Alice von Hildebrand gratitude


6:00:00 AMVeronica Buehnerkemper

I was standing in a shoe store searching for a pair of black heels for a high school dance. As I considered the selection before me, none of which seemed quite right, I noticed a woman standing next to me. She was probably in her early 40''s, hair up in a ponytail, wearing a red t-shirt and blue jeans. She looked like she'd had one of those days. I didn't give the woman much thought as I turned back to the shoe shelf. She wasn't having a lot of luck finding the perfect fit either. Scanning row after row, wedge after heel, I began to wonder. Silver's on the way out. Black might be better.

My fashion crisis occupied my attention until I noticed a teenage boy nearby start to complain. I turned and realized that he was talking to the woman, apparently his mom. He raised his voice at her. He was bored in the store and irritated at having to keep an eye on his younger sister.

The mother looked exhausted, frustrated at having to listen to his rant. She firmly told him that they were almost done and that he needed to be patient. Nevertheless, he continued to talk back to her and grumble about wasting time in the store. A few minutes later she gathered her items, checked out, and left with two children in tow, one still grumbling rather loudly.

I played the scene over and over in my head for the rest of the day and tried to figure out why it had irritated me so much. I had seen children misbehave in stores before, but this felt different. I was disturbed that he had treated another person so rudely, but I also knew it was more than that.

The other person was his mom. His mother. The woman who gave birth to him, and cared for him, and made sure he had clothes and shoes and food. The woman who sacrificed for him daily. And not just in the little ways.

He doesn’t seem to realize what an incredible gift he has been given.

It is a gift to have a mother. A mother who loves unconditionally from the moment she discovers she is pregnant. A mother who sacrifices for you before she even knows you.  A mother who endures morning sickness and swollen feet and contractions to bring you into the world. She changes diapers and perseveres through sleepless nights worrying about you. She makes you lunch and drives you to school and soccer practice and ballet class and piano lessons. And she’ll cry at your preschool and kindergarten and high school graduations because you are growing up too fast.

A mother is a gift.

As a woman, a mother may be considered to be “weak.” She is thought of as “fragile, delicate, breakable, vulnerable, … sensitive” (1). But is this not where she finds her strength? It is through her frailty that a woman is able to love. It is out of a mother’s own sensitivity that she finds strength in persevering for her child.

A privilege of being a woman is to love.
The privilege of being a mother is to love deeper than any other, to sacrifice for someone without promise of anything in return.
A mother is not afraid to be the one to love more.

I wish I had told that teenage boy all of this. But standing in my socks in the middle of a shoe store aisle, the words just didn’t come.

I want him to know how incredible his mother is. I want him to know how lucky he is to have her in his life. I want him to know how much she has sacrificed to get him to where he is.

It is all too easy to overlook our moms. They are always there. They never stop caring. They never give up on us, which is why it is so easy to take them for granted.

Sure, they may take a bit longer at the store than we’d like or get caught up in neverending conversations after Mass. They may take an excessive amount of photos before any dance or comment on everything you post to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

But can’t we give them that? They have been patient with us our entire lives. We can be patient with them. Moms have earned the right to take their time, savor the moment, and even embarrass us once in a while.

So this Thanksgiving season, be grateful for your Mom. Hug her. Eat her turkey and wash some of those dishes. Let her take that picture or like your Facebook post or boast about you to her friends. She’s your mom. You can give her that much.

1. Von Hildebrand, Alice. The Privilege of Being a Woman. Ypsilanti, MI: Veritas, 2002. p36.

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