhelm says, "Doesn't this happen to kids whose parents don't spend a lot of time with them? Parents that don't watch over homework nightly?" Overwhelm says, "You do a lot. But it's not enough." And I feel too badly to shake that off.

I'll come up with a plan soon. I'll make things more fun, maybe. I'll work harder at getting her to work harder. More regimented time allotments of reading. Flash cards? Mina's gonna hate all that shit. Maybe I'll ask her questions like, "If you have 7 yards of black-striped fabric to make a fabulously strange & dark ball gown, but you only use 3 yards because you saw this pewter-glitter fabric to use instead for the trim, how many yards of black-stripe fabric would you toss or instead fashion into a coat for the dogs?"

Overwhelm is at my throat, yo.

My mother left yesterday after a four-day visit. It was good, mellow. Not high, not low. The entertaining -- even at low levels -- exhausts me. I'm not as anxious around her as I have been the previous 39 years of my life, but tension is still there in very mild doses. She's going through a nasty, bitter divorce where her character is on the demolition list. I've never seen her this humble. She seems very vulnerable and young right now, like a lot of the outer hardness of her personality is stripped away and this weekend I saw how she putters endlessly in her mind. Deep within herself there is safety from the outside. She had a great time with the girls. They made her feel better. She taught them sudoku, which of course Mina picked up in 2 seconds and then promptly lost interest. My mom still says things like, "I have a photogenic memory. Mina's got that gene too." I'm apparently the vehicle through which my mother's brilliance passes to get to the girls. She's said it about Mina's artistic side a ton of times. Feh, it could be true. Mina internally putters. Is that genetic? Maybe I can help Mina not rely on it as much, broaden her focus within and outside of herself.

Maya leaves tonight for Thanksgiving in Las Vegas. And the rest of us are going to spend it quietly it home. I'm looking forward to that. I've already dubbed it The Rivera Pajama Jammie Jam Thanksgiving. We'll camp out in the living room, watch movies. I'll make my rice & beans and Mina and I will give vegan pie making a go. Then maybe we'll try to make flash cards fun. Maybe I'll have her design a set of flash cards . . .

Last night Mina had a dance performance. She's been taking a Bollywood dance class for the last 7 weeks. She was beautiful and so sweet remembering her moves in full sari and adding some hiphop swagger to the whole thing. She hadn't shown me any of her routine because she wanted it to be a big surprise at her performance (a huge, fundamental difference between her and Maya), but I got glimpses when I would play my international CD in the car. When the song from India comes on, Mina says, "Turn it up!" I watch her shoulders bob up and down. She yells over the music, "I love it!"

My baby is so interesting and complex. I just want to unlock her mind, let it unfold to a thousand possibilities not just the ones she's settled on within her layered, but still seven-year old logic. The challenge rekindles my desire to shake off some Overwhelm. Makes me believe I can squeeze some more academic time in for her. Makes me gladly believe that I Am her Vehicle. The one that will stoke her unique and individual brilliance.

11 comments:

Deezee said...

ah, the creative child in a structured world - what a challenge.

I know schools don't have the energy or the resources to completely individualize, but oh, if they did...

at least you recognize all the magic within her. that counts for a lot...

Marigoldie said...

You know, this story appears frequently in the biographies of fabulously successful people.

SUEB0B said...

School is just school. I know it is heresy to say, but the teacher is right - you just have to get her through somehow. She's not stupid, she's not a problem, she just isn't on track with their program. It's not so bad if she can just figure out how to play along enough to get them off her back.

madness rivera said...

These comments have helped me. Thank you. They are things I would say to someone else too, but I felt deflated earlier, like I had let Mina down.

But by the time Mina came home from school, I had a plan. We pinkie swore that we'd work harder in specific ways. And I used the colorful chalk that she wants badly as a bribe. And then we marched straight to our downstairs neighbor, who is a piano teacher right out of her apartment, and we demanded a time slot. I think Mina Brilliance will be channeled well through music.

I also asked her what she worked on today, and from her backpack she pulled out a treasure map where she had drawn elaborate paths and careful travel plans including jets and boats. There was a bright red compass, the wilderness, a stream and "The Great Mina Wall" which is in Minatown. She had crumpled it up to make to make it look old. I said, Oh this is great, was it your assignment today and she said no, she just did it. And that HAD to have been more interesting than another double-consonant phonics game.

LeS said...

For sure!
Keep the faith, Mama.
Even more in yourself than anything because that beautiful goddess intuition of yours is spot on and will get you all through with flying, blazing colors.
Happy No-Turkey Day :)

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acumamakiki said...

I have to agree about the treasure map Madness. And you'll help her be a little more focused on her school work all the while fostering the creatively beautiful spirit of Mina. I was never one of those kids that fit into the school mode very well; in fact it wasn't until college (college!) that I found my own groove.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family ~ the pajama jammy jam sounds like great fun.

Anonymous said...

happy thanksgiving

athena said...

it's a good thing she's only seven and that you find out about what you can to do to help her now rather than if you were to find out about this much later (you know, like when she's seventeen--i mean wouldn't that be scary!). sometimes the success of our children in school has nothing to do with academics but with building good habits--i don't know what they might be but are there things at home that you could help her with that could translate into what might need to be done at school too? as for littlies and homework; homework isn't for the child, but more for the parent. it can be a pain in the right neck, but think of it as the teacher's way of letting parents know what concepts their children learned in class that day. of course i think it's a shame that our children spend so much of their time in school--when i homeschooled our three children i found that when they were little we could cover what was done in one day of school in less than thirty minutes (the rest of the time our children played which is important work for littlies under eight).

bettyboop said...

sounds like she has a good, caring teacher. i'm sure you three can figure a way to motivate her. it's a bummer, because it sounds like she's beyond lame ass school work and that she's going to be something really interesting and different.
your mom! feh! with her comments. how out of touch can one be-your girls got that shit from you. of course, you got some of it from your mom, no matter how hard we try to fight that affiliation.
hang in there-it's a funky season right now. hard to motivate to do anything.
love you!
b

Anonymous said...

Your mom's comment about the "photogenic" memory is worthy of Mrs. Malaprop.