Who doesn’t like to reminisce on the ‘good ole days’ of their childhood? For some people, remembering certain things about their childhood brings back happy memories. And for others, they realized how truly twisted their childhood was. People reveal the thing that made them second guess their “normal” childhood. Content has been edited for clarity.
“When I was a kid ,my dad would take me to the 7/11 for Slurpees. I adored it because I loved Slurpees. The only rule was I couldn’t tell my mom I got it or I went anywhere with my dad. I didn’t realize until I was about 12 or so that all the times he took me out for Slurpees, it was really just him getting a six-pack and feeding his addiction. And that was why I wasn’t allowed to say anything.
My mom also slept with me well into my teen years. It wasn’t until I got into late middle school when I mentioned it to my friends, who told me it was extremely weird. My dad told me it was because my mom was a control freak and that I was putting a wedge in between their marriage by letting her sleep with me, so I finally demanded she stop.
I later found out she slept with me for that long because my dad was a raging junkie/boozy and could do some really terrible things while high. I knew my dad was an addict, but I never knew my dad could do anything like that.
I take care of my mom now. He died about six years ago, and I’ve never seen her happier.”
She Was Clueless
“My older brother was locked in his room at night, with his window nailed shut and two locks (chain and deadbolt) on the outside of his door. I always wanted to drag a chair over and let him out, but I’d always been told not to because he was in ‘time out.’ It was always something. If he’d play with my sister or me, it would have to be supervised until I was six or so.
It turned out he had mental issues that would make him somewhat randomly violent. My parents did what they could, but they were lost for the most part. They focused on keeping their girls safe from their son.
I also wasn’t allowed outside (aside from school and shopping with parents while in the cart). I could see the park from my house, but I only ever got to play there after it rained hard. Then no one would be there. Apparently, we bounced around from one dangerous area to another, so they were worried I’d be kidnapped.
My own grandmother tried to kidnap my siblings and me, so my parents had a good reason to worry.
I looked like a blonde porcelain doll and developed earlier than the other kids, so I really stood out. I did get too much attention from older men as a kid, who would be scared off by my parents. I was clueless, only thinking that they must have been lonely if they went out of their way to talk to a child.”
“No Cops and Robbers, No GI Joe”
“My parents were very conservative, and my father was in the military (Vietnam era) before I was born. I grew up in a rural area, and all of my friends had bb pieces and 22’s. I was not allowed to play with any weapons or even pretend we were shooting anything. I had to constantly explain to my friends and their parents why I couldn’t just go out and shoot things in the backyard.
No cops and robbers, and no G.I. joe.
Now that I look back on it, many of my father’s friends were veterans and had combat PTSD. They were completely against kids thinking that war was a game. I was allowed to take marksmanship and shoot at a repeater range, but only under adult supervision. All weapons were locked up at our house.”
Family No Fun
“I wasn’t allowed to read for pleasure. It was okay to pour over the books for homework, but not okay to lounge on a chair or bed and read for pleasure. My father would go nuts if he caught us reading. To him, it meant we weren’t doing housework or yard work, which was what he really wanted us to do when the school assignments and chores were done.
We also didn’t have vacations. We never went anywhere for summer or holiday breaks, except for one year when I was eight, when we took a road trip up to Washington state. The experiment was never repeated. My parents never said why. I think my father did not want to take us on vacation anymore, so we didn’t go.
I would have loved to go camping with my parents and siblings. We never did though.
I still remember how excited I was when I realized (as a newlywed) that my spouse and I could literally give ourselves permission to take a vacation. So we did!
Once I got over the shock and guilt of taking time off from work, we did it more and more often.
I had gone all the way through school, and then college, and then three years of working in my field before it dawned on me that I was allowed to go on vacation, just like my former classmates and current coworkers.
My family’s culture had led me to believe that vacations were something that ‘other people’ did. They weren’t for the likes of us. I internalized that rule so deeply that, years and years after I left home for college, I never went anywhere for vacation.
Until my spouse and I broke that rule for good.”
“My parents would set ‘traps’ on me to catch me doing something that most took for granted. For example, to tell if I got up to pee in the night while grounded, they would set cans on the doorknob outside my bedroom door, so if I even tried to turn my doorknob, then it would fall off the handle really loud and wake them up.
Then they were surprised when my little seven or eight-year-old bladder couldn’t hold it from five p.m. in the night before to whenever they let me out the next day. So I started peeing in a trashcan and hiding it in my closet. Or when I got older around ten to twelve, they would want me sitting on my hands, crossed-legged, nose to the wall in my room doing nothing (unless they had yard work or chores to do) all day.
If my dad had to leave and didn’t want to take me, he would tape strands of hair or a large strip of duct tape across the outside of my door to know whether my door opened while he was gone, because I wouldn’t be able to re-tape or fix the hair from inside.
In high school, he would bring home fast food ‘as a treat’ for dinner, and if I ate it, then I was a ‘sheeple who didn’t know how to make my own choices’. If I made my own dinner and tried a new recipe, then I was accused of having met a male, gotten pregnant, hiding it, and was planning to elope soon just because I had the initiative to cook meatloaf.
I was darned if I did anything and darned if I didn’t. So many traps.
Neighbors were recruited to trap me. My dad would describe how awful and untrustworthy I was to them and convinced them to call him immediately if I walked home with other children who lived in the neighborhood, especially boys. This went on from second grade through high school.
I also wasn’t supposed to take too long coming home. This resulted in me essentially having to find a way to be the first one off the bus and ignore other kids so I could get home quickly without being accused of (gasp)… walking with other bus stop kids. Often I’d have to speed walk ahead of them or learn how quickly each clique moved on average, so I could time my walk home correctly without my neighbors calling him. Otherwise, I’d be walking into a beating once I got home.
It really frustrates me now realizing how abnormal this was and why it had affected and still is my ability to relate to others and to feel like I’m allowed to interact with them. It’s even more frustrating that this is hardly the tip of the iceberg of how he abused and controlled me for almost two decades. It’s annoying to have others call me shy, reserved, or tell me to ‘just put myself out there’ without understanding this isn’t the run-of-mill-shyness. I’ve literally been conditioned to see all forms of connection to others as a trap and a danger to avoid at all costs.”
“My dad left our family when my mom was pregnant with me. He left to be with his mistress for good and turned into a drinker.
Well, on some nights my dad would show up at our home uninvited and unannounced, always buzzed, and always crying. My mom would let him in, and he would come to lay in bed with my brother or me, and just sob. My mom would let him sober up, and then he would leave the next morning.
I learned from my mom that if my dad wasn’t going to be heavily involved in my brother’s or my life, she would allow him to at least spend this time with us. Even if it was when he was buzzed, because this was better than nothing.”
“Are We Bourgeoisie?”
“I was used to hiding things from landlords and living in slums. I had to pretend my dad didn’t live with us and was only there to ‘just visit.’
Our windows with curtains were stapled shut and taped to the frame. I remember we used to take the cat to grandma’s house because it was inspection time. The holes punched in the walls were filled with newspapers and plaster. We ate smaller and smaller dinners and skipped lunch the last few days before payday. The fact a six-year-old even knew when her dad’s payday was is appalling.
I would have to shake the blankets and pillows hard to make sure there were no beetles in them, only to wake up to beetles anyway. Our windows frosted shut in the winter, which left the ice encroaching into the living room. We weren’t allowed to go into the basement in spring, because the floor would be covered in a few inches of sewage water. ‘Camping’ in the yard in the summer was a thing because it was actually cooler outside with the breeze.
When I was a kid, we lived in government-subsidized housing, and everyone was like us too. Among my friends and classmates, my family was actually one of the families that were best off. I had a Play Station Two, a GameCube, and a Game Boy! My dad got them for free from work. He worked at a car detail shop, where people didn’t get back anything they forgot inside their vehicles. It wasn’t just my dad, but the whole place was like that. I knew it wasn’t exactly normal, but I figured we were just slightly lower middle class.
At 23 years old, I moved out of my parent’s place with my partner for the first time last July. It was at that time I started to realize I didn’t just grow up ‘cheque to cheque’ or ‘poor’, but we were straight-up impoverished.
It was weird at first when I moved out, because I was now currently living better off than my parents. I felt so guilty. My partner and I could comfortably afford our kind of expensive apartment, and we still had money left over even the day before payday. We also ate very well.
Unlike my childhood, my apartment now had no bugs or mice. I realized I wasn’t struggling anymore.
Sometimes my partner thought I was pretending to be dumbfounded on our lifestyle, or I was just being cute. He actually grew up in a middle-class family. His parents owned their house outright and had their mortgage paid off just a few years ago. They are now retired or semi-retired in their 50s. He literally grew up with a white picket fence.
To this day, I’m still amazed that I can just buy things. I have money in the bank that is actually mine and is available to spend whenever.
One time, I was sad I couldn’t print my sewing patterns since the library was closed, so I had to decide if I should just shill out the extra 10 cents per page at Staples.
My partner didn’t understand why I was being difficult and said, ‘We can just… buy a printer, honey.’
I said, ‘ Y-you mean, like just own a whole printer? Just inside our apartment like, just for us? Are we bourgeoisie?’
He called me cute, but genuinely it never even occurred to me that I could even dare to dream to own a $200 printer. Growing up the way I did really messed with my head.”
The Struggles of An 80s Kid
“My dad was a heavy drinker when I was young.
His shop was in our garage, so he would watch me while he was supposed to be working (my mom worked full time too). When he was wasted (daily), he didn’t trust himself to cook, so he’d give me frozen corn or peas. The frozen veggies were treated like a super special snack, and I loved it. Even after he stopped drinking, he and my mom would give us frozen corn and peas as a snack. I didn’t realize it was weird until I was in high school and offered some to friends as a snack option.
Also, I only went to daycare for a few months before I started kindergarten. Once I started school, I got a key to wear around my neck and just watched myself until my parents got home from work. I did puzzles, read, or watched TV for like four to five hours on my own. I knew I wasn’t supposed to tell anyone I was home alone, but it wasn’t until my siblings were all put into daycare/aftercare that I realized I should not have been alone, much less for that many hours.
The joys of being an 80s latchkey kid.”
“When I was a kid, we didn’t have running water. We had brown sludge that came out of the sinks. I had to take buckets downstairs to wait with the neighbors for one working water source. My parents thought nothing of sending five-year-old me out at 10 p.m.
The bread came from a neighbor that worked at the bread factory. Actually, she used to steal the bread and sell it out of her apartment.
I slept on a fold-out armchair in my parent’s bedroom. We lived in a two-bedroom apartment, and the other bedroom was occupied by my mother’s great aunt. It was her apartment, but it was the best setup my parents could manage. When she immigrated, my dad’s adopted sister moved in too.
All in all, it was a happy childhood. I was loved and provided for.”
What In The Hocus Pocus?!
“My group of friends and I convinced ourselves we were actually possessed by demons and lived like that for months. It wasn’t the ‘playing light as a feather stiff as a board at sleepovers’ witchcraft phase that most girls have. It was more like we made up our own little cult.
When we got together, the Ouija board came out, so we ‘spoke to Satan’ in tongues and took off a few items of clothing. We told each other about prophetic visions our ‘demons’ told us, which involved people we didn’t like dying. (None of them did). We didn’t sacrifice animals, but we would find already dead ones (lizards and birds mostly) and do ‘ceremonies’ around them before burning them.
We weren’t goth kids either. We dressed and acted normal most of the time. We just had this disturbing little imaginary Satanic secret going on. I think it’s because our environment was unbearable and we needed to act out in some way. I assumed others did weird things like that, but I think our group went a bit too far.”
“My Mom Was Always Embarrassed”
“It took me moving out for college to realize my dad was a hoarder. And he probably suffered from other mental illnesses. We constantly had piles of junk in the house. My dad would take anything that someone gave away for free, or super cheap, because it was ‘still good,’ or ‘he might need it someday.’
One time, he bought a bunch of close-out industrial-sized food containers. We had many one-gallon cans of puréed spinach, fruit cups, pudding, and everything else canned. It was horrible. He also stored them in the living room. Just imagine two pallets of one-gallon cans in your living room next to the TV.
I never had friends over because my mom was always embarrassed. I used to get mad at her until I realized that other people kept their house free of odd rubbish. And then I was also embarrassed to have anyone over.
After my mom died, my dad remarried. His new wife was also a hoarder. They used to go through my trash because I always threw away ‘good stuff.’ She had since passed, and my dad seemed to be on a kick to get rid of stuff. I’m just really happy that I’m not the executor of his will. So much junk.”
Game Time With Mommy
“When I was younger, I used to role-play ‘kidnapper’ with my mom. When I was maybe six or seven years old, my mom would leave me inside the house with my baby brother and said we were going to play pretend. She was going to be a kidnapper breaking in. I had to practice getting my little brother and finding an acceptable spot for us to hide. After each role-play, I got critiqued on the hiding spots until I found something suitable.
I always thought it was just kind of a weird hide-and-seek game until I started telling a few people about it and got ‘what the heck’ looks. No wonder I have anxiety issues.”
“When I was a kid, my mom would have us disinfect everything. My grandma even got us a science kit when we were younger to show us what germs really were, and it involved growing fungus and testing different surfaces to see what was filthy. I ended up becoming freaked out by the idea of being sick or dirty surfaces, especially hands. She would buy us wipes to use at school and sanitizer so I would sanitize after shaking hands and wipe down my desk.
Eventually, it got to a point where I couldn’t have anyone that wasn’t immediate family touch me, and I was constantly sanitizing and washing. I thought this was normal until my friends started calling me a germaphobe.
I feel bad, because whenever I went to a friend’s house, I would always be thinking about how dirty everything was. I once went to a lake with a friend, and when we got back, they made us take showers, even though I stayed on the boat. The shower scared me the worst, because I knew it wasn’t as clean as mine. I’m not this drastic anymore. I’m glad I don’t feel this way now.”
“I Completely Lost It and Cried For At Least An Hour”
“My parents never showed any pride in me. For example, here in Finland from grade one to nine, we were graded on a scale of four to ten. When I got a nine and a half on an exam, they asked me why it wasn’t a ten. When it was a 10, it wasn’t acknowledged. When I was doing my chores, my mom would follow me around and point at all the spots I missed. These are just two examples, but it ran far more deep than that.
What it resulted in was me being a perfectionist in my own life. No accomplishment is enough. I just feel like there must have been a mistake, and I didn’t really deserve it.
A few years ago when I got a promotion at work, my ex-boyfriend told me he was proud of me, and I completely lost it and cried for at least an hour. I had never heard anyone say that to me. Two years of therapy later, I am still not completely there with my confidence, but it has gotten significantly better, and I hope it keeps on going that way.”
His Sister Was Just Another Person
“When I was bullied or when I got in trouble with teachers, my mom stood up for me. But I was given just the bare minimum of attention and love from her, because she was always at work.
Since my parents were divorced, my dad was rarely there for me when it came to anything. My grandparents existed, but it was not the same as if I spent time with a complete nuclear family. I never had a good relationship with my sister. For me, she was just another person living in the same apartment.
I was always weirded out when I went to visit my classmates and they had their parents home. Or when I saw my classmates interact with their parents in a loving way. I never really felt that sense of family.
I guess that is what happens when you´re raised by babysitters and your friends on the street. I don´t really miss being in a family, because I don´t even remember what that feels like. I have some faint memories of spending one Christmas Eve together as a family and a trip to McDonald´s before my parents got divorced, but that´s about it.”
He Was Scared To Walk Past Cars
“I grew up in Northern Ireland, and the extreme violence there was normalized. It happened around us and we knew it happened, but it was never talked about. My parents (and I expect many others) just pretended it didn’t exist.
As a child, I remember the anxiety of something happening. When I walked past cars, I wondered if there was a bomb inside. Or when I was rushed outside because of a security alert, I thought security alert was a euphemism for ‘bomb in the building.’ I heard reports of people blown to pieces or summarily executed in the next town along.
That was our normal. It was only when I moved away from home that I realized most people didn’t live like that.”