When you’re a kid, there are many things that happen around you that you don’t fully understand. But when you get older, you think back on certain moments in your young life and have a new understanding about it.
Here, people reveal things they did as kids that they didn’t fully understand until years later.
1/29. My mom told me my goldfish ran away.
2/29. One time my dad was putting on his swimsuit, and he stripped down in front of my mom. I remember freaking out and holding up a towel partition so my mother couldn’t see his dad junk. Oh boy…
3/29. Dad used to have a shop in the basement where he would work on things in the evening. He used to smoke while he was down there, and I wasn’t allowed to be in the shop because “smoke is bad for kids”. I used to sneak down covert-style sometimes and he’d catch me and shoo me out. All while laughing and smiling. The smoke smelled different than regular smoke, but I was little and didn’t think much of it.
Years later when I first (knowingly) smell pot, I instantly recognized the smell. Dad used to smoke pot in the basement every night.
4/29. When I was 6 and my brother was 4 we used to walk to our cousins house which was 2 houses down. One evening, we ask our mother if we could go over and she said yes and let us walk over by ourselves. While we’re walking, this car drives up to us and asks if we knew where the nearest McDonald’s was and if we’d like to come with him. I told him we weren’t allowed to eat McDonald’s without our mother’s permission, and turned to get her to ask if we were allowed. She was already running outside to get us when the car sped off. I was around 15 when I was reminiscing with my family and she brought it up.
5/29. When I was about 4 or 5 we got two very important life changing bits of medical news. The first was my baby brother was on the way. The second was that my father was diagnosed with acute lymphoma and had about 2 weeks to live. When I was little I had no grasp of how serious cancer was. My mom told me my dad was sick, but that was about it. I remember my mom kept insisting that I spent time with him, but I would always get angry when he got too tired to play or kicked me out so he could vomit from the chemo. I remember one night in particular where my school had my first back to school night/carnival. They had all sorts of rides and stuff. My dad had just had extensive surgery and had staples across his entire neck. I used to joke that he was like Frankenstein. My dad managed to make it through the big presentation the teacher made to the whole class and their parents, but barely. I thought this was boring, but would be worth sitting through because I would get to go on carnival rides afterwards. But my dad had to leave. He couldn’t even stand up. I could not understand how my strong 6’4″ father could be so selfish. If he could sit through the boring part why not the good part. I to this day feel tremendously guilty over how I treated him and the tantrum I threw when my mom was struggling to hold my dad up and my dad was struggling just to stay conscious.
Fortunately the doctors were wrong. He made it well past the 2 weeks and eventually beat cancer 5 years later. It took years before I understood how seriously sick he really was. He had gotten down to 90lbs, but to me he was still a super-man.
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6/29. Sometimes we would stop at my aunt’s work, so that my dad could go in and talk to her. I wasn’t allowed in, because I was a kid, and it was an ‘adult’ place. The only other things that ever got the descriptor ‘adult’ were ‘adult films’, which were not for kids because of all the sex. So I happily assumed that my aunt worked someplace where all sorts of sex was happening.
Years later, I was driving by and noticed that it was a retirement home.
7/29. I lost one of my teeth when I was 7 years old, and so I was so excited to get money and stuff from the tooth fairy! I put the tooth under the pillow and I was ready to get my prize for losing a tooth. The next morning, I woke up and the tooth was gone but no present! I went and told my dad about how I just got scammed from the tooth fairy and he was like… “OHHHH the tooth fairy had to run fast so she gave me the money to give to you!” He then pulls out his wallet and gives me the two dollars that the tooth fairy gave him. I was so happy but still wondered why the tooth fairy was in such a rush….
8/29. When I was 14 I suddenly realized that those two giraffes at the zoo when I was 7 that I shouted about to everyone else weren’t giving each other piggy backs.
9/29. In kindergarten I had a best friend named Daniel and we played with toy dinosaurs. Traded them all the time. January comes around and I invite him to my birthday party I was having at my house. He never showed up that day, and my mom told me that day he wasn’t going to be able to make it and that he also wouldn’t be able to come to school again. Little kid me was like “Ok, I’ll see him later”. He died in a car crash on the way to my birthday party.
10/29. When I was 12, my divorced mother and I lived in a nice duplex in my hometown. She would go to the city after I fell asleep, and party downtown with my aunt almost every night. I didn’t know this until I was older. One night in particular, I fell asleep on the couch, and halfway woke up to the sound of the front door opening and closing. I saw my mom walk in, with a creepy, hooded, shadowy figure close behind her. I fell back asleep.
The next morning, I asked my mom who was with her when she came home last night. She looked terribly confused. I told her about the figure behind her, and the color drained out of her face and she shook her head and told me to stop playing games. That if I kept telling ghost stories I would invite malevolent spirits into the house. Found out like a year ago that she brought a guy home and made me believe it was a ghost so I wouldn’t tell my grandparents.
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11/29. I’m a red head, but neither of my parents or my brother is a red head. So when we were out in public when I was young, a lot of people would ask where my red hair came from. One day, when I was probably six or so, my parents told me to start answering the question with “from the mailman”, which I did constantly cuz people always seemed to react to it. It wasn’t till I got to high school that it clicked that the mailman in this scenario had not delivered my red hair in an envelope, but that it had come from a much different package.
12/29. When I was 6 we used to play a lot with Pokemon cards at school. One recess I left my deck inside the classroom, when I came back my Charizard was missing from it. 3 days later a friend from class came to me and told me he found my Charizard outside in a bush. Took me 10 years to realize he stole it from me, got cold feet then gave it back.
13/29. I was in LA at the age of 10, and ended up with sunburn as I am English and not used to the heat. My dad took me to the restroom where we shared a stall, and he helped me take my t-shirt off so that he could reapply aftersun. This was pretty painful.
I was screaming inside a locked stall, saying that it hurt, so was surprised when a burly guy forced open the door, looking quite annoyed at my dad, who explained correctly what was happening. I grimaced through the pain and agreed as best as possible.
Only years later that I realized that burly guy was actually a great guy bloke, and making sure I was okay…
14/29. Defending my mom from my dad since he slapped her butt cheek… In the laundry room… When I was like 6 and supposed to be away with my grandparents.
I thought I was the hero… the cockblocking hero.
15/29. When I was a teenager, my father was the biggest jerk who ever walked the face of the earth.
He never bought me video games for my birthday or Christmas. And I had to put almost all of my money I got from gifts and summer jobs into the infamous “College Fund”. We were the last family on the block to get a touchtone telephone, a computer, a printer, a new television and to this day, he STILL has a push mower for the lawn and a television without cable channels and he doesn’t have high speed internet. While other kids got to sleep in until noon on the weekends, I was always forced to get up at the crack of dawn and work on fixing something that was broken or needed maintaining.
There was ALWAYS something that needed working on during the weekend. The roof needed to be cleaned, the house needed painting, the trees needed to be trimmed, the sidewalk needed to be swept, the kitchen and bathroom needed to have plumbing work done and tiles replaced, and the whole house was always dust, dirty, and in need of cleaning.
I felt poor, overworked, and all my friends got their summers and weekends free to do whatever they wanted.
Life was SO UNFAIR.
Now I’m an adult, living on my own away from my parents. I’m still not fond of those childhood memories, but I also didn’t have to take out a loan for college. I never worried about paying for college, field trips, gas, food, payments on our house, insurance, or clothes. Money just wasn’t an issue for the essentials; I just missed out on some luxuries as a kid.
I didn’t get to be lazy during the summer of the weekends, but in the last few weeks, I’ve been able to replace the garbage disposal, paint the back wall, put in new ground cover in the back yard, fix a broken drawer, and a number of other things. I learned all those things from my father and I had enough money to pay for all those repairs without a second thought because he taught me the value of money for years and years.
He seems like less of a jerk to me now than when I was younger.
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16/29. When I would stay at my grandmother’s house, I had a bunch VHS tapes about dinosaurs and stuff that I wanted to watch. Sometimes I’d get to watch them, but only if my grandpa was home. Memaw always said “You’ll have to wait until Pepaw gets back, I can’t work that VCR.” She also had all her soaps recorded on tape, and many times I saw her record them without my grandpa being home. She feigned incompetence so that she didn’t have to watch my dinosaur movies, and I never realized it until I was an adult. It is the wise woman who plays the fool. Memaw you sly fox.
17/29. I was about 5-6 years old in a Caldor store (defunct discount store in New England). My mom and I were on the second floor, and I was a couple of steps behind her. I thought I saw her go down the escalator, so I did too to catch up. I couldn’t find her.
I looked around for a while fruitlessly. I was eventually approached by a lady who looked to be about 40 in a brown leather jacket. She asked if I was lost. She said she was a police officer and that my mom was outside. She led me toward the front entrance, as my mom called for me from the second floor. I went to my mom.
Unless I remembered some details incorrectly, I think I was about to get kidnapped. This fact occurred to me when I was about 20.
18/29. I was in our front yard, playing. This guy pulls up across the street, and yes my name, and says my mom told him to pick me up. I’m like ‘Why would she do that, she’s just inside the house?’
So I ask ‘Do you have the phrase?’ because my mom told me if she sends someone to pick me up from school, she’ll give them a ‘Secret Code Phrase’. (“Catch ya later, alligator,” for those curious.)
He just looked at me, and told me to get in again. I told him I was sorry, but I wasn’t allowed to go unless he knew the code phrase.
Then my mom swoops out of the house, picks me up, and he takes off.
I was super excited because I got to meet a police officer a short while later, and he let me look at his police car.
19/29. When I was about 7 or 8 I was at a train station with my parents and saw a guy on the opposite platform jump in front of an oncoming train. At the time I didn’t really get what was going on and was just really curious to look but now I understand why we left the station in a hurry.
20/29. My father had a drinking problem and severe depression and because I was 5-6 at the time, I didn’t realize what was going on.
My father died when I was 6 and I never knew why, I didn’t understand death and it confused me to see everyone so upset. Mum told me that dad got really sad and died of alcohol poisoning.
I took this as truth until I was 12 years old, and I googled my father to find photos of him only to find news articles about how my father had committed suicide.
It really only hit me then that Dad had died and I broke down because I finally realized that what Mum meant was that dad had drunk a lot and couldn’t handle his depression anymore.
Only now do I realize that Dad drank to escape his depression.
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21/29. My dad was a fairly strict guy, military background, very type A, etc. I was a very outdoorsy tomboy of a girl. As I kid I loved to find caterpillars and build them little homes and find the best flowers for them to eat, and my dad loved this hobby of mine. So much so, he would encourage my caterpillar hunting, which I always though seemed a little weird, but I didn’t question it. There were a few plants out by our barbecue in the back that he specifically asked me to keep an eye on, because, as he told it to me, this was the best place to find them! My kid brain just though my dad and I had found a common ground, and that he wanted to help.
About 5 years later, as my naiveness started to ware off, I realized my dad was a total pot head. My brother, who is ten years older than me, was chatting with me about my new realization one day, and that’s when it was finally spelled out for me- those plants that according to my pops were the best place to find my footed-worm friends, were actually just my dads pot plants, and he enlisted my help to keep them bug free.
22/29. I’d get erections and I’d pull my pants down and pee long straight lines. I thought they were for peeing long distances.
23/29. When I was about 10 my friend told me I needed to go into the hot tub and put my wiener up against the jet because it would feel really good. We had no idea what was going on and ended up concluding that we had invented the feeling, deeming it having a spermatation. Wasn’t till years later that I realized I was just whacking it with the help of a high reynolds number.
24/29. A friend and I would sometimes hang out at the cemetery when we were younger. Not for any morbid reasons or anything, mainly just because it was a quiet place we could both easily reach (and it was remote enough to be a good place to smoke pot). One day when we were out there we saw my dad on the other side of it. He wasn’t doing anything really, and after he left we went over to check the grave near where he was to see if that had anything to do with it. There weren’t any new graves, and the ones that were there were way to old to be anyone he knew, so we just wrote it off.
As I got older I realized what was going on. He was probably getting high there too.
25/29. When I was about 14, a guy who I went to school with had leukemia. He’d disappeared from school for a while while he had chemo, and then came back when he recovered a little. We weren’t particularly close, in fact there’d been a little bit of animosity between us (for no particular reason, just petty kid’s stuff), but last day of term as I was walking towards the school gate, he caught up with me and walked with me. He told me he was sorry there’d been tension between us and that he liked me and hoped we could be friends (story continued on the next page…).
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He died during the summer break and I realized some time later that maybe he had known he wasn’t going to make it, and was trying to make his peace with the world before he went.
26/29. I was about 4 and my cousin (like a sister though) had just gotten married. I was very close to her since she used to babysit me all the time. When the couple visited us for the first time for a weekend, I wanted to sleep with them in their bed. Of course I wasn’t allowed and nobody would tell me why.
Now I understand why…
27/29. Im a male and I always wanted to pee out my butt like my mom did. One day I finally did it, I was later informed that it was diarrhea.
28/29. When I was around 6-7 years old my father used to grow these “special tomato plants” at the back of our garage hidden away from everything, and every time he took me back there I had to be very quiet and not tell the neighbors about them. When I was around 16 something clicked one day and I realized my parents were both growing marijuana.
29/29. We had a science fair in sixth grade, and I was doing some sleep experiment or something. Being the smartass know-it-all I was, I referred to my subjects as “testees” (like trainees, I thought). My teacher politely suggested calling them “test-takers” instead. Years later it dawned upon me, and I have mad respect for him not laughing in my face. I would have!