February 20, 2012 12:00 PM

Sometimes a girl just needs to put on a tiara. So it was on Feb. 3, when Tallulah Willis, crown upon her head, celebrated her 18th birthday with a backyard bash at the Beverly Hills mansion of her dad, Bruce Willis. Joined by her big sister Rumer, Tallulah was in good spirits, collecting several hugs from Bruce’s pregnant wife, Emma Heming. Conspicuously absent from the festivities was Tallulah’s mom, Demi Moore, who is in a treatment facility following her emergency hospitalization on Jan. 23. And yet, for her daughters, life goes on. “A sense of normalcy,” says a friend, “is the best thing for them right now.”

Of course, life for sisters Rumer, 23, Scout, 20, and Tallulah has never been normal. Raised by superstar parents Moore, 49, and Willis, 56, in Idaho and later Los Angeles-where stepdad Ashton Kutcher, 34, joined the family in 2005-the three girls have pulled together even more tightly in the aftermath of their mom’s harrowing breakdown. As Moore spiraled out of control in the months surrounding her November split from Kutcher-partying, using prescription pills and barely eating-the girls watched helplessly. “They have known for a while” that Moore wasn’t in a good place, says a source who knows the sisters. “They could see she wasn’t acting right. They knew she was troubled, and they were worried.” At the same time, there were “a lot of blind eyes,” says a family insider. “Ru”-who was present the night Moore collapsed into convulsions after she “smoked something,” as a friend put it on a 911 call-had long idolized her mom. “Whether she was in denial or just felt like it was her mom’s way of coping, Rumer just had the feeling that her mom was always in control,” says the family insider. “Because to Rumer, that’s the way her mom had always been.”

Moore took great pride in nurturing a close bond with her girls, even as their relationship changed over the years. Having been estranged from her alcoholic mother, Virginia Guynes, for much of her life (Guynes died in 1998), she was determined to chart a different course with her own daughters. “One of my goals is to build a loving relationship so that my children, as adults, will want to share their lives with me,” the actress told InStyle in 2000. To that end, Moore and Willis made the decision to leave Hollywood for cozy Hailey, Idaho, in the early ’90s. Back then “the girls were homebodies, and there was a very clear parent-child relationship,” says the family insider. “There were allowances, even chores.”

In the years after Moore and Bruce Willis divorced in 2000 and the kids moved back to L.A., things began to shift. “The whole parent-child dynamic really started to change into what it’s become,” says the insider. “Rumer began to go out in Hollywood, while Scout started to follow in her sister’s footsteps with going out. It’s hard to listen when a parent tells you, ‘Don’t smoke cigarettes, don’t go out and have fun,’ when they go drink and smoke cigarettes at a party.” Willis told Playboy in 2007 that he and Moore had cautioned their daughters about the dangers of substance abuse. “They have the gene, and we warn them: ‘You have a predisposition to be an alcoholic,'” he said. “It’s on [Demi’s] side of the family and mine.” But when Moore hit the L.A. nightlife scene with her daughters, it became a point of contention between her and Kutcher. “Ashton never liked the idea of partying [with the girls],” says the source. “He saw the line and tried to uphold that. But Demi wore the pants.” The star’s chronic insecurities about her appearance also sent an unhealthy message to her daughters. “For the girls, Rumer especially, it was always secretly hard,” says the insider. “A lot of Demi’s vanity and putting herself first [had an impact on] Rumer.”

While actress Rumer “has always been the closest to Demi,” says the source, professionally “doors haven’t quite opened for her yet. She wants [the success] both her parents and Ashton have.” Artsy middle sister Scout, who attends Brown University and posed for a provocative fashion shoot last December, “is very different from Demi and Rumer. She says exactly what’s on her mind and always has been that way.” And Tallulah “has always kept a lot to herself. She has always been the most tame.”

Now, as the girls soldier on, they are leaning on their dad and stepmom Heming, 35, who is expecting their half-sibling this spring. As for Kutcher, “Ru e-mailed with him during [Moore’s breakdown],” says the insider. “But he’s become somewhat removed from the girls pretty quickly. That has been really hard for them. He’s been busy with work and being single again.” With Moore continuing to get help-a source confirms that her treatment includes consultations with mind-body doctor Deepak Chopra-friends say her daughters remain her three biggest supporters. “They have good hearts,” says the insider. “Demi’s lucky she has those girls.”

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