Shocking Your Mother

In a recent Writer’s Almanac post, I learned that, as a child (I don’t know what age), the author Muriel Spark “wrote love letters to herself, signed them with men’s names, and hid them in the sofa cushions in the hope of shocking her mother.” Garrison Keillor doesn’t tell us any more, so I don’t know why Muriel wanted to shock her mother. Was it just in fun? That’s probably why my daughter would do it — to see my reaction and giggle about it.  Or was Muriel seeking attention, even the “bad kind” we all know that troubled children seek? Was she obliquely rebelling against Mama’s strict ways? If you’re a Muriel Spark fanatic, please tell me anything you know.

In the meantime, I’d like to think more about shocking our mothers. I’ve been wracking my brain trying to recall a time I actually did it: perhaps I did it many times, but my mother was too good an actress to let me see that I’d done it.  Possible shock-inducing actions on my part could have included:

  • cutting my hair extremely short in college (I mean, we’re talking no longer than two inches at any point on my head.)
  • choosing as my first boyfriend a guy three years older than me who was of a different religious persuasion to boot
  • choosing boyfriends of that same religious persuasion all through college
  • not getting married in the Catholic church

Or maybe these things didn’t shock her, but rather just angered her or made her sad. I don’t remember ever wanting to shock her, but maybe I wanted to unconsciously.

“In the hope of shocking her mother.” Here’s my question:

Did you ever shock your mother?

And, if you did, did you hope to shock her?

And if you did, why?

I’d really love to know, because whether it’s for humor or rebellion’s sake, I seem to be missing something here . . .

11 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    katieg4 said,

    When I was a juvenile, I often hoped to shock my mother. Unfortunately, she too had attempted to shock her own mother and was therefore hip to my tricks. As I became an adult, she made the lines of disclosure perfectly clear. She wanted me to insuate but never confirm. In other words, she wanted the option of acknowledgement or ignorance. Now that I am a grown woman, we have become friends and share shocking stories because these stories are full of strength, courage, survival, loss and most of all love. I think we need to explore our need and desire to shock our mothers- do we want to hurt them, make them laugh, make them proud, make them demonstrate their love despite our imperfections- why does shocking our mothers define who we will always be as children?

  2. 2

    sgaissert said,

    Thank you, Katie. You make so many good points. The “shocking” things we do ARE often courageous and indicative of strength and a powerful survival instinct. Daughters want to do all the things you mentioned with regard to their mothers: hurt them, make them laugh, make them proud, make them express their unconditional love — and I guess we use our own lives as the bait.

  3. 3

    katieg4 said,

    Wow, I am enthralled by your last line-I’ve never really thought about using our own lives as bait. Definetly a concept that should be explored. I applaud your eloquence.

  4. 4

    sgaissert said,

    Thank you, Katie. Please feel free to come back with any results of your explorations!

  5. 5

    katieg4 said,

    Thanks to you too!

  6. 6

    Mary said,

    Hi Susan,
    As you know I’m not a blogger, but I did enjoy your ‘shocking your mother’ thoughts. My mother died when i was only 8 years old, and if I shocked her before then, I don’t remember! So it’s difficult for me to relate personally to what you write – I remember trying not to shock my father growing up, as I felt he had more than enough to contend with, being a single dad of 6 young kids (I’m the oldest, and felt an added responsibility). It did get me thinking, though – I’m wondering if shocking or trying to shock a mother comes from feeling safe, safe and secure enough in her love or alternatively maybe, it comes from seeking safety and security? I’m sure I’ll have more insights as my daughters grow! I am constantly fascinated by the mother-daughter relationship or absence thereof.

  7. 7

    sgaissert said,

    Thank you so much for writing, Mary. The mother-daughter relationship fascinates me, too. You brought up an interesting question about whether the desire to shock comes from a place of safety or a place of fear. I’ll bet it varies, depending on the particular relationship.

  8. 8

    […] Gaissert presents Shocking Your Mother posted at The Expanding […]

  9. 9

    Shen-Li said,

    I can’t ever remember doing anything to try to shock my mother but I do remember talking to my brother about trying to shock her.

    My mother had a lot of trouble accepting my brother’s girlfriends. It seemed like she felt none of them were ever good enough for her son. The irony was that my brother’s girlfriends were all the kind that most mothers would love – sweet, kind, loving, gentle, thoughtful… There was nothing inherently bad about them – at least nothing that I could see.

    One day, out of frustration, my brother said, “Maybe I just need to bring home a girl with tattoos, an lip ring, and dreadlocks to give her perspective.”

  10. 10

    sgaissert said,

    Thank you for writing, Shen-Li. Why mothers don’t like their sons’ girlfriends is another great idea for a post. I wonder what your mother would have done if your brother had actually brought home the “wrong kind of girl.”

  11. 11

    Suzanne said,

    Hi Susan,

    Sorry I am so late to this party. I can honestly say I never knowingly shocked my mother. If I did, she was one cool customer! Even when I told her at 16 years of age that I was going to marry my then boyfriend whom I had known for only two weeks at that point. She said, “That’s nice. What do you want for dinner.”
    I am sure I annoyed her, baffled her, disappointed her and scared her at time, but thats a big no on the shock meter!

    Of course as you know, I did marry said boyfriend and we have been more or less happily married for 28 years, 8 months, and 12 days.


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