Merrily down the Stream of Consciousness!
So, you know that old saying about killing two birds with one stone?
That’s what this post is intended to do. I’m continuing on with the ‘rithmetic theme for JusJoJan, and adding in the theme for this week’s installment of SoCS: “heal/heel“. Actually, I’m not sure I’ll get that second heel in there, but I’m a feeling a little sleepy, a lot creative, and the house is quiet with the kids visiting their grandparents and cousins, so I just might.
What do you think of when you hear the phrase, “Measuring Up?”
To me, as a child, it most often had to do with standards I hadn’t set for myself. My parents set very high standards, in many areas. In some senses, they were Tiger Parents long before there was a fashionable name for it. If I got a 99% on a school test, my father would demand to know why it wasn’t a 100%.
The obvious answer was that I missed something, and hadn’t memorized or understood exactly perfectly. Human error. And, after all, most kids didn’t get 100%’s, or even that just-less-than-perfect 99% very often. I happened to be very good at playing the game called school with as little effort as possible expended, so that I could get on with the business of living and learning – on my own terms as often as I could manage.
A less obvious, but perhaps truer answer was that I didn’t WANT to get 100%s. First off, as most people who passed through (or were failed by) the American public school system, doing well may or may not endear you to the teachers, but it certainly doesn’t have that effect on the other, less fortunate, students. I was already a ‘weird kid’. I’m a weird adult, too, but that’s far more socially acceptable, and fits with the writing and the Trekkiness and the unschooling a lot better than it did at Stillwater Central School all those years ago…
There was another reason, too.
I like the number 99 a lot better than I do 100. It’s far more interesting. It’s 3 – 33 times over! And I adore the number three, and have for most of my life. Getting a 100% was boring. But a 99%? Made me smile every time I got back a paper with those magical digits on it!
Of course, I couldn’t say any of those things to my father. When he asked why it wasn’t a perfect score, he really didn’t want my answer; certainly not an honest one. There wasn’t much patience or tolerance for the value of a child’s own priorities or perspectives in my family or origin. I was expected to want to get 100s, because I was deemed capable of doing so. That I hadn’t was clearly, to my parents’ minds, my own fault, because I was lazy, or off in a dream world, or disorganized, or hadn’t worked hard enough.
There was a lot of that, in my childhood – in many, many ways, I was told and shown that I didn’t Measure Up. The stick impacting my upturned hands, or my bottom. The cracking, whiplash-inducing sting of a sudden backhand slap across my cheek. Standing in the corner, holding up the wall, being forced to listen while I was berated at a yell, with no right to yell back, or even attempt to defend myself.
Those were the big ways I knew, but there were lesser ways, too. Humiliating nicknames. Teasing comments. Belittling insults. “Physical Wreck”.”You do everything backwards.” “You couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket.”
It was clear.
I didn’t Measure Up.
Fast Forward about four decades. I’m the parent, now. I have a daughter of my own. She’s ten and a half.
Last night, she put her heels as near the hallway arch as she could, and asked me to see if she Measured Up to the mark she put there a few weeks ago.
She’s maybe a quarter of an inch taller, now.
For her, that’s Measuring Up.
She’s never gone to school; never had a parent demand to know why she didn’t do better on that test. We support and mention the many things she’s good at. Nobody’s good at everything, though, and we make sure she knows that we don’t need her to be. We love her, like her, and respect her as she is. Where she flounders, we try to be there to offer assistance and support – and acceptance.
So, to her, Measuring Up isn’t about us being proud of her, or about her winning our love and affection. It’s more important that she be comfortable with herself, and she has our love and affection no matter what – even in her least shining moments.
Measuring Up, for her, is all about those marks on the wall, and what she can do today that she couldn’t, a year or a month or a week or a day ago…
And there’s something very healing in that, for the little girl who still lives inside her mother.
What does Measuring Up mean to you? Does it evoke childhood memories? Make you consider your professional life? Your love life? Your bank account? How tall you’d be in those heels in the store window, and if they have them in your size?
I’m listening, and I promise not to grade your response!