not bold, not new, not loud

For the last year, our 2-year-old has been learning how to unload the dishwasher. He is most enthusiastic about hoisting the plates and bowls out of the rack into one of our hands, running the pot lids to the cupboard, and putting the Pyrex lids in their dedicated drawer, but real satisfaction comes from reaching a fistful of silverware above his head and dropping it into the divider. So noisy! And then there’s a drawer to slam shut!

I took a picture of his work because it delights me. He is mastering his task as he knows it. And I’m reminded that learning is incremental. That last summer’s silverware on the floor becomes this winter’s silverware in the drawer becomes next fall’s forks in the fork spot.

In the middle of a temper tantrum or while wiping drifts of flour off the floor after baking together, it’s easy for me to forget that faithfulness in teaching, consistency in saying, “Not that, this,” and holding Leif’s hand while we practice doing something together does add up to progress. It’s not flashy. It wouldn’t make a catchy post on social media, but if I pay attention, I realize it’s working.

Looking at the silverware drawer helps.

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My mom sent me this poem soon after I had Leif. I liked it then; I like it even more now.

THE THINGS THAT COUNT

Now, dear, it isn’t the bold things,
Great deeds of valour and might,
That count the most in the summing up of life at the end of the day.
But it is the doing of old things,
Small acts that are just and right;
And doing them over and over again, no matter what others say;
In smiling at fate, when you want to cry, and in keeping at work when you want to play—
Dear, those are the things that count.

And, dear, it isn’t the new ways
Where the wonder-seekers crowd
That lead us into the land of content, or help us to find our own.
But it is keeping to true ways,
Though the music is not so loud,
And there may be many a shadowed spot where we journey along alone;
In flinging a prayer at the face of fear, and in changing into a song a groan—
Dear, these are the things that count.

My dear, it isn’t the loud part
Of creeds that are pleasing to God,
Not the chant of a prayer, or the hum of a hymn, or a jubilant shout or song.
But it is the beautiful proud part
Of walking with feet faith-shod;
And in loving, loving, loving through all, no matter how things go wrong;
In trusting ever, though dark the day, and in keeping your hope when the way seems long—
Dear, these are the things that count.

—Ella Wheeler Wilcox

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