It can be sweet how innocent kids see the world as sunnier than it really is - except when those kids are in dark situations. Only the wisdom of age and experience can shine light on their traumatic memories, causing some earth-shattering revelations. Not all of these people escaped unscathed.
All posts have been edited for clarity.
"When I was in the fifth grade my mother was dating this addict. I had a piggy bank I'd put Christmas money, birthday money, chore money, like 90 dollars and he would steal probably 20 a week and my mom would have to put the money back. She thought I didn't see, but I did. He went on to steal all our savings and left my mother.
One day in the winter I stayed home from school. I heard a struggle going on and my mom saying 'no, no.' When I came out of my room, my mom's boyfriend was on top of her with a knife to her throat. They both looked at me and my mom starts yelling, telling me to go back to bed, so I do.
I called my dad and told him that they were having a fight again and mentioned a knife. My dad got there in record time - I've never seen him move so fast. He ended up throwing the boyfriend down the stairs and I went to my grammy's house for a couple weeks. My mom had moved us from CT to NY after they split and my dad quit his job and moved to NY about ten minutes from where we lived. I'm so grateful he made that decision"
"When I was maybe 8 years old I was in Cub Scouts for a short while. On a camping trip in the middle of the night, one of the adult leaders pulled me and another boy out of our tents to go to the campground showers. I remember being confused since I didn't think I had gotten that dirty, and it was a weird time and place to be taking a shower.
At the showers I went down to my underwear, but was too shy to take it all off. I think the other boy did the same, but I honestly don't remember what the adult did (maybe I didn't want to look). As far as I remember, I got back to the tent without much else happening, but I don't know about the other boy.
This was in the early '90s, and I didn't think much about this event until like a few years ago."
"When I was really young (elementary school), me and my sister 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 full summer. We find it again one day in her closet.
The film for the Barbie camera was processed and a week later my parents sit 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. We were told that the police were going to be at our house the following day to talk to us about them. I was so scared, I remember crying on the bus on the way home.
They found various pictures of 2 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 think about it and I can’t figure out what happened. Where was the camera for so long? Who were the girls in the pictures? Who took the pictures? Did I black something out of my memories 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."
"My parents used their race car hobby throughout eastern US, especially the coast, to run coke and weed. All the signs were there, but I had no idea; how could I, as a kid?
We had an 'uncle' we called 'Godfather Tony' with a limousine service my mother was the secretary of who went to 'Florida' for a few years. He sent birthday and Christmas cards. I never noticed that they were from federal prison. The racing hobby/business began almost immediately after he left, with frequent contact and calls from him. Daily. I just thought we loved him that much.
We are in NJ (naturally), but would meet up with the same people throughout the country at racing events. I became lifelong best friends with the daughter of one of the Detroit drivers. She figured out her father and uncle were picking up and dealing back in the Midwest from my father long before I had a clue. She laughed the day I called her, incredulous.
They stuffed the goods in my father's racing suit, in the race car in the trailer, and in the helmet. We were pulled over a ton of times, but my father never broke a sweat.
We never had real money, but the investments in the racing hobby were unreal. My parents lived expensively, foolishly, and with flashy hobbies and interests left and right. I never understood how we could be so broke but still travel all over with such a shiny truck, a trailer, and cars.
There were so many incidents and fights where we were avoiding people while on the road. I remember being woken up at 2AM to my mother going 'he found us! He found us!' and being ordered to dress quickly. Outside was what I now recognize as the fiended-out 'uncle' we had 'cut from the race team' and his coked up girlfriend, who had been searching for our racing trailer at hotels up and down the 95 corridor when we 'didn't show up to the track or state he expected us to.' It was really some type of money deal gone wrong and my father wouldn't give up the goods.
Everything was spelled out for me a good decade after it all had ended when I had a boyfriend over to their home in my mid 20s. My mother noticed him admiring a gold coke set I had never once noticed, and she gave it to him. I was shocked, and pointed out that my parents had only ever smoked pot. She said, 'well yeah, you're right, but we were also huge coke dealers in the 80s or 90s. What do you think the "racing" all over the country was for?'
The complexity of it, and the amount of childhood people that were involved, and memories that I realize still to this day are mind-blowing. And it was all for nothing; they're completely broke now."
"When I was a kid, my dad's company had a summer camp where we would vacation. It was a great place to meet other kids of our age as well.
One day I was using a bridge that went through the woods to other side of this campground. I don't remember how it all transpired, but another kid who was older I had seen before was torturing and ripping apart a small animal on the bridge. I believe it was a rabbit. What really stands out, though, was that as I stood there watching this, horrified, he knew that I was there. He even tried to hand me the hatchet he was using and very matter-of-factly said, 'you can do what you want to it now.'
I ran away as fast as I could, but I don't even think I told anyone. The kid was torturing and ripping apart an animal, and I didn't even realize the implications until years later that this probably meant he could be a serial killer one day."
"My mom and her then boyfriend would forget that I was at school and I would sit in the car pick-up lane for hours until they would come get me.
I remember one time I was sitting outside until the sun was starting to set. The school receptionist came and asked me if I wanted to use the phone to call my mom, but I couldn't because most of the time we didn't even have a house phone. Her junkie of a boyfriend would go into bouts of paranoia and accuse her of cheating on him, ripping the phone off the hook.
They finally went and got me and they were both high. My mom's eyes would be swollen from either crying or being beaten. I remember the sad looks the teachers would give me when they would see me sitting outside for hours every day after school. My dad finally had enough and took me out of that situation.
Since then I have forgiven my mom. She has been clean for over a decade and has excelled in many areas of her life. We are closer than ever and talk almost daily."
"When I was about 4 I was grocery shopping with my grandpa.
I somehow got separated from him and was wandering around lost asking people where my grandpa was. Some guy said, 'your grandpa is outside, I will take you to him.' So I follow him outside, he tells me my grandpa is in his truck, so he is opening the door for me to get in.
Next thing I know, the guy gets thrown up against his truck, I look over and there is my grandpa strangling the guy. He called him a sick man and said if he ever sees him around town again he will kill him.
I really am not sure why he didn’t beat the guy up or report him. I’m pretty sure he knew he scared the living daylights out of the dude. I remember he was a nerdy looking guy with silver rimmed glasses that fell off when my grandpa had his hands around his throat. The guy was crying and saying he was sorry. I was standing there confused. He let the guy go, grabbed my hand, hopped in my grandpa's truck and drove off. Crazy this was 31 years or so ago and I remember most of the details."
"I was about 5 years old and the year prior my mother had contracted West Nile. Due to severe encephalitis her optic nerves were crushed and she was left blind.
One evening I was trying to find my mom so she could tuck me into bed, but she was nowhere to be found. For some reason I had the idea to check outside. I saw her about 2 blocks away standing in the middle of the street without her cane. I was very confused so I ran inside to get dad. When he came out and ran to her, he looked like he was having a really hard time convincing her to come to him. He also yelled at me to go back inside.
It wasn't until about 16 or 17 did I realize what had really happened that evening. My mother was attempting to get hit by a car to try to kill herself.
She is much happier now and has accepted what life flung at her. She's a very happy women (most days) and I hope one day she will be able to see again."
"I grew up in a rural community surrounded by farmland and forest. There was a network of trails where we rode our bikes.
One day, my brother and I took a trail we had never been on and rode down it for a few miles. We came up on a group of older guys that had set up a camp. They pulled weapons on us and wouldn't let us leave. I remember being a little scared of them, but more than anything I was worried they would tell my mom because we were not supposed to go out that far.
We sat there for hours. While one guy held his weapon on us, the other guys were talking and arguing the whole time. Finally, they let us go. When I look back, I realize that they were up to no good and that they thought we saw something or were going to tell someone.
The reason they were taking so long is because they were debating whether or not they needed to kill us.
It's crazy how little I grasped the situation at the time."
"My mom had taken my sister and me to the beach. We were around 5 and 6, if memory serves me right.
The parking lot was overlooked by rows and rows of apartments and townhome style buildings. Where we parked faced the backyard of a two story residence.
We were leaving the beach, packing it up in the car, when we heard a woman scream and come running down the stairs from the 2nd story. She was wearing a short dress and I recall her laughing and screaming, like when you are playing and running around having fun. In my recollection she was also tipsy. As she nears the bottom of the stairs, a man runs down picks her up and carries her over his shoulder back up into the residence. As he did this, another man came out and waited at the top of the stairs.
My mom nervously shoved us into the car and we left. She started to cry, but wouldn’t tell us why when we asked.
Come to find out, when I asked about this memory as an adult, my mom harbors deep regret and guilt and shame about this incident.
She tells me that it was a young girl in just a top, no panties, and she was hysterically crying, trying to run away. The man at the top of the stairs had a loaded weapon. The man who grabbed her and hauled her up the stairs pointed us out to the second man, and that’s when my mom hauled us out of there.
My mom never told anyone. She panicked and got her girls out of there. She insists that is what she saw when I tell her my recollection was a woman wearing a dress, having fun, partying, laughing, screaming with glee and being dragged back in by frustrated friends.
I wish my recollection was the correct one."
"35 years ago, I was 7 years old at the time. My (now deceased) mother had schizophrenia, and was fighting with my dad (again) because she didn't want to take her meds. In her defense, psych meds really sucked 35 years ago and had all sorts of nasty side effects. But still, taking them was way better than not taking them.
Anyway, the fight got worse and worse until the neighbors called the cops. When my mom heard the sirens, instead of settling down, she ran upstairs and grabbed a loaded weapon, so that when the cops knocked on the door they were greeted by my mom sticking it in their faces. There is a whole bunch more yelling between my mom and the cops. My sister grabbed me and my brother and told us to run out the back door of the house and 'play' in the backyard a while. I don't know who it was, my dad or the cops, but eventually someone calmed down my mom and she spent a couple months in the mental hospital.
Later that year, she came home and did some more evil stuff and they institutionalized her for 8 years. My dad got a divorce and won sole custody, but never remarried. Eventually, they came out with better psych meds and I reconciled with my mom, but no one else did - neither my dad nor my siblings. They were all too emotionally scarred, whereas I was too young. None of the violence seemed messed up to me at the time, and I eventually forgave her before she died."
"I live in Serbia and was 4-5 years old when the 1999 bombings began. My dad used to tell me and my sister it was fireworks every night. We even watched it happen many times. It was like New Years Eve every night.
I never understood why my dad was so upset when my mom went to work (she was a head nurse of orthopedics and has some sort of a work obligation in case of a war), and why he was so relieved when she came home unharmed and well. It took me a few years to realize what was actually happening then.
Even to this day, I can't stand loud noises and those freaking air raid sirens. I can only imagine what my dad went through when it was all happening."
"Sometime in middle school I was home alone because my mom went grocery shopping and my dad was at work.
A guy came up and knocked on the door asking to look at our internet lines. He was dressed semi-professionally. Any thoughts I had of letting him in were immediately dispelled by our large dog going absolutely crazy, barking and growling and trying to get at the guy. I’d never seen him do that before - he’s always super sweet and excited to meet people. So I told him, 'you can check the outside of the house and that’s it, bye.'
Later I realized that letting him inside would certainly have been a bad idea, and that I’m lucky he didn’t try and come in through the backyard."
"As a kid when I was about 5-6 years old, in the middle of July in 102 degree heat, I was taken with my friend by his mom to pick up her paycheck at our local grocery store. We were left in a dark blue GMC van in the parking lot for over an hour! Both my friend and I nearly passed out from heat exhaustion.
I don't remember much about what happened after, but I do remember my friend's mom nonchalantly coming back with not even a bottle of water as we're sitting there just trying to stay conscious. I remember thinking about that day recently and how messed up it was that she did that to us.
Oh, and for those wondering why she didn't just bring us in the store. I can only fathom she was more concerned over trying to keep us kids under control in the store, and she figured she'd be in and out in a 'minute', thus leading to her decision to let us cook in the family van."
"I was very young when I was leaving a Dollar General store while my dad sat in his truck in the parking lot. As I was walking to my dad's truck, some extremely filthy man was sitting in the driver seat of some beat up rusted out car with a similar looking woman in the passenger seat. He got my attention as I passed with a toothless grin while pulling a Furby out from being stuffed into the corner of his windshield and dashboard.
He never said anything to me, just sort of motioned me to come towards him while holding the Furby out of the window. Thankfully, I had been taught endlessly to never talk to or take things from strangers, so I ignored him and kept walking.
The saddest and most messed up part is that in the car's back seat, I could see two or possibly three dirty looking children. I didn't pay much attention to their facial expressions or anything else about them, as I was pretty creeped out by the man. I never said anything to my dad about it once I got back into his truck. I just got in and we left.
Hopefully they were not kidnapped children, but that doesn't really make the situation a whole lot better. Even if they were the man's own children, they had to have been in a pretty poor situation."
"When I was 7 years old I witnessed a crazy guy firing shots out of his window into the street in a crowded part of a suburban neighborhood.
It was summer time and there were a lot of people out and about. He only hit one person, who fortunately survived, but it was a scene of mass panic with people running around and shots ringing out. I was up close, a friend of my parents grabbed me and took me into a house as shots were fired. I can still remember a bullet hitting a brick wall right behind me.
I was at an age where I had clear memories of it, but for some reason did not associate it with being a traumatic event. It was never a big secret or anything, but the first time I actually ever told the story to someone was in college. Describing the situation to a group of people was the first time I actually realized how messed up of a situation that was."
"When I was around 10, my mom bought a house that she couldn't afford. She was in over her head and rented out the 3 rooms and garage to people. Me and my two older brothers would sleep with my mom in her room.
One night, my two brothers were at a sleepover and my mom was having a get-together with friends in the living room. I was going to bed and she said they were going out for the night. I was in the room alone, going to sleep.
All of a sudden I wake up and there's a man in my room. I had no idea who he was and he was not a tenant. I get startled, but he tells me not to worry, go to bed, and even tucks me in. I was naive, so I did. The next morning, my mom's room was completely trashed. The mirrors in the bathroom and dresser were broken. Everything was on the floor. It was was a mess. I still have no idea what happened."
"When I was 10 - 12 years old, I was visiting my grandmother with my family.
I was out playing with another young kid in her neighborhood, when we heard a lot of commotion coming from someone’s back yard. There was a lot of yelling, arguing, and what sounded as though something was whimpering.
We went to inspect what exactly was happening, and, upon peering through the fence, saw a few adults surrounding a large dog that was up to its head in a freshly dug hole in the ground. The dog was still alive, sitting in the hole, whimpering uncontrollably. Someone spotted us and told us to leave, as there was 'nothing to see' there.
I went home and told my father, who went over to he house, but everyone was gone from the backyard. I have no idea what happened to the dog."