Posted in Blogfest Entries, Just for Fun!, Just Jot it January, Life Writing, Parenting, Stream of Consciousness Saturday, Unschooling

SoCS and JusJoJan Day 17: Measuring Up

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.

How do you measure moments like this?!

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!

Jottin’ my way through January!


I am myself. I own my life, and live with three other people who own theirs. My intention is to do only those things that bring me joy, and to give myself wholly to those things I do. Writing has been my passion throughout my life, and this will become the home for my writing life...because it brings me great joy!

7 thoughts on “SoCS and JusJoJan Day 17: Measuring Up

  1. Where I went to high school my freshman year gave number grades for all the classes, and the highest grade you could get was 99. Most grades were under that.

    My father was fine with what we came home with grade-wise, as long as he was convinced we did our best. Mom, not so much. After Dad died, we had to learn to deal with the expectations Mom had. It was an adjustment. I think it was around then that I started to care less about school. I loved my mother, but there was always that knowledge that I was a grave disappointment to her. My only regret is that I let it bother me.

  2. Great post, very thought-provoking! I always tried (still do, I think) to “measure up” too, to my on unattainable standards. I love your description of your young self…”Trekkiness” and writing…I’d have fit right in with a group like that 😉

    1. My 45 year old self is still immersed in Trekiness and writing. Somethings never change.

      I hope you’ll be able to cut yourself some slack…there’s something to be said for letting go of the unattainable…

      1. It’s good those things don’t change. I love your Spock stories. Soooo…the only question is really, “Which Enterprise Captain?” 😉 (I vote for Jean-Luc !)
        As for the unattainable…well, I’m much easier on myself than I used to be ! It might be part of the “pilot” personality. We always debrief…so I always look at what I “could’ve done better!”

        1. My favorite captains? Spock and T’Pol! People forget that they were captains, but both were, and they did mighty well in command of humans, too.

          Picard was good, but often, to my eyes, a little too hard for a family ship. But, oh! Sir Patrick is yummy!

          Kirk – uh, no! Not even a little bit.

          I’m not very up on my Sisko and Janeway at the moment, so I’m not factoring them in.

          I really like Jonathan Archer. He’s friendly and eager to explore, he rises to some incredible challenges, he does some things that are morally reprehensible by his own code, and suffers from them…he mostly gets over his prejudice against Vulcans.

          And he has a beagle named after a Musketeer…

          1. I did actually forget that they were captains! I can see that you have a fondness for the Vulcans 😉 I haven’t watched Archer, but having a dog is good! I thought Sisko was good, but Janeway bugged me for some reason. Can’t really say why…

          2. I loved Kate Mulgrew in Mrs. Columbo – but the Vulcan on Voyager’s body language was all wrong, and I couldn’t watch. As I recall, that’s one thing that kept me from watching Enterprise for so long – a sexy female Vulcan seemed designed to get ratings, and just to be a token sop…

            But I was SO wrong about T’Pol. She’s tough and brave and brilliant and temperamental and passionate and flawed. She’s capable of fantastic successes and colossal failures… she’s flawed and stubborn and very real….

            And when she’s paired with her so very, very human Chief Engineer – well, that’s jut magic. ❤

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