The fake smile

Miriam Gwynne by Miriam Gwynne Additional Needs

Miriam Gwynne

Miriam Gwynne

Full time mum and carer for two truly wonderful autistic twins. I love reading, writing, walking, swimming and encouraging others. Don’t struggle a...

It’s kinda good that Coronavirus restrictions mean no-one can visit my home and I can’t visit others.

It means I have a bit longer to practice my fake smile. 

You know the one: when someone asks how you are and you smile and say ‘good thanks’ when inside you carry the weight of the world. 

You know the one: when someone messages to meet up for coffee and you sit there realising how different your life is to theirs and wondering if you have missed another medical appointment for your child while you sip your coffee. 

You know the one: when you sit in meetings of professionals and they all give reports about the child you gave birth to like they actually know them whilst you sat up watching them giggle when they should have been sleeping at 3am for the fourth night that week. 

The same smile the doctors see when they give you yet another diagnosis.

The same smile you give the headteacher when they ask for yet another meeting.

The same smile you wear when cleaning up bodily fluids from the carpet yet again knowing that it isn’t your child’s fault. 

It’s not that I’m not happy.

When my child laughs his loud contagious cackle my heart jumps for joy and my eyes light up.

When his school report says he’s lasted a full day in the classroom without any ‘incidents’ I am utterly delighted.

Every little thing he achieves, every step of progress, every inch of independence thrills me to the core. 

But I am tired; oh so tired.

My house is a mess. I eat too many take away meals because I can’t leave my child unattended to cook from scratch.

I have a to-do list that gets longer every day. I mix up the names of medical specialists, carry guilt when I forget a dose of medication and jump whenever the phone goes.

I delay forms and phone calls because I don’t want to talk about my child’s struggles anymore. 

But people see me smile. 

Now and again that smile is genuine but so often it’s fake.

Who has the time to hear how things really are?

Who can help when a pandemic has left so many caring alone?

Who can truly understand years of sleep deprivation and worry?

Who can help when your child can’t communicate and you can’t work out what they want you to know? 

Isolation, exhaustion and stress take their toll.

I am not the only parent carer right now wearing that fake smile, taking festive photos like everything is great and buying Christmas gifts for a child who has no idea Christmas even exists at 12. 

When you see someone smile don’t assume that all is wonderful. They might just have mastered that sane fake smile that I have too. 

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