Parents aren’t perfect. But some are definitely less perfect than others. Here, horrified people share the dumbest thing their parents ever did while raising them.
1. Pick your battles.
I survived cancer as a child; in retrospect, this was hard on my parents. Not the fact that I survived it; the part where they had to watch their kid go through chemotherapy.
One of the drugs I got was called Methotrexate. Methotrexate has some neurological side effects, particularly in children and, in my case, it did some damage to the language centers of my brain.
But my folks were too proud or too happy to put my treatment behind them to think much about that. When I was in high school I took Latin and it was impossible for me. In hindsight I should have seen this coming; I was an exceptional student at everything except spelling where I was a hopeless disaster.
But, unwilling to face the fact that their kid might have a learning difficulty, they insisted that my difficulties in Latin were to do with my “not trying,” “being lazy,” or “not caring.” They berated me, punished me for failure to succeed, and kept on me – day in, day out, even over breaks and vacations, for three years.
I had already developed a sense of pride in my academic work; I was plenty broken up about my inability to handle Latin on my own. This lead me to seriously question if I was who I thought I was, what my fitness was for higher education, and what I was doing with my life… and all that before my parents piled on when I needed them, more than anything, to support me.
Eventually I managed to squeak through Latin with enough of a passing grade that college wasn’t out of the question (though it did a number to my GPA) and put it behind me, but the damage to my relationship with my parents was done.
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The people who should have been my strongest advocates and best allies had cast themselves as my antagonists and particularly unsympathetic ones at that.
At college I sought out the university’s learning center which gave me a full workup and, after a lengthy consult with a neurophycologist, determined the extent and cause of my difficulties. The load off my chest — knowing that my struggle with language wasn’t because of some character flaw of mine or indicative of some greater intellectual failing, but rather an artifact of my cancer treatment, was enormous.
But it also led me to understand that my parents could have done so much more to help me; that the signs had been there for anyone with the will to see, and that in their stubbornness, blindness, or pride they had sacrificed their relationship with me and nearly cost me my chance at higher education rather than admit that I might have learning issues.
I’m a lot older now; married, professionally successful, and with three wonderful kids to boot. I have tried so very hard to forgive them; to let bygones be bygones and realize that they surely didn’t know the consequences of their refusal to consider testing me for learning issues. At the same time I look at all that I have, all that I have built, the wonderful family and amazing grandkids I gave them and wonder how they can have thought any of that would have been worth risking for a higher grade in Latin.
Pick your battles with your kids and decide how far you’ll push them before you jump in. Some fights aren’t worth winning.
2. Apparently it wasn’t for “no reason”.
When I was too young to talk my sister pushed me down the steps and I had broken both of my collar bones (unbeknownst to my parents).
For a few days afterward they were getting such a huge kick out of the fact that whenever they raised my hands above my shoulders I would just start crying for no reason.
3. A lie if I ever heard one.
Told me not to be an engineer because, and I quote ( I AM QUOTING MY MOTHER HERE), “Engineers don’t get jobs”.
Imagine my rage when I am looking for jobs with a math degree.
4. Password, please?
They never gave me a key to the house. Like explicitly made a point to never give me a key and I had to be out of the house if they were gone. So there I am, parents gone, and I can’t stay in my own house.
5. Some things just don’t come naturally.
My parents forced me to take ADD meds for 2 years. They were awful and I lost like 15 pounds when I was supposed to be growing. They just couldn’t accept the fact that I was just bad at math. There was no way that was true!
6. Couldn’t get quite comfortable with the opposite sex.
Whenever I had a female friend come over, or talk over the phone they would make fun of me. Even though it was light-hearted, it made me avoid having close female friends. I have still never been a relationship (I am 22), and I only recently had my first kiss.
7. Everything in moderation.
Insisted that I be afraid of the world and instilled me with the idea that everything could and would hurt me. They are great, loving parents, but their over-caution has been an ongoing issue in my life.
8. If you’re going to do something, do it.
Took my brother and I out of school to “home school” us. I was in 6th grade, my brother in 5th.
Aaaand then never actually schooled us. I’m now 21 with a 6th grade education and it bothers me immensely. People constantly tell me I should
“just go get my GED”. They don’t understand how much I need to catch up on. I’m pretty much hopeless when it comes to math.
Whenever the subject is brought up to my mom she gets really defensive and blames my brother and I for “not showing enough interest in her lessons”.
Oh, you mean those two times you actually tried to have a study session? Ugh. Don’t get me started.
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9. That’s inconvenient to say the least.
Decided to only speak English to me in fear that I would struggle in school.
Now I only know one of the four languages my parents speak and ‘ the one they are the least proficient at.
I can’t even communicate with my own parents. I can understand them fine, but I can’t speak it.
10. Do your research first.
My mom was absolutely bananas over dental health. Apparently all of her teeth rotted out of her head as a child. Rather than blame the fact that she didn’t brush, she focused in on the lack of fluoride in the drinking water at the time, and blamed that. When she had my brother and then me, she realized that we had well water and well water doesn’t have fluoride in it. She went nuts trying to find a doc that would give us a script for fluoride. She finds one and he says to give us one drop once a day.
She determines that’s not enough and forces us to take 7 drops each twice a day. My brother and especially me had a lot of mysterious ailments growing up. As an adult I’m super short, my teeth are funny looking, and my bones are soft. I got arthritis at very young age. My brother has some issues, not as bad. Come to find out it’s chronic fluoride poisoning. She poisoned us with fluoride.
Not the dumbest thing, but the first thing that comes to mind: when I was learning how to ride a bike my dad thought it would be a good idea if he tied a chain to the bike and ran along side me. Not sure what he was hoping to accomplish, because it offered zero support, but he did it anyways.
The idiocy really wasn’t that obvious until I finally got a handle over riding and started to speed down the sidewalk. My dad couldn’t keep up, and as I kept going he fell behind. He never let go of the chain, so I got yanked off and smashed into the ground. It was just a bad idea, but we laugh at it now.
12. You only harm them when you undermine them.
My mother forced me to cheat through the entirety of seventh grade, using copies of all the assignments that she had found (in a previous seventh graders binder). She would berate, cajole, and demean me anytime I objected, seriously undermining my academic self-confidence. I was a good student before that, too.
I grew a backbone before eighth grade, and told her throughout that year that I was still cheating as she’d continually demand. I didn’t tell her until midway through 9th grade that I was doing my own work, at which point a whole new battle began as she wanted to “review” (aka, completely redo) all of my assignments.
I’m not sure why she thought it was a good idea. Thankfully, I was a really good student, so I learned even without the homework, but it definitely made academics harder for me. It also seriously undermined my self-confidence, though that’s only the tip of the iceberg in that way. My parents demanded complete control of my life, and did whatever it took to keep it.
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13. Funny how that works.
I am bilingual. Growing up I spoke both English and Khmer. My family would make fun of how I spoke Khmer and ridicule me. To this day I refuse to speak Khmer to my parents but will speak it to anyone else. Now I make fun of their English.
14. You missed out.
One decided to opt out of the entire experience before I was born. Which was pretty stupid because I turned out to be awesome.
15. Children absorb everything.
My mom and stepdad would (and still do) constantly fight with each other over every little thing. This led to me having a hard time (as a child and teen) being able to open up and talk to them.
I was too terrified that I would get yelled at or possibly spanked. This also caused me to become the biggest “rule follower” ever.
16. They had to learn the hard way.
Sending me to multiple hippy, alternative curriculum schools. All they teach you is that life is a peachy little fairytale. Nothing will challenge you and you will succeed simply because you’re special. This hit me hard my freshman year of college.
17. An entirely different concept of reality.
My parents didn’t think I would be able to handle Bambi’s mother’s death when I was younger so they recorded it to another VHS with that section edited out. The eventual confusion and feeling of deception was far more shocking.
I didn’t know Bambi’s mother died until I was 22 and had a playful drunken argument enforcing the theory that she didn’t. They thought I had lost my goddamn mind.
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18. A plant needs to breathe in order to grow.
They didn’t give me enough room to grow. Their style was strict and protective. When someone is a teenager, I think they grow more experiencing things on their own. This past summer I sent my teenage daughter on one of those outward bound trips. Put her on a plane, and sent her off to sail the Caribbean. This coming summer, I plan to do it again. Out there is where you gain confidence and find yourself. Not on my couch watching Netflix.
19. Social quarantine.
My parents didn’t allow me to hang out with people who weren’t Indian (I live in the US for most of my life, barely any Indian people lived near me).
They thought I would succumb to Westernization and their “bad culture”. I didn’t get out of the house pretty much from when I was in 1st grade till the end of high school.
School was the only time I could socialize with people. The only time I did hang out with people was with Indian family friends who lived an hour away. That would be once a month or every two months (hanging out with parents in the same house is not fun).
Now in college, I can finally hang out with other people, and even start dating (parents did not want me date people, even today). I’m glad that I’m not as socially awkward as I could have been.
20. Because it’s better to shame than teach.
While in high school. Instead of giving me the “birds and the bees” talk when they caught me and my girlfriend in a suggestive position they just shamed and yelled at me for it.
21. He ruined a good thing.
When I was a kid I loved playing music. I took drum, violin, cello, and piano lessons. The piano was my favorite so I took lessons from age 11 to 18. My dad was very religious and was the choir master at church, so naturally he dragged me into this: I became the church organist at around 14.
My regular sheet music was replaced with crappy church hymnals and any time I sat down at the piano, he’d come waving a handful of music that he’d like the choir to learn.
I was browbeaten and guilted into participating and eventually began to avoid playing the piano when he was in the house which led me to just avoid playing the piano altogether.
I feel like all that church music ruined my appreciation for the piano and kind of robbed me of something that I loved doing and maybe could’ve taught to my kids. I’m 30 now and have plans of going back to it, but I just don’t find the time anymore.
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22. A parent’s encouragement can mean the world.
When I was in middle school I decided I wanted to be a meteorologist. I was 11 though. I liked learning about weather but crappy makeup and boys were still the main points of my day. One night I didn’t want to watch a special on weather channel. My dad tells me, “You don’t really want to be a meteorologist you just want to be on tv like the weather guys.”
I stopped wanting to be a meteorologist a short time later because it wasn’t good enough for my parents. The messed up thing was I took a class in college about how weather systems work together on Earth and it was absolutely my favorite class I took. My university didn’t offer any further classes so I didn’t go any further.
After that, in high school, I found out I wasn’t bad at drawing. I took a couple art classes and I was one of the top students in them. I was in robotics club and I made a 3D animation for a contest and I loved that. Now I was raised in a super religious household where I was taught that our talents are God given and we have them for a reason and here I was pretty great at art so I decided to go to college for 3D animation.
Apparently talents in art are excluded from “Gods plan” and my parents were super disappointed in me. My dad stopped wanting to spend time with me while my mom swears to this day she never said this but I woke up one morning and walked out to the living room just in time to hear her tell my brother “stay in schools so you don’t throw away your life like your sister.” Screw you guys. I graduated with a 3.9 GPA when I was only 16. I never partied, dated, drank, or did drugs but suddenly I was a failure for doing what I loved and was good at.
23. Children are not weapons.
Fight constantly and then drag me into it.
My parents had drunken screaming matches a minimum of three times a week, and it would last for hours. Then while arguing about who was a bigger idiot, they would both burst into me and my brothers room, turn on the light, and have us weigh in.
“You were there, your mother said that, right?!!”
“Tell your father what you told me about him the other day!!”
As a kid I just thought this was normal, but looking back I can’t believe how messed up that was. These were not isolated events either, my brother and I were weapons in half their fights and if it meant waking us up at 2:00am, so be it.
24. Allow me to interject…
My father made the mistake of treating me like an adult for most of my life. Sure, the activities and adventures he’d dream up for me were always age-appropriate, but he made a point of approaching me with respect and interacting with me as though I was an independent entity.
With that said, he wasn’t above enacting his own variety of mischief.
By the time I was about three years old, my father had trained me to walk up to groups of conversing adults, stand in silence for a moment, and then politely speak up.
“Excuse me,” I would say, “but I would like the opportunity to interject a comment.”
That was the exact phrase that I would use. Needless to say, it had a rather profound effect on whatever audience I had approached. Everyone would look down at me, dumbfounded, until at last someone would invite me to continue.
Unfortunately, my father’s training only went so far, and I rarely had anything to add to the conversations that I was interrupting. More often than not, I’d simply delight in the attention, wait until it looked like people were getting impatient, then inform everyone that Michelangelo was my favorite Ninja Turtle (at least for that week).
Having seen the difficulty I experienced in actually contributing to conversations, my father took to teaching me obscure bits of entertaining trivia. Before long, I was a veritable wellspring of useless knowledge, which I’d share with anyone willing to listen. Meanwhile, my mother was teaching me to use my imagination… and somehow, those two traits combined themselves in my head. Nowadays, as a direct result of their parenting, I both delight in sharing odd facts and occasionally making them up on the fly.
If only someone had taught me to shut up once in awhile.