Childhood is a lovely time that only happens once in a lifetime. Most people wish it could last forever, but some people wish they could forget every minute of the childhood they had. Read on to hear stories from people about the times they realized that things that happened when they were younger were NOT normal. Content has been edited for clarity.
"When I was 11, my parents helped a battered wife out of an abusive situation. Her husband was a bad bad guy but was still roaming free. Nobody knew where he was, and he had made serious threats against my family.
My mom ran me through the 'steps' if he were to break in: I would get my younger siblings in the closet with me, she would run and draw him out and away from the house to a pre-determined location in the back yard. Once they left I would take the defense weapon we kept out of the closet and shoot him.
I was groomed to kill a man at 11. Never had to, but totally prepared."
"When I was a kid, if I ever misbehaved even slightly, I would get a savage whooping, the only messed up part (that I thought at the time) was that the beatings never varied depending on the severity of my misconduct. I bring home an F? Vicious beating. I accidentally forget to take out the trash? Same beating. Never any variation.
It wasn't until I was almost 15, that my mind was blown. I went over to a friend's house and shortly after arrival, his mom came in and started yelling at him because the school called, and he got caught trying to forge her signature for something. He did something that would have left me swollen and blue, and I was getting ready to just bail because I didn't wanna see the incoming whooping.
But after she was done yelling, she just hugged him and said she was more disappointed than angry and that they would need to work on things.
I was like...... WHAT!?!?!? Where's the butt whooping!?!?!?
Turns out, not every parent decides to beat the living crap out of a kid for every transgression, big or small. Just mine."
"I have Phenylketonuria which is basically a genetic condition that is treated with an incredibly restrictive diet. I knew a list of things I absolutely could not have, and I had printed books that told me how much I could have of certain foods and I mostly had to take a packed lunch everywhere with me, even when just going round to friends' houses.
The problems came when my parents divorced, my mum basically kicking my dad out and taking custody of me and my siblings....and she immediately stopped caring. She made sure I stuck to my diet but made no actual effort to make sure I was eating enough to function.
At it's worst point, I was eating a small bowl of cereal in the morning (25g), a few slices of cucumber (tomatoes made me sick, and seeped into the lettuce of my school 'salad') an apple (I'd be given an orange as well but the stringiness of it made me sick), a carton of apple juice, then in the evening - a small plate of whatever was left over from what my family had eaten the day before but in small amounts as I could only have tiny quantities of most of it, with the parts I couldn't have removed. And that was it. That was what I ate everyday most days for over a year. During the holidays it was worse because my mum had to make me my lunch herself and she just wouldn't bother.
I couldn't make it myself as I was 9, I couldn't eat most conveniently available snacky foods, I couldn't eat bread, I couldn't have crisps, we rarely had fresh, readily available food. So a lot of the time I'd reach into the rubbish bin and eat whatever my brother had thrown away. And my mom smoked so a lot of times it tasted of ash but I was so hungry I didn't care.
I always assumed this level of hunger and desperation was just how everyone with the condition lived because my diet was so restrictive, and my mum was pretty manipulative and had me convinced that a lot of things were my fault including her failing relationships, her inability to hold a job, her failed marriage, my dad's sickness. Like I thought, this has to be because of my diet, this has to be how everyone with this condition lives, in a constant state of hunger.
Cut to a year or so later, I was living with my dad's parents. Typical grandparents they would go out of their way to make sure I was fed. They cooked larger portions of unrestricted food and allow me to serve myself at the dinner table, search for receipes made for people with my condition, or altered recipes they already used, they made sure I knew where the food I could eat was, and what it was, so that I could get my own snacks without having to wait on someone else to sort me out. I zipped from badly underweight, to borderline overweight.
Even so, the light bulb didn't go off until I was 16 and my specialist pediatrician arranged for me to meet some other adults (20+) with the condition to give me hope for the future. It was a great experience but I still remember the look everyone gave me when I asked how they dealt with the crippling hunger when they were a little kid. It was like I'd sprouted a second head. They all explained, including my pediatrician, that none of them had gone hungry as children, they'd always had food, and that's when it hit me how willfully negligent my mum was.
All those times I thought she'd been trying her hardest to be a mum, was really just her being lazy and refusing to try. Even to this day, I have an unhealthy willingness to go hungry for longer than I should (I'm talking days), often having to be reminded by people to eat because I'm just so used to going without for extended periods of time."
"One weird example was when my older brother and I asked for Digimon Starter decks for christmas, but my mom and her boyfriend only had money for one for my brother. I got some cheap water squirt toys or something. My momma had to leave for whatever reason and I was pouting. My moms boyfriend asked me what was wrong and I told him I didn't get a digimon deck. He went over to my brother and asked him if that was true. My brother looked scared and said yes. All I remember is him hitting my brother all over and my brother screaming, trying to crawl away while he dragged him by his legs from the living room into the kitchen hitting him all over. Then I remember him throwing him an ice pack. It was normal cause we were beat all the time and it only seemed fair he should get beat real bad since he got the digimon deck but, I didn't."
"My cousin's extremely religious mother would practice 'rapture drills' with her. This consisted of her mom bursting into her room at like 3:00 am, banging pots and pans together, and screaming 'IT'S THE RAPTURE!! THE RAPTURE IS HAPPENING!! WILL YOU BE SAVED???' She would then make my cousin confess her sins to her and then tell her that she would be joining the devil for her sins. It terrified her. But she thought that this was a normal thing that all families/mothers do until adulthood when she casually mentioned it in conversation and the whole room went silent. Her now husband had to explain to her that no, that is not normal.
As a side note, I am not entirely sure what religion her mother was practicing back then. I believe that she dove deep in religion as a way to escape her abusive, perpetually wasted husband (my uncle). My cousin is fine now. She has gone through years of therapy to deal with her messed up childhood. Her mom eventually escaped the abusive marriage with my uncle. She, along with the rest of my family, no longer has contact with her dad. She has patched up her relationship with her mom and they are on very good terms. Her mom is now a Methodist and is an extremely loving mom/grandma to my cousin and my cousin's child."
"My mother used to let me skip school a lot to take me to the hospital to see my older sister. We’d have ‘hospital camp outs’ where I’d sleep in the hospital bed with my sister and she’d sleep in the recliner chair provided for parents. It’s now that I realize she’d do that because everyone (doctors, child psychiatrists, social workers, even friends and family) told her she needed to give me as much good memories with my sister as possible before she died. Surprisingly, that’s not the traumatic memory.
On those ‘hospital camp outs’ she used to make me memorize a nursery rhyme. She’d sing it to me, then make me sing it back to her over and over. It was to the tune of ‘hickory dickory clock’ (because I used to watch Play School a lot, so it was one I loved but one that wouldn’t come up in school [so there was no risk of teachers asking us to play it on recorders then wondering why I was singing the wrong lyrics]). She drilled it into my head so heavily that I still remember the lyrics.
The first verse was about my dad. That he was abusive and that I couldn’t be placed with him. The second verse was about my godmother, her name and her phone number. That she had documents to prove the abuse, and that she will take me in.
I realize now that my father was severely abusive to my mother, and my mother was constantly trying to prepare me in case he killed her. Whether it looked like an accident or not, she needed me to be able to tell the police officers that he was abusive, that my godmother’s number is xyz, that she has evidence and will take me in. I learned the nursery rhyme when I was 4. I guess it was the only way she could ensure a four year old would memorize information like that."
"For some reason I have been always scared of my mom, I have mental health problems and have been in and out of therapy for the past 7 years. I once mentioned to my dad how often I would have a babysitter, and my dad confessed that whenever I was with a babysitter, it was because my mom would go immediately to a bar and drink till she was blackout wasted, while my dad was working night shifts. My mom would then come home and mentally and physically abuse me, but my babysitter made a 'closet game' where I would hide in the closet until my dad got home to calm her down. My babysitter eventually called CPS, and my mom went into AA, she’s doing better now, but she still refuses to give up drinking, and still mentally abuses me to this day. It sucks, but whenever I see that babysitter (who’s now in college), I give her the biggest hug, because I think without her, I probably wouldn’t be here right now.
For some clarification, my mom suffered from bipolar disorder, and always blamed that in her actions. I still don’t like her, but I don’t have a choice to move out, because I’m only 16. But on the bright side with the help of therapy and sadly a plethora of psych ward stays from multiple suicide attempts, I am doing better and have been clean from self harm for about 1.5 years now."
"My grandmother was actually a very sweet lady she just wasn’t the brightest. She would constantly try to help us but just do it in a horrible way. For example one time she saw my sister’s furby was getting dusty, so she decided to give it a bath which caused it to not be able to talk anymore. She just didn’t like my stepdad and in her defense he’s a pretty big jerk and is incredibly mean to everyone he meets and has very angry and violent outbursts at even the smallest things. One time I was in the ICU and we weren’t sure if I was going to make it through the night and my step dad tried to fight my real dad because 'he was standing near the door to the bathroom because he knew I had to use the bathroom and he knew I wouldn’t want to ask him to move aside because that would mean I would have to ask him for help.'
So when I was about 5 or 6 my grandmother and my stepfather got into a huge argument. Both had short tempers and would get explosively angry. My grandmother was also a huge control freak. One day my grandmother was talking to my step dad and my grandmother and asked us if we were ever going to replace the floor tiles in the bathroom. We were super broke at the time so my step dad said no and my mom said we would whenever they were able to. Well my grandmother really wanted the tiles changed so one day when they were both at work she came to tear up all of the floor tiles. When my step dad got home my grandmother said to him, 'You should appreciate me more, I just spent all day on my hands and knees doing men’s work for you.' She kept harping on how he wasn't man enough, which came from my grandmother not thinking my stepdad was manly enough compared to my grandmother's boyfriend and my father. Step dad is horrible when it come to housework and repairs but would get really angry if someone else did them. For example, I put together our lawnmower for us because he didn’t read the directions on the last one and that caused it to blow up. When he found out he threw me against the wall. When my stepdad saw it he was enraged and asked her why she did that. My grandmother then said, 'You should appreciate me, you moron' then she flipped him off. At one point my grandmother picked up a tiny axe she was using on the floor and said, 'Don’t make me use this on you.'
My step dad ripped a picture of Jesus off the wall and held it to her face and said 'I bet this burns you you devil.'
It all ended with my grandmother storming out and my family didn’t talk to my grandmother for several months. I always joked to my sister that when she died that we should put that picture of Jesus up at her funeral.
Eventually the tiles got replaced. I asked my mom why my grandmother replaced the tiles and apparently after my step dad told her no, my mom told my grandmother that we couldn’t do it because no one had time to do it so it was kind of my mom’s fault."
"My friends in junior school (I was around 8/9) used to joke about the funny things their parents would do, and myself, trying to join in, would describe how my late father would sit me in the bath with him, and get me to 'suck his private part.' I thought it was a funny game with him, which I did when I was around 5/6.
I realized around 10 years later while sitting in class in high school that I was being abused and nearly had a breakdown. My dad had been dead for around 9 of those years, and my mother never ever brought it up with me.
When I mentioned it to her, she became incredibly dismissive and defensive, briefly mentioning something about the police, but not pursuing it because he was due to pass soon afterwards. It ended up overshadowing any other memory I had of that man, as I realized he was a completely awful person."
"As a kid, I used to brag about being able to sleep for over 24 hours straight to friends or teachers or really whoever would listen.
I was mid sentence mentioning it as a freshman in college when I realized my divorced father was secretly filling preschool me with cold meds so I'd sleep through his weekends of custody with me.
It really messed up my sense of reality for a while."
"When I was...8 til I was about 10 the school ELS teacher would sometimes pull me out of recess to sit down with me and play weird games. I hated it because it meant I wasn't outside writing my stories and besides, I was a native English speaker, why did I ever need to do anything with the ELS teacher?
...yeah turns out she was the counselor and she was trying to get enough information to show that I had signs of autism/ADD/a learning disorder to give to the national health service and get me an actual psychologist because my parents were refusing to send me to one. Unfortunately her husband died before she could finish and I didn't end up going to one until I was 17 when I was legally allowed to do that sort of thing on my own.
I did actually have ADD. The 'oh crap that was so much worse than I thought it was' isn't the ELS thing, its the fact that the teacher had to play impromptu psychologist because my parents refused to take me to an actual psychologist despite having every ability and reason to do so. Which is considered negligence and is technically abuse of some sort."
"My father was addicted to drink. He literally drank every single day to the point of being clearly hammered. Luckily he wasn't violent, even when he was wasted, I can't think of one time he even spanked me. The vast majority of my memories with him take place in a bar. I thought I was the luckiest kid ever. I got to hang out in the bar every weekend and get endless cans of soda and eat chips and beef jerky. I also got to hang out in his one bedroom apartment with him while he drank, chain smoked in my immediate presence, and smoked weed. Luckily him and my mom were never together so I was only there on weekends.
He passed away when I was in my mid 20s from liver failure. I'm 33 now and a father of a 6 year old boy who never got to meet his grandpa. I do not drink, at all. At least my father taught me what NOT to do."
"I skipped first grade, so was always a year younger than everyone. This story happened in 1993 and likely would not fly today.
So when I was 11, my 6th grade teacher held an 'intervention' for me where she sat me in the middle of the room and got all the other people from my class to tell me exactly why it was entirely my fault that I had no friends and was bullied all the time - mostly came down to the fact that I was 'weird' and 'annoying.' The teacher told the class that 'the next time Ryanne does something weird or annoying, scratch your ear to let her know.' So more or less any time I ever opened my mouth even once for the rest of Junior High, everyone would start scratching their ears and laughing at me.
In 2005, at the age of 23, I was finally diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome."
"Growing up, every summer we would pick apples at the local orchard ... LOTS OF APPLES. Would keep some but most just went to the orchard. I always thought it was just a fun time out. Would pick up apples give them to Dad to put in his picking bag, see how shiny you could get one, or throw the rotten ones around.
20+ years later it finally occurred to me that it was a little weird so I asked my Dad about it. He looked straight at me and quietly said, 'With five kids we needed the money. I would save my vacation at work and we would pick apples for the extra money.'
My parents worked their butts off to provide for us, make enough money to pay for half of our university educations, and save for retirement. All the while making it fun.
Not really traumatic but eye opening for me. Huge respect for Mom and Dad."
"My mom passed away when I was 5 from breastcancer. When we were at the service at our church, my dad, sisters and I were walked to the front pew and everyone was being so nice.
When the pastor started talking, everyone around me started crying, especially my dad. I remember wondering why they’re all crying, and when it didn’t stop, I just joined in. I didn’t get why we were crying, and thought my mom was just at the hospital resting like she had been so many times before."
"When I was around 8 my best friend at the time used to steal 'bad food' from her pantry and we’d go into her room and she’d then explain to me how we had to be skinny, because being skinny meant boys would like us and so she would then meticulously read the backs of the cookie packs and count out every cookie and how many calories they were for each of us.
She also was obsessed with shaving all her body and would try and pressure me into shaving my legs and arms. Once again, boys liked it when you were hairless.
I never really grasped how bizarre it was for 8 year olds to count calories and be hairless for boys.
Years later my primary school had a national scandal where 10-12 year olds were abusing each other in an adult kind of way on the mat during class, at lunch time. I can remember lots of peer pressure for kids to finger each other and make out because that meant you were 'cool' and liked by the hot boys.
I was very fortunate to not be involved and looking back it honestly so messed up. Don’t know if any of it was related but just from 7-12 it was quite gross."