She is 18 quiet in her demeanor. Looking at her youthful face is misleading, she has mastered the fake smile. She knows that it has the power to keep most people at a safe emotional distance. She feels shame for her life’s circumstance. Circumstances that have aged her way beyond her eighteen year existence.
Her parents are just starting to see the incredible strain their selfish lives have imposed upon their oldest child. Dad is a cheater, and a drug addict. Mom is the oldest daughter of an alcoholic father, and drug addicted schizophrenic mother. Mom has adorned her own fake smile for the majority of her own life. She shares her daughter’s shame for her own upbringing, and now she shares the shame for the lifestyle she has bestowed upon her oldest child. In spite of her every desire to escape her own childhood she has repeated the cycle of dysfunction.
This is Mom’s second marriage, her first was to the love of her life. He was to be her white knight. He was a party boy who cheated on her within the first year of their marriage. Luckily they had not had children. She divorced him, and two years later met the girl’s father. On the outside he seemed to be the complete opposite of the first husband. By all outward appearances he was the shy family man who loved his wife, and their beautiful baby girl.
The truth was that Mom who mastered her own fake smile was equally skilled at putting forth the fake happy life illusion. She was determined not to fail at this second marriage. Like a lot of woman she thought that by continuing to have more children the marriage would magically heal itself. So now their first daughter had two sisters, one fake mom, and a father who was drugging to escape the pressures of his fake happy life. So of course Mom decides to have another baby. A boy but this joyful moment dealt their already strained marriage another harsh blow. The baby boy was born with Down’s Syndrome. Dad who is already abusing drugs, and couldn’t possibly be the guy who dumps his wife, three toddler daughters, and his newly born son with Down’s Syndrome decides to have an affair with a woman in their church.
Mom is still fake smiling her way publicly, and she went to great lengths to make sure her husband went along with the charade. I am sure this was the stage in life that the oldest daughter, and her four siblings began to develop their ability to adorn their fake smiles. A house filled with tension, lies, and shame. The continuous fighting, financial strains, and the demands of having a child with special needs must have been extremely unstable to the young children. Mom and Dad through all of this emotional and financial trouble had two more sons who were just a little over a year apart. Six children later one ongoing affair with the lady from their church, continued drug abuse, and finally no job later, Dad decides to leave.
Then he comes back again. Then he leaves again… The oldest daughter has at a much to early age become the main source of parenting for all of her siblings. Mom leaves more, and more responsibility on their oldest daughter in order to continue the fake happy life illusion outside of the home. So now at the age of eighteen the girl quiet in her demeanor who has endured more emotional pain than most people experience in a lifetime has moved out into her own apartment.
She is happy for her new-found freedom, and simultaneously filled with guilt over leaving her siblings behind. She worries that the second sister will now be faced with all of her prior responsibilities. Myself, I worry about her. I worry that she does not realize that her Mother had repeated the same cycle of dysfunction that her parents before her had lived. For you see many deep dark cycles are cultivated behind the fake smile. A smile that was mastered to keep most people at a safe emotional distance can have the hidden power to lure in the emotionally unsafe elements of life. 😉