It's funny how we see things differently as adults. What were once innocent childhood memories can quickly turn into sad realizations as we think about and discuss events from earlier in our lives. The people in the following stories know that feeling all too well as they recently shared on Reddit. The following stories include some of the most despicable behavior by parents who tried to convince their kids that they weren't experiencing neglect. All posts have been edited for clarity.
"The amount of trips to get drinks.
When I was young, nearly every time I got in the car with my mom or dad, the story was the same: 'We’re going to stop to get drinks then home.' Sometimes when I’d switch parents (they are divorced) I’d stop to get drinks twice, once each way.
One day I was at a sleepover at a friend's house whose parents drank a normal amount. We ran errands on three or four separate times and didn’t stop to get drinks! I was so confused. On the final trip, I poked my head up between the front seats, and trying to be helpful and remind them said, 'Aren’t you going to stop for drinks?' And the parents looked at me like I had two heads '....no?' I was so confused I just got out of the van and went inside."
"My mother's house was filthy, and I mean REALLY filthy. Black mold covering the two different corners of a finished basement, trash all over the floors, never clean clothes because the washer and dryer were broken, dinner once or twice a week with no food in the house. Whenever I'd go over to a friend's house I'd find myself saying, 'Wow it's so clean in here,' 'Everything smells so nice,' and 'Look at all those snacks in the cupboard!'
Thank god she lost custody, and I am now with my outstanding dad."
"I didn't realize that kneeling on rice as a punishment for just about anything was not normal. My mom would throw a few handfuls of rice in a corner and we had to kneel on it for 20 minutes to an hour, hands behind our backs, and didn't dare lean on that wall, or we'd get smacked in the back of the head and into the wall and the time would start over.
Afterwards, we'd have to clean it up including any blood from broken skin and then often we'd have to help make dinner or do whatever chore as if nothing happened."
"I didn't realize how weird it was that I was required to take care of my little brother when I was a kid.
I changed his diapers, made and fed him bottles in the middle of the night, etc.
I was 10.
Once when I was 11, we were visiting my grandmother in Michigan (mom's mom), and my step-grandpa was sitting at the table at 3:00 AM when I went down to the kitchen to make a bottle. He asked what I was doing, and I didn't understand why he said, 'You shouldn't have to do that.'
Best part? My brother is a controlling little prick just like 'Mom.' Learned his lessons well at the hands of the master."
"I grew up in a gross place. My single father always drank too much and left the apartment a mess. The couch was covered in rips with stuffing coming out. Stains all over the floors. Flies. Stuff everywhere.
My best friend of almost 30 years was telling me a while back that when he first came over he was amazed at how poor we were as he thought he was the poorest kid in town. I explained that a lot of it had to do with my dad just leaving it in a bad state and being too wasted to clean or to teach me or my brother to clean. But his mom did work and she kept their apartment clean. We had a good laugh about that.
Luckily, my wife is clean. As were past girlfriends. These wonderful women taught me, along the way, how to maintain a clean home. To wash the shower more than once a week. To change sheets. I’m not a rich man, but I 100% feel live comfortably, in the literal sense. It’s nice to come home to a clean one."
"When I was young and in elementary school, my sister and I got our own cameras. Mine was Looney Tunes themed and said things like. 'What's up, doc?' When you pushed the button to take a picture, and my sister had a Barbie one that said things like, 'Let's go shopping!'
We'd had them for a full year before the Barbie camera went missing. My sister didn't know where it was for at least a summer. We found it again one day in her closet. It was spring, which I remember because my walks from the bus stop to the house were pleasant and it was the first year I was allowed to walk by myself.
The film for the Barbie camera was processed, and a week later my parents sat me and my sister down for a serious talk. The camera had developed and some of the pictures on it were being called into question. They explained that the police were going to be at our house the following day to talk to us about the photos that had been on the cameras. I was so scared, I remember crying on the bus on the way home.
They found various pictures of two little girls, from the shoulders down, wearing nothing but underwear. I still have no idea how these pictures were taken. My sister claims she has no idea either, but we ended up telling the police that we had taken them ourselves after they pressured us about it. I wasn't even old enough to wear bras yet and didn't recognize the ones worn in the photos.
I was never abused as a child, and as far as I know, neither was my sister. Sometimes I still think about it and to this day I can't figure out what happened. Where was the camera the whole time it'd been missing? Who were the girls in the pictures? Who took the pictures? Did I black something out of my memories (I doubt this) or is there something my sister isn't telling me? I'm 25 now, but I don't think I'm ever going to get any answers."
"I low key grew up in a cult.
It wasn't ridiculously intense. No terrible brainwashing or abuse. But the seclusion made for a bizarre childhood. I went to an elementary school in the basement of our church. At the largest, there were 15 students. The smallest I remember it being was 5. We were there for the week in school, then back again on the Sabbath (Saturday) for service. I didn't have any friends outside of the church, and inside the church it was only my classmates that were even close. It made for a real terrible 8th grade experience when my school shut down and I was moved to public school.
The church had a lot of weird rules about things. They believed that the Sabbath started late on Friday and went until midnight Saturday, and therefore we couldn't go to school or work on Friday. I thought Friday was part of the weekend until I was 9. They followed a flexitarian diet (fish and poultry as the only animals we could eat, anything with the 'cloven hoof' or crawled along the ocean floor was dirty and forbidden). To this day I haven't eaten any red meat, I never really developed a taste for it and its fun to pull out 'Never ever have I ever eaten bacon' at parties. No dancing, no singing, no fun. I didn't have any knowledge of pop culture or even music that wasn't choir or piano.
You wouldn't really know it to meet me now. I'm fairly well-adjusted, decently functional human considering the isolated mess I started as, which is nice."
"I grew up in this rickety old farmhouse in the middle of Minnesota. It was freezing a lot of the year, and our upstairs didn't have insulation, so we didn't have any heat upstairs. We'd sleep with an electric blanket and loads of other blankets heaped on top. When I woke up most mornings, there would sometimes be frost on my walls because it was so cold and the windows didn't keep the cold out very well.
It would also sometimes get to -50 degrees Fahrenheit and then school would automatically be cancelled because kids couldn't wait outside at the bus stop.
And sometimes my mom would take us outside to blow bubbles on really cold days. The bubbles would freeze in midair and fall to the ground and shatter.
My friends/boyfriend were all shocked by this stuff. Doesn't get anywhere NEAR as cold where we live now."
"My parents never took my siblings and me to the doctor or dentist unless a bone was showing or you were on death’s door. I always assumed it was because we 'couldn’t afford it' but it wasn’t until I was much older and in therapy I realized it was actually because my parents were controlling. Both of them worked in the medical field (but they weren’t doctors), so they thought they knew better than everyone else. If we did get sick (I had chronic sinus infections as a child because I had terrible allergies-none of which they addressed), my dad would call his colleague’s wife (who was a doctor), explain my symptoms, and she would prescribe antibiotics.
My dad also forged my annual immunization forms for high school one year because he didn’t want to take me. The dentist he used to take us to was his friend and would give him a discount but I’d have to endure this man’s stupid comments if I wanted my teeth cleaned. The last time I ever went to him, he told me as he’s giving me a filling I should really get a nose job-I’d be so much prettier. My dad scolded me in the car after, thinking I had brought it up.
It wasn’t until I went to the doctor and GYN for the first time in college, I had no freaking valuable piece of my medical history other than accidents I had as a kid. It was like I was starting new at age 20.
I now go regularly to the doctor."
"My brother and sister have always had a good relationship with my parents but for reasons I don't understand why my parents wished I didn't exist.
I was an inconvenience at best. I once broke my ribs falling out of a tree. They made me wait three days until they had spare time to take me to hospital. Beatings were frequent. Beatings for any perceived mistake. Beatings for being bullied at school. Beatings for crying while being beaten. I was told the beatings were to toughen me up.
I eventually figured out that the beatings, name-calling, and abuse all came from the same root cause: using up my parents time and effort when they could have been spending it with my siblings or each other.
So I tried to become invisible. I learned to move around the house silently. Which floorboards squeaked, how to open and close doors without sound, and how to control my breathing to be absolutely quiet. I set up a chair and books in my closet so I could be in there unseen for hours.
It was only when I left home that I found out other children enjoyed spending time with their parents, that they talked to them, had fun with them and were supported and cared for by them. I can't imagine how good that must feel. Even to have memories of cuddling on a sofa with a parent or going to the park must be amazing."
"I found out being able to solder and repair my toys and basic electronics by age 7 wasn't normal. My dad has always been a tinkerer and tech geek, and insisted I could do it with proper care because kids aren't stupid (despite my mom being dead worried). Turns out he was pretty much right. Even nowadays, I sometimes forget most people don't have a soldering kit at home to do that easy fix on their TVs or phones. And not being afraid of small burns is a nice superpower."
"As a kid, I lived in Huntington Beach, California. To my family, and some of my friends, surfing was life. I went down to the beach to catch a few waves before school at 5:00 in the morning, and went straight after school, and my friends usually came with me. A lot of times, other kids wanted me to come over to their house or spend the night, but I had to often refuse because my friends who did surf with me had usually already made arrangements. When I told the others why I couldn't join them, they didn't exactly understand why I would go freeze my butt off at 5 am just to get smashed by a wall of water over and over again."
"My father was severely OCD. He couldn't touch anything with his bare hands, he steered his car with his knuckles, and used kleenex tissues to hold things. He was also elderly, my parents married and had three boys across four years in their late 50's. He looked like Fred Mertz on "I Love Lucy".
All I knew growing up was mountains of kleenex and baggies (he discovered sandwich bags and would wear those on his hands sometimes). Each week my brothers and I switched chores, and when you pulled 'trash' week, each day you'd take a big trash bag to my parents' bedroom, bathroom, and my father's office and clean up a literal mountain of kleenex and baggies - you couldn't even see the trash can under it. Every. Freaking. Day. As he grew older, sometimes the baggies in the bathroom trash had mucous on them, so you'd reserve a 'clean' baggie from the bedroom to use cleaning the bathroom trash. Which sucked, you'd be like 'Am I turning into him??'
Funny thing was, when I was around 10 years old we moved to a neighborhood a block from my school, with lots of kids as neighbors. So suddenly there are friends dropping in to do boy-stuff, where we'd ride our bikes and have adventures, and everyone would say, 'Wow, does your dad have some terrible cold?' I suddenly realized that not everyone had mountains of kleenex in their homes. And every three days or so, he'd announce he was taking a shower and not to run water or do dishes... for the next 2-3 hours. He'd use shaving cream as 'soap', and lay tissues on every flat surface and pile shaving cream on them. He'd stay in the shower til the hot water ran out, and then god knows what for 2 more hours. Then someone had to clean up - soggy steamed-up piles of tissues covered in foam, shaving cream all over the tub walls.
My mother finally told one of my brothers that there had been abuse in his home. I don't think my dad was directly victimized (I believe my aunt may have been), but there was weird abuse going on and his mom walked in on my young dad getting his teenage freak on, which sort of broke his mind.
My father really loved his kids and wife but in a sort of desperate, cloying way, and he could become incredibly mean and violent. At least he couldn't slap us, right?? But he'd stick one knuckle out and just BAM you on the back of the head, and you'd be staggering around holding your head. When he proposed to my mom (he was divorced and she was a widow), he promised he'd see a shrink and 'fix this' within 6 months. Several times he announced he and mom were going into marriage counseling and he'd address the OCD; never happened. He had been a very successful realtor but late in life, he'd outspend himself; he wanted to live in a nice neighborhood and have vacation cottage by the lake, but we were always on the verge of foreclosure. In hindsight I realize a lot of times we kids were suddenly 'in trouble' and sent to bed early without dinner that we were just out of food.
So I had a really strange childhood (and my mother was either in that terrified, overprotective love-state - she'd grown up in Appalachia and had several sibling die at young ages, I think she expected us to just drop dead at any second. Either that or she'd be beating us with belts, boards, those vinyl 'Hot Wheels' tracks were the worst, and she even had a leather bullwhip she'd coil up and beat us with, more for fear value. I had huge purple streaks and scabs on my thighs plenty of times). While it left me with a lot of issues, I found having my own kids allowed me to 're-write' what parenting is, and I never hit them or screamed at them. As adults, they really genuinely and vocally love me, so I feel that those early experiences are just part of being one lucky guy."
"My oldest sister was a mother for both myself and the middle child (who is only one year younger than the oldest). We're 30, 29 and 22.
The three of us are all still incredibly close, and while my parents are still in the picture, we aren't exactly emotionally attached to our mother. One of my sisters said it was, 'like we survived a war together,' and I think that sums it up pretty well. We got out alive because of each other.
Growing up, the middle child was more of a... wild child. She rebelled hard and got herself into dangerous situations frequently. She could cook and clean for herself, she just needed a maternal figure to help her out with the emotional things. The oldest child was way more mature than she needed to be at 10 years old. She was acting like an adult mother for us and I can't express my gratitude enough. I got lucky and ended up with two substitute mothers, they only had each other and just figured it out on their own. The oldest took the brunt of everything for us too. The middle child took care of me too, but she was much more 'on her own' than myself and the oldest. She was more interested in having fun and living her own life. I don't blame her because everyone was miserable, at least she made good memories.
My mother didn't necessarily ignore us, just didn't love us really. My father loved us but worked 12-hour days, six days a week and was on-call constantly so even when not scheduled he was still gone all the time. When he was home he'd read us bedtime stories, we'd go swimming, just enjoy life. He was always home for Christmas, always made sure we enjoyed our time with him. When he wasn't home, that left us with our toxic and narcissistic mother.
My mother really just didn't listen to anything we said, everything we did (good or bad) was about her. So say I won an award: 'Oh my baby is so smart! I did such a good job with you!' But say I got in trouble: 'Why do you do this to me? I've given you everything!'
She also constantly had some kind of 'injury' which prevented her from cleaning or cooking so the house was pretty gross, but my oldest sister made sure we ate, reigned in the middle child, helped me with homework, then did her own, made sure I was tucked in. When I got sick I went to her bed, not my mother's because mom would say I was disgusting when I was sick and send me back to my own without getting up.
She also completely rewrites her memories so she doesn't seem like a bad person. An example: my sisters both had kids, if one of their babies gets sick our mother will say something like, 'Oh I remember those nights! Sitting up, nursing you guys back to health, wishing I could be sick instead of you.' Except she never did that. My sisters took care of me, sat up with me, watched stupid cartoons with me, made sure I was eating the right things when sick.
She posts comments on everything on Facebook like she's the world's best mother. I'll update my profile picture and she'll post, 'Oh my beautiful baby girl, so proud of you!' But like... She only says that to save face and so other people think she likes her kids.
The middle child just had a baby (still newborn) and my mother has the opportunity to fly out to meet her first granddaughter (other two grandkids are boys) but won't because the plane trip would be uncomfortable and she hates being uncomfortable.
I also spent most of my life fetching things for her because she was too lazy to stand up. She only ever boiled meat for supper when she decided to cook because she didn't want to stand at the stove.
Our 'quality time' was her sitting me in front of the TV. I could never really ask her things, the way I could ask my sisters or my dad (just stupid questions like, 'Why does the ambulance have the letters backwards on the hood?' Since she'd tell me she didn't know and to be quiet. Meanwhile, my sisters would hang blankets over the windows, set up a lava lamp on the floor surrounded by pillows, gather snacks and we'd have a 'campfire' in our hallway. Some of my best memories, man. Still makes me smile.
Mom would get mad at the smallest things, too. Like I'd make breakfast, ask if she wants anything, she'd say no. I'd finish and eat my food and the whole time she's staring me down like she's mad I'm eating when she's not.
After my sisters moved out and went to university, I was all on my own and had 0 idea how to handle my mom since they always did it for me. I was suicidal all through high school, struggled with eating disorders, got myself in an abusive (emotionally and physically) relationship when she kicked me out and I had to live with my nan (which she denied, but I wasn't living with her for a year. She says she doesn't remember that happening) and instead I moved in with that boyfriend. Mom still has no idea about him because why tell her? She'll make it about her. Turn it into a guilt trip that she feels so bad she never saw the signs, blah blah blah.
We weren't abused, but maybe a bit neglected.
If it means anything both sisters turned out really well! They're great mom's, having loving SOs and both are doing what they love and are happier than ever. I'm engaged to a wonderful man, have a great opportunity in front of me career wise and just generally enjoying life where I can."