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The unhappy family charade

Second of two parts

The secret's out! I went to my parents and I told them how I felt. They said they had no idea what I was talking about, and they certainly didn't know that I was miserable. I find these statements hard to believe, but I guess I can understand them in light of their denial. When I confronted them about the pretending and the phony games we had been playing as a family, they looked at me like I was crazy. I stepped back and realized that just because I was ready to be honest about where I am and what I feel, that didn't mean everyone else in the family would want to do the same.

It was as if my parents were waiting for one of the kids to call attention to this problem before they could even admit that there was a problem. What's that about? I guess they figured if no one talked about it then no problem existed. I think they really thought that the rest of us living in the household were idiots and didn't have a clue that we were all living in this uncomfortable, tension-filled environment. My siblings were mad at me and told me that I had messed up everything, including the weekend, but I told them I didn't care. Weekends aren't fun anyway, just more pretending. It seemed when I spoke up, everyone turned on me and tried to make me the problem.

I considered that I could walk the victim route, but then I reconsidered. No way will I take the fall for my phony family's pretend need to be perfect. They are mad at me because I won't play my part in this tragedy anymore.

Right, but I don't want to be written out of the play. I just want us to write a different play that isn't perfect but peaceful and more sane. Am I being just as unrealistic as they have been? I want to defend myself by saying they have taught me this great talent. But that won't help me get what I need. I don't need to blame them or let them blame me. I want to stop the drama and the fantasies and find out if there is any way possible to be real. Will I still be acceptable being less than perfect? Will I really be okay if everyone knows that I have a less than perfect family? Even if my parents end up getting a divorce and we become another statistic, will we all be happier in the end?

My question may have to go unanswered until I have the nerve to continue confronting myself and the adults in my life about our lies. I will be okay if we find new ways to have a family. I will survive a divorce if that is what is best for all of us, just so we can be real and relaxed again. It has been so long since I felt free I can hardly remember what it feels like. I wonder if everyone in my family feels this way. We need to decide together whether we all will be better off separate. Don't we all have a say and a voice in this decision? This is our life, too, you know.

I know that no one thinks splitting up a family is good or right. Let me tell you that living the way we have been living is not good or right either. I need out of this box. I need out of this lie. I need the pressure off of me, and, whether anyone else will admit it or not, I think we will all be better to each other and ourselves if we put an end to these charades.

IT! (Private thoughts of the Indomitable Teen) is written by Cecilia Tucker, a licensed marriage and family therapist at the Counseling Center for New Direction in Seminole. Tucker, who has been in counseling practice since 1979, writes this column under the guidance of a panel of teenage advisers, who approve the topics and offer their insights (in exchange for pizza). You may write her c/o: IT!, X-Press, the Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731, or e-mail Floridiansptimes.com.

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