Live long enough to embarrass somebody

I was not embarrassed by my mother often. Most of the time, her existence didn’t collide with mine at all. But with each rare incident, I remember feeling that her words or actions somehow reflected poorly on me, that she lacked decorum or diplomacy on some level.

Now, the roles have reversed. Now I’m the mother of teenagers, who have recently complained that I lack decorum.  And it makes me defensive. I want to say things like, “I? Embarrass you? Why should you be embarrassed? What I’ve said has nothing to do with you and isn’t any of your business… isn’t it your bedtime, by the way?”

Coming full circle is a strange and curious experience. It’s not that I want to negate my children’s honest responses and feelings—I remember having them myself, after all. The mother-daughter relationship is complicated.

But when I look back, I realize that I perceived my mother as a one-dimensional personality, a cardboard cutout—and in some ways I still do. This is the woman who did laundry, made meals, had no history and only came to life when I got home from school. She only existed to serve my existence.

And I suppose that’s the way it should be. You don’t want to have a mother who doesn’t serve your existence: we call that neglect. Therefore, how can a child see her as anything else?

It is an excruciating thing to be a writer and not be allowed to express on paper what’s closest to the surface for fear of irritating someone else. Writers need to write about everything, it’s an outlet. Writing is how I make sense of my feelings, and how I make sense of the world.

It’s doubly excruciating to not be able to write about the experience of not being able to write.

In other words, I might get in big trouble for blogging—er—complaining, about this. (If I go missing, don’t believe the suicide note.)


  • Elisabeth Breckenridge on February 3, 2012

    Um, I think you just did write about it…..
    I see two options:
    One – It’s called a diary
    Two – The Secret Blog (i.e. digital diary)
    and C – they’ll get over it

    • Rhonda Herrington Bulmer on February 3, 2012

      If you only knew what I REALLY wanted to say…My only comfort is that they probably don’t tune into my site.

  • Charmaine on February 3, 2012


  • Yolande Leger on February 4, 2012

    Keep writing, Rhonda! Your kids are proud of you, whatever the ‘discomfort’ due to reading things they already know about but feel you shouldn’t know about!! haha!

    Any writer has to determine their comfort level as to what they write and possibly, about whom. I’ve got some nice subjects that will have to be published posthumously! hahahaha!

    Keep it coming, Rhonda! You keep the rest of us sane!

  • Deborah Carr on March 12, 2012

    You are so very right about the one-dimensional cardboard cut-out. I felt the same about my mom. And had no concept or appreciation of her ‘secret life’ outside the home (until I got a job of my own).

    When your kids see the other side of you that is the writer…the writer who (sorry!) does NOT exist to serve their needs, perhaps they will see that you are, in reality, quite multi-dimensional. And (gasp!) pretty interesting…AND (groan) someone to be really proud of.

    • Rhonda Herrington Bulmer on March 12, 2012

      I’m sure you’re right, Deb! And I think that when we are comfortable with ourselves and push ourselves towards our goals, we set our children free to do the same. (And our friends and family, for that matter.)

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