There is a lot that kids just don't understand, and it's not until much later in life when they finally realize that something that seemed so innocent or fun is actually anything but. It happens to just about everyone, no matter what their "story" involved.
The people in the following stories know that feeling all too well as they recently explained in a Reddit thread asking people to share the childhood memories that could have ended badly. Take a look at some of the most harrowing stories from the bunch. All posts have been edited for clarity.
And He Thought He Was Getting A Ride Home
“When I was about 8 years old, I used to sneak off to the community pool nearby to go swimming.
On one of those instances, I was leaving the pool when this older, overweight guy with grey hair stopped me. He was really nice, made comments about my Rocko’s Modern Life towel, how good a swimmer I was, and a few other things. He offered to drive me home as I ‘must have been tired after all that swimming.’ I agreed very stupidly and we started driving.
I remember he circled around the same block about 30 times. He was nervous and kept talking to himself. I started to get really worried about what I’d gotten myself into and asked if I could just go home. He got silent and we sat in the car as he drove for another five minutes. Luckily enough for me, I saw my older brother with his friends at the basketball court nearby. I rolled down the window and shouted out to him. It made the older man extremely nervous and he nearly pushed me out of the car around the corner and sped off.
When I told my brother, he freaked out on me. Then he made me tell our parents and they subsequently called the cops. I didn’t understand what had happened until a couple of years later.
I know just how unbelievably lucky I am to have come out of it without being hurt.”
“He Was Definitely Grooming Us”
“When I was 11, some friends and I were playing cricket at a nearby schoolyard on a Sunday, so the school was closed. One of my friends hit the ball over a fence and knocked on the door to ask if he could go into the backyard to retrieve the ball.
My friend came back a few minutes later and said that the man in the house invited us over. The five of us walked over to the house and there was a man in his 60s standing in the doorway telling us to come inside and take a seat in his lounge room. He then offered us drinks and smokes which we all accepted, thinking it was cool. He kept telling us to ‘drink up.’
Fortunately, nothing happened, but he told us not to tell our parents and to come visit him again some time. We never did. But we all bragged about drinking and smoking when we went back to school the next day. Looking back at this situation as an adult makes me feel very, very uncomfortable. He was definitely grooming us.”
Talk About A Lesson He’ll Never Forget
“When my buddy and I were about 12 years old, we were walking up a steep road to his place, there was about a mile left, so about 20 minutes of walking.
We were getting exhausted, it was hot, and so as a joke, we put our thumbs up asking for a ride.
A glass van stopped, the kind that has the glass racks on the outside of the vehicle. There was no glass, but the rack was still there. He told us to hop on and he will give us a ride up the hill. We hopped on, braced ourselves for movement, and the guy PUNCHED it. By the time we were at the top of the hill, my hands were so sore from holding on and he must have been going a good 40 mph.
I finally let go and my friend lets go.
We say thanks and he drove off. We looked at each other in a ‘lets not ever do that again’ kind of way.”
He’s Lucky He Lived To Share The Story
“I was a dumb kid walking on recently frozen ice on a lake and fell though at point where the water came up to my waist. In trying to get out, I got my whole body wet. I walked a mile home in freezing conditions so I was pretty frozen when I got there.
I remember getting home and knocking on the sliding glass door to show my mom that I was frozen. She immediately pulled me in and stuck me in front of the wood stove, undressed me and wrapped me up in dry towels and blankets.
It could’ve been a lot worse, between falling in the lake at another spot where I couldn’t get out or getting really sick from walking around wet in freezing temps.”
She Finally Understood His Sickness
“I used to hang out a lot with my best friend and her family growing up. Her parents were avid bowlers, so on nights I wanted to spend the night at my best friend’s house (but her parents also had league), I would convince my mom to let me go with them.
Well, her dad was a RAGING drinker, but at the time, I didn’t understand the concept of drinking too much. I can remember nights where he was driving us all home from the bowling alley (his wife, their two kids, and me in the car), and he would have to pull over to the side of the road to vomit, presumably because he was so wasted from drinking too much at the bowling alley.
It didn’t occur to me until later in life that he didn’t pull over to puke because he was ‘sick’ … then I was like, ‘Oh man, that was DANGEROUS.’ And my mom had no idea.
Also, he used to beat the crap out of his son while I was over on a regular basis. He would go into Steven’s room, close the door, followed by yelling (dad) and shrill screaming (son).
So, About Your Mom
“I was a good upstanding kid, but I had a few notable close friends from the ‘wrong side of town.’ I don’t know why they gravitated towards me, but they did. So as a result, I was friends with a lot of the school bullies and misfits. I guess I was like, their moral center?
One day, I got a knock on my door, bad boy mate was at the door, let’s call him Matt. Matt and I went out to do our usual things on our bikes like just mess around and shoot the breeze. He suggested we go back to his house. I never liked going to his house because it was, as I said before, in a rough, rough part of town. He said his mum was out so we could play some video games and eat tons of food. I agreed, went over, and we got to business.
I had the weird feeling that he was trying to get something from me, which was super out of character for him. He’d usually be the sort to leave you for dead if it got a laugh. Anyway, he was layering gifts on me, said I could keep a few of his Yu-Gi-Oh cards, seemed to let me win on the game, and then I heard like a muffled sneeze.
His house was pretty terrible, and the walls were thin. The sneeze I heard was definitely his mother. I didn’t think much of it at the time. I just thought, ‘huh, he made a mistake, his mum is home.’
Hours went by of silence. Not even any movement upstairs. The house was just us two playing the game and talking. It was starting to get dark by this point, and then Matt stood up and said ‘Hey dude, come upstairs with me.’ I agreed, went upstairs, he walked ahead of me. He went into his mothers bedroom, I waited outside on the landing. He came out with a massive purple adult toy saying, ‘This is my mum’s, isn’t it funny!?’
Me being a 13-year-old kid, I agreed. I just got a bit of enjoyment out of it because it was a funny looking dong, and anything to do with that kind of stuff piqued my interest at that age. I started laughing and said, ‘Dude, that’s huge and floppy’ He then carried on the laughter awkwardly, and followed up with ‘hey, want to touch it?’, I said ‘…sure.’
I dunno, his mum was kinda hot in a trashy sort of way, she had been in and out of prison and obviously has trouble finding decent men, so I was more than up for at least poking it to watch it wiggle around. Matt’s voice then got to the sort of tone that I would describe as ‘hypothetically serious.’ He said, ‘Hey man, if you had the opportunity to hook up with my mum, would you do it?’
Me not seeing the red flags, I just said ‘Yeah man, I’d do anything that moves!’ Well, turns out I wouldn’t do anything that moves. He opened the door to his mum’s bedroom, and there she was in full crotchless lingerie, basically inviting me to hook up. I made an excuse. And left. I knew at that point I was doing something wrong, my fight or flight instinct overwhelmingly picked flight.
Turns out, Matt’s reasoning for luring and underage boy to sleep with his mum was because she had offered him a whole manner of things such as money, games, new bike etc. Matt was a poor kid, and he wanted all of that, and in his mind all he had to do was get his mate laid. We were still friends after that, but it definitely soured our friendship, I stopped wanting to hang out with him, and eventually we just lost contact. It was a very strange time in my life.”
Even Then He Knew Something Was Up
“When I was around 5 or 6 (male), my dad was an avid cricket player and used to make me come to cricket training with him. ‘Cricket training’ usually involved lots of drinking in the clubhouse until late.
While all the adults stayed in the club rooms and socialized, the kids played outside. There were these two older boys that I used to play with, I think they were about 11 and 13 so quite a lot older than me.
I remember one time, we were ‘playing’ and they took me behind the club rooms and started to be very rough with me. Pushing me over and not letting me get back up. At the time I remember not being able to tell if I should be scared or laugh so it was sort of a mixture of both. They wouldn’t let me leave and go back.
Things escalated to me being forced to kiss one of the boy’s hands. I really didn’t want to but in the end I did what they wanted in the hopes of them letting me go. They laughed and told me that I needed to kiss ‘other parts’ if I wanted to go. I was kneeling on the ground (because I couldn’t get up) and one of the boys started to pull down his pants. In that moment, they were both distracted for a second and I sprinted as fast as I could back to the club rooms. I remember they chased me but when I got back to the adults, they didn’t follow me. I tried to tel my dad what had happened but he was wasted and I wasn’t able to fully articulate what had occurred because I didn’t fully understand it myself.
I think because of the way my dad didn’t think it was a big deal, I wrote it off in my mind as older boys playing rough. It wasn’t until I was about 17 that the memory of this came back and I realized exactly what had happened and what it meant. I understand that younger boys can be curious about other boys, even in a purely innocent way, but I am more inclined to believe that this wasn’t innocent. Especially when I was so young. So I believe it could have been dangerous if I hadn’t gotten away when I did.”
She Kept Looking Back And He Was There
“Back in the late 70s early 80s, my mom’s family took a road trip down to Tennessee and had just gotten to a hotel to stay the night. Being a kid, the first thing my mom wanted to do was go check out the pool. Her mom told her she could and then had to meet them at the room. She also warned her to never get in an elevator with only one person in it.
So my mom checked out the pool and was super excited to go swimming. She headed for the elevator and saw a group of people who were in it so she also got it. One by one people started getting off except for one guy. She started to panic and didn’t want to be left alone with this guy and then realized she couldn’t remember the floor or room her family was staying in. So in her panic she got off at the next stop and sure enough, so did the guy. She started walking down the hall to try and see if she could remember and he was following behind her.
She was pretty freaked out and started sprinting down the hall banging on every single door in hopes someone would open the door. And the guy started running too! She got to the last door and was hysterically crying and banging on the door. The door opened and luckily it was her mom and aunt. She told them about this man and looked down the hall but he was nowhere to be seen.
I’m pretty sure my mom was going to be abducted.”
They Weren’t That Cool, Actually
“My best friend and I used to always hangout with her older cousin. We were 13/14 and she was 20. We would always stay at her house and she would take us to parties with all her older friends. We thought she was so cool for letting us come and drink with all her friends. They would always tell how much older we both seemed and how mature we were. The guys would hit on us and we thought they believed we were just older girls.
It turns out that my friend’s cousin was an addict, all her friends were creepy losers, and we were so oblivious to it because we were young and naïve. It creeps me out so much knowing she put us in those situations and how fast any of those guys could have had their way with two young girls.”
That Could Have Been A Lot Worse
“When I was about 16, I rode along with my (now ex) boyfriend, his cousin, and my best guy friend to buy an ounce of weed. My boyfriend and his cousin lived about an hour away and my guy friend lived beside me, so boyfriend and cousin picked me and my friend up to go my guy friend’s dealer’s house, which is about a 15 minute drive.
So we get in town to the dealer’s house, park in an alley, and wait while my friend goes on in. It’s dark out and he takes longer than expected but eventually returns. Boyfriend is driving, I’m in the passenger seat, his cousin is behind me and my friend is behind the driver. So my friend gets in and hands the ounce to the cousin, who starts checking it out. Meanwhile, a white box truck starts backing down the alley. Boyfriend tries to drive down the alley but we’re blocked in by the box truck in front of us and a huge SUV that pulled up behind us. The cousin throws the ounce of weed under my seat just as the back doors of box truck fly open and a bunch of cops swarm our car while others in the SUV run to the house my friend had just left. We had weapons in our faces, asking what we were doing there. Boyfriend said we were just driving thru the alley and by some beautiful intervention, they believed us and we drove off.
A few days later, I told a friend at school about it and she told me it was her uncle’s house that they raided, he was making speed, and selling it and weed.”
Have You Heard About Baltimore?
“I was obsessed with ‘Harriet the Spy’ when I was a kid, and wanted to be just like her and write in my notebook about strangers. I scooted around my neighborhood doing that, but then also wanted to actually go inside the houses like she does to learn more. I lived in a rough-ish part of Baltimore where things weren’t really that safe for kids to be walking around alone, and stuff happened if you weren’t being aware of your surroundings.
My dumb self (9-year-old skinny little Asian girl with long black hair) thought I could just sneak into someone’s house and write in my journal about them and then sneak back out without anything happening. I tried opening basement doors, prying open windows, got as far as reaching up into someone’s bathroom window to almost crawl in, even parted all their curtains for it, but it was too high and I fell out.
I am sure I would have been shot or at least had the police called on me if anyone saw me and got scared.”
Remember, Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires
“I was 9 or 10 at the time and visiting relatives in Colorado. I had a cousin who was the same as me and equally idiotic. While on a walk, we found a lighter with maybe a tenth of an inch of lighter fluid left in it. My cousin pocketed it and we went home.
An hour later, he and I are hanging out in the living room where there’s a fire going and he asks me if he should throw the lighter in the fire to see what will happen. I said ‘Go for it.’
In our minds, the plastic would melt and the fluid would flare up a bit.
So he tosses it in the fire, the plastic sizzles and melts while our dumb faces loom maybe a foot or so away, watching it. Then there’s this tremendous BANG that shakes the whole cabin and a flash of flame in our faces.
That microscopic bit of lighter fluid had way more punch than we expected and it blew up in our faces, singing our eyebrows and burning out bangs. Because I felt no pain at the time, I didn’t realize just how dangerous it could’ve been. The lighter did no lasting damage to us or the cabin, but years later and I know I could’ve easily been blinded or killed.”
Who Wants A Ride To The Dentist?
“My friend and I were probably 12 at the park playing basketball. A woman pulls up in her car and says she is looking for her dentist and do we know where it is. We’re 12, we have no idea where a dentist office is. But, we say there are some office buildings so and so from here, maybe it’s there? She presses us for more details about where it is. Then she asks if we can get in the car with her to show us where and she’ll drive us back after.
My friend was like ‘sure,’ approaching the car to get in. I was like ‘no, we’re having fun playing basketball.’ We went and continued playing and she hung around and then drove off. I think part of me knew something was off which is why I didn’t get in the car or let him go, but not enough to act on it.
I still wonder if she was telling the truth and if not what would have happened had we gotten into the car. I also realize how stupid it was for us to stay in the park for so long after we told her no.”
They Could Have Been “Seriously Hurt”
“I was about 5 years old and my sister with special needs was a year old. It was summer and we were playing in a kiddie pool while being watched by my aunt.
My aunt went inside to talk to my grandmother and the moment she did, my sister took off up the large hill that was our driveway and headed for the road. I sat there for a second yelling for my aunt to go get her but she never came back out. So with her halfway up the driveway, I took off after her running as fast as I could. She and I ended up in the road (her not understanding it was dangerous and me more concerned about her safety rather than my own).
Never in my life did I run so fast, the adults finally noticed what was happening. A neighbor took a hold of my sister which ticked me off because in my mind I knew he did ‘bad things to little girls,’ my grandmother had an iron grip on me so that kept me from acting on that anger as my sister got passed off to my aunt.
My grandmother starts yelling at me for playing in the road, this ticks me off more and I tell her I wasn’t and I was trying to keep my sister from being ran over.
Needless to say, my mom was mad at her sister and it only occurred to me years later that I could’ve been seriously hurt. But I have to say I’d do it again.”
“It’s A Miracle I Didn’t Drown”
“I learned to swim when I was a little kid in Arkansas. The swim program was a two-week long thing and at the end, to prove you can swim well enough, you swim out to the middle of the pool where there’s a big tower and you jump off and swim to the side.
After a week, I was confident in my abilities and wanted to prove to my mother that I no longer needed to be in the lessons. So she tries to convince me not to do anything crazy, but being the rebellious kid I was, I didn’t listen and swam to the tower anyway. I jumped off and swam back and my mother was impressed and said, ‘Yeah, ok, you don’t need to be in lessons I guess.’
But I was so tired after that, entirely fatigued and looking back now it’s a miracle I didn’t drown.”