Usually when parents are talking about their kids on the Internet they’re sharing adorable Halloween photos, describing a cute interaction at the park, or showing off their latest Pinterest craft. But parenting is not always roses and fun.
Parents on Quora were asked: “What is the most heartbreaking thing your child has told you?” These are some of the saddest answers.
My son has atypical Autism (PDD-NOS.) When he was in Middle school, he began to realize that his brain was not the same as the other childrens. He did not talk about it to me. But he had seen the movie Wreck It Ralph, in which one of the characters was a video game program with bad coding, and her name was The Glitch, because she was different; broken.
During my sons Individualized Education Plan meeting with his teachers, one of his teachers made mention that he had begun referring to himself as The Glitch. It tore me up.
I hate school.
Both of my boys said the same thing years apart within weeks of starting kindergarten. They had a great teacher in a good school with nice classmates. But something about the way those first weeks went made my little guys feel they were not able to do what was expected of them and that the whole thing was one big downer.
One reason it was heartbreaking is that I felt the same way at their age. Turns out I was a late bloomer and did fine, and now my boys are fine students — I just wonder why our education system has to be so foreboding for so many young learners, and in particular boys. I understand why my elderly teacher in 1970 did not know what to do with me, a hyperactive child of a single mother. But today, has the fear of not meeting standards taken all the joy out early childhood education in high achievement districts?
Please don’t talk about babies, unless it’s to say that you’re having one.
My eight year old daughter, Sian, told me with tears in her eyes. She had longed for a baby in the family for years. At Christmas whenever I asked her what she wanted she would answer immediately with: “A baby!
I explained to her that as much as I too would love to have a baby, it wasn’t really possible as I was in the middle of my medical degree, did she want anything else?
No mum, please don’t waste your money on stuff I don’t need – I really just want a baby!
This little girl never asks for anything, she is so easygoing and has never acted spoiled.
Finally I finished my studies and found the right time to have a baby… At 16 weeks pregnant I couldn’t wait to give Sian the good news. I knew she would be delighted and her reaction made everything even more wonderful. A new baby in the family—how blessed we felt!
She talked non-stop about all the things she would teach her sister. She couldn’t wait to hold her hand while she learned to walk, she talked about the books she would teach her to read.
Sadly, a few weeks later we found out the baby had a complex cardiac defect (Hypoplastic left heart syndrome). We were hopeful but tried not to have any expectations. Finally the day came to meet our gorgeous new addition. Sian came to the birth, she even videoed it. She was amazing support and the most loving big sister imaginable.
Hours after the birth I woke up to find Sian wasnt beside me. I wandered down the corridor to discover she was already in NICU, at the bedside of her new little sister, Lamees. She was devoted. She read to her for hours, sang to her, stroked her head and rubbed her tiny feet. She knew nothing was guaranteed so she loved her with all her heart.
Finally, Lamees went in for her first heart surgery. It is a very difficult procedure, with a high mortality rate. Lamees managed well, for 4 days she appeared to be recovering perfectly – then sadly at the age of 23 days her heart grew weaker and stopped beating.
For seven months we have grieved the loss of our little Lamees. Some days more difficult than others, the nights especially hard. We have coped with the loss and stayed strong, getting closer as a family; more loving, more supportive, more open with our feelings.
I would love to see Sian happy again, she has so much love in her heart for a younger sibling, but the timing isn’t great right now. My career needs to come first for a while.
So now whenever I mention a friend with a new baby or show her a cute video on Facebook, I see the same pained look in her eyes and Im reminded how much she is still hurting inside.
I hope it’s not too long before I get to see her excited little face again. I want to be able to talk about babies without making her sad.
Aria Nichols (Tania)
This happened when we had just moved to Mumbai 4 months back.
My daughter is a mischievous, talkative and a very lively person. After we shifted she missed the house she had considered her own, she missed her friends, the big garden, her space. Basically everything.
She was sitting quietly on the sofa one day when I asked her what bothered her.
Everyone is leaving me and going Mumma. Everything is changing. Papa also is not home so much. You will also leave me and go?
It broke my heart to see her like this. School was not going to start for another 2 months and I didn’t know what to do with her.
She wanted to be surrounded by people. But we hardly knew any people here. Neighbours weren’t that friendly. And my daughter craved for company.
I don’t have anybody to play with me Mumma.
Those 2 months were the hardest. And every time she said she didn’t have anyone, it was painful for me to hear.
That shes thinking of altering her dreams because of a boy. Shes thinking of letting a boy hold her down in life. Shes thinking of throwing away her abilities because he doesnt have the same abilities.
She didnt actually say it like that, of course. She just suddenly decided that she doesnt want to go out of state for college and would rather go somewhere close to home.
Well it just so happens that her boyfriend will probably be lucky to end up in a community college and will continue to live with his parents after high school. She knows that their relationship wouldnt survive being long distance.
I thought we raised her to be more independent and to have more foresight than that. She has the grades and ability to go to almost any college she wants. She can be anything she wants.
Hes a nice guy, but hes not college material. Hes probably going to go to community college for a few years, flounder and get bad grades, give up, and spend the rest of his life working retail or manual labor. Theres nothing wrong with that. Im not knocking people who do that. Good for them. God bless them; theyre doing their best.
But I hate that shes thinking of clipping her own wings because he cant fly with her.
Her high school boyfriend, like most high school boyfriends, is temporary and, in the long run, trivial. College and career choices are more permanent and important.
I know too many middle-aged women who wish they hadnt let their high school boyfriend alter the course of their lives…
Ive been married before and I have a son from that union. Hes a sweet, sensitive teenager who has these weird moments of insight at times. I remarried recently and we have a baby on the way. Needless to say, the husbands folks are thrilled theres a grandson on the way.
My son noticed this recently and told me, Hey, shes so excited to have a grandson, but doesnt she realise that when you remarried, she became a grandmother of sorts to me. Why wasnt she thrilled then?
His comment knocked the wind out of my sails. How do you explain to a child who still thinks theres loads of love in the world that there are grown adults who are ashamed of their children marrying divorcees?
Im just grateful for my husband who thankfully doesnt care what they think and has fully embraced his role as step father.
Keiko de Silva
This happened last week. This IS the most heartbreaking thing any of my six children has said. My youngest daughter was talking about her mother (my ex-wife) to her new step-mom (my wife) and me. My daughters mother simply cant handle teens very well and my daughters five week summer visitation is turning into a permanent move. My ex is eager to have her live with us.
My daughter: My mom got rid of our birds without saying ANYTHING. Then she got rid of our dogs while I was at school. She moved us across the country away from my sisters and friends because it was best for HER, not me. Now shes throwing me away.
We put our arms around her and both said at the same time, WE want you! Then we all had a good cry together.
Yes, we talked to her about its not so much that her mother doesnt want her, its that she cant handle being a parent of a teenage girl very well. Its a deficiency of her mothers and not that our daughter is unlovable or particularly difficult or bad. Shes getting it. Time for the healing to begin…
I was suffering in a miserable marriage. My husband couldn’t care less about me or my feelings… truly. I slept on the couch for the last 6 years of the marriage, or in my daughters toddler bed while she slept in bed with my husband. Another example of how dead my marriage was when my mom, who I was close with passed away after a long illness, my husband told me on the evening of her funeral that I had to drive myself there in case he got bored and wanted to leave. Some husband…
Anyhow, I decided that I was going to stay in this marriage because a committment was a committment, and if we could be civil in front of our daughter, it was good enough. I kept on my bright face, thinking I was doing ok. Finally one day my daughter, who was 8, turned to me and said, “Mommy, you always look so sad all the time, and nothing I do can ever cheer you up.
I think I felt my heart shatter. I then realized I wasn’t fooling anyone, and it was time to leave the marriage.
My heart broke because she saw through me trying to endure the marriage, and I knew her childhood was going to change from that day forward.
Josephanie Ackman Franco
I don’t want to be here anymore…
….told to me by my 17 year old daughter, just before diagnosis for bipolar syndrome, 18 months ago.
By here, she meant life.
As the eldest of 3 of my children, in our financially challenged single parent household (she has a 13 year old brother with Asperger’s Syndrome and a 6 year old brother with an amazing imagination), she just could not face going on anymore.
My son had seizures from birth – before MRIs were available here. He finally got an MRI at six years old when the first one arrived in our city. They were able to tell me he had a slow growing temporal lobe tumour. His seizures were getting pretty bad.
One night he went into status epilectus. It was terrifying. We lived in the country. Whilst waiting for the doctor, the nurse put an oxygen mask on him. Guess what – that supply wasnt working. She moved him over to the next oxygen outlet. As she put it on, he began vomiting. Hed eaten heaps for tea, and filled the mask. As she desperately tried to clean it, more and more vomit came. I was beside myself.
At last the doctor appeared, and rectal clonazepam finally stopped the fitting. He did not, however, regain consciousness, but made weird high pitched sounds like he had brain damage. I stayed overnight and he was specialed. A nurse sat all night with him and me. I was given a couch beside him. I could not believe it when he woke at 6.00am loudly singing nursery rhymes.
As a result of this, it was decided brain surgery needed to proceed to try to reduce the risks the seizures were causing. We visited his Neurologist in Perth, who said he would organise the surgeon, and we should expect to get a spot in about two weeks. We drove 4 hours home.
The next day I received an urgent call saying that as the Neurosurgeon was about to leave for holidays, I would have to come back the next day.
I had not yet explained to my son that surgery was even on the cards. In fact, it was hard to explain to him what happened when he had a seizure. He just knew he felt a bit funny, then felt sleepy. He wanted to grow up to be a fire engine driver, an ambulance driver – all the things little boys dream of. I hadnt had the heart to tell him none of those things might be possible.
Now I had to immediately explain to him that he needed brain surgery. I took him into my bedroom to have a quiet talk to him. I said You know how you feel a bit funny sometimes? Well, thats because theres a nasty little thing growing just inside here (pointing at the spot on his head). I said we were taking him back to the city next day so that the doctors could help him. They would just have to make a bit of a cut into his head when he was asleep to get rid of the nasty tumour that was making him sick.
His eyes widened in disbelief. He stared at me and said But Mummy, I love you. I felt SO shocked – like I had just told him I had arranged for him to be tortured. I gulped back my tears and tried to continue explaining what would happen as gently as I could.
He survived, and thankfully they were able to resect enough of the tumour so that he has never had a seizure since. The story still had many twists and turns, but what he said to me that day was one of the most horrible things Ive had to listen to – a sweet little boy thinking I was arranging his torture for no good reason.
My daughter came up to me once with tears in her eyes and said, Daddy, I’m boring. She was 7 years old, soon to turn 8.
I said Why? Why would you think that?
She said, I was talking to my two friends and right in the middle of speaking they looked at each other and just walked away.
It was so heartbreaking, because it wasn’t that she was boring – they were being mean to her. I had to explain to my daughter the truth. She was being picked on.
As a parent, it was also heartbreaking, because it was the start of the end of her being a little kid. It was a marker, I will never forget.
No sweetie, you aren’t boring. Your friends decided to be mean to you. They wanted to be mean to you.
Why would they do that? Why?
As people grow, they learn that they can hurt other people with their words and actions. And these two girls were practicing being mean to you. They were trying on a role. It doesn’t mean they don’t like you, they were experimenting. And one day you are going to do something mean to somebody too. When you do, it will really hurt their feelings. So I hope you remember how this feels.
Then she told me, Thank you daddy. Thank you so much.
Looking back, I was surprised how much better she felt after I explained the social dynamics. But she got it. It was like a light bulb moment for her.
Now she’s almost a teenager so she is indeed practicing being mean to people… like me.
My wife and I had a long day and our 4 1/2 year old daughter was having one of those days requiring constant guidance and reminders, and practicing her NOs.
Pulling our hair out at some point in the evening we sent her to her room for a time out. She came down a few minutes later with a 4x 1 ft long mirror. Stood it up against the coffee table in front of us(blocking our view of the TV) and said, Mom dad, look in this mirror, look and know that you are peace and love. After a brief and shocking moment she then said, Now look at my eyes. We often said that when we wanted her complete attention. As we did she said, Know that you are peace and love but sometimes you do and say things that really hurt me.
We both teared up and all embraced in a family hug. Her actions certainly softened the moment. I guess all the spiritual studies, meditation and examples of healthy communication rubbed off? It was at this point we became clear that Georgia was going to be one of our greatest teachers.
Mommy, I’m a bad person, and I just want to die.
My son was only 6 years old when he told me he wanted to die in between sobs. My beautiful baby boy. It ripped my heart right out of my chest.
He was struggling with Tourettes Syndrome paired with Intermittent Explosive Disorder. He couldn’t understand his outbursts, and couldn’t control his tics. He was so small and helpless, and felt like it was somehow his fault.
There is no greater pain than your sweet little baby telling you he doesn’t want to live like this anymore, and feeling completely helpless to stop it.
He has since been rehabilitated through therapy and medication for his tics and outbursts, and thrives in life and at school. I’m so unbelievably proud of my little guy and the way he has overcome so much for how young he is. He’s perfect, through and through.
If you remarry, Im never coming back to visit after I move out. You can come visit me by yourself, but you cant bring her with you. That woman wont have anything to do with me…
My 15-year-old daughter said this to me as if it were a foregone conclusion. When she was a little girl, she and her brother were removed from their birth family and placed in foster care. Most of the time they were in foster care was spent with one family, but for whatever reason, that family chose not to adopt. 3 times.
When my wife and I got the call, there was no hesitation. We wanted to adopt. We didnt place any limitations on age or quantity, we just knew that this would be the way we grew our family. It was a struggle at first, but things that are worthwhile often are.
Two years later, my wife walked out on us. Being married with two kids no longer fit into her desired lifestyle. She gave up a 14-year marriage, two kids, her education goals and a good job, all in the pursuit of idle vanity. My daughters dreams of a forever family were crushed.
After 5 years of increasingly rare visits and little to no financial or moral support, as my daughter and I were driving around late one afternoon, she sums up her feelings about my hypothetical future wife in 8 little words:
…I never had a mom that stuck around.
Maybe it was selfish, a means of enabling me to stay in her life. But I got back together with her mother for one reason: to prevent her from losing her child.
Shed made a big mistake – the latest in an ongoing series – and the Hells Angels were running her out of town. Shed become catatonic for hours at a time, unable to function. So after Id turned down repeated attempts to get back together, I suddenly uprooted my life and went on the lam with them.
Anyway, if it was no good before, it was worse now. Between threats of suicide, working full time and trying to feed and clean after both of them when I wasnt working, I was having a seriously bad time. The only ray of sunshine in my life was this amazing little toddler, who somehow made the best of a really shitty situation. When the panic and anxiety grew in me to new heights, Id look at her happy little face eking joy out of the smallest things – the creak of the top patio step, the homeless cat, the bubbles in her bath. Her smile grounded me, kept me distracted.
But the better her mother got, the meaner she was, and before long the fights were back to a fevered pitch and the old misery started to weigh heavy again in my throat and chest. Heavy every breath. Once she finally was able to return to work, I had to break free from the misery.
That last fight was a doozy. Her mother screaming at me, over and over, that I was abandoning them. I reminded her I was leaving everything behind, but I couldnt go on like this, so I was willing to leave without a penny to my name to start anew.
As the fight rose and fell and the screaming subsided, I went with keys in hand to take my leave. It was a 90 minute drive to my new home and I needed to be going. As I reached for the door, I heard a heavy jangle enter the room. Behind me, this cherub faced girl entered in her diaper, her own face streaked with crying, clutching in her arms her full piggy bank, which she pressed into my hands.
You can have all my pennies, Daddy.
Jason Wan Lim
Back in June my seven year old was home from school with a tummy ache. He stayed with my mum while I went to work I phoned on the way home and she told me he’s was really ill. I was straight on the phone to the doctor’s and within an hour we were in the children’s hospital with suspected appendicitis. They were worried about a mass they found when they scanned him. Hearing the word mass when talking about your child is terrifying.
They umm and ahhed doing tests left right and centre and then decided at 11:30pm they couldn’t wait any longer. My son is my world, same as my other two, but he’s my youngest and we’re extremely close. He looked at me with big blue eyes and said But what if I don’t wake up? How I never broke down in front of him I don’t know. It’s broke my heart to have him say that and go through all this.
Thankfully his op went well even though his appendix had actually burst, they removed all of the infection. He had to stay in for a week afterwards on antibiotics he had tubes everywhere, couldn’t eat or drink and the whole thing was horrible, but the staff were great and my brave little man amazed me with his resilience and had a smile for everyone. But those words are etched onto my brain forever.
I just want to die. My young teen son, beginning to go through puberty and getting walloped by the depression that runs in my family.
My heart sank: I had hoped it was only prevalent for the female side of my family — in fact, I was overjoyed to find out I had two boys, thinking/hoping (all for naught) I had dodged a bullet.
Suddenly I became aware of the life of struggle and balance ahead for my son. Im so, so sorry.
His older brother is very goal and grade oriented, discussing career possibilities and college choices, hell-bent on earning As and taking AP courses. He doesnt understand why his younger brother doesnt have (or care about) homework.
We have gotten my younger son into therapy and a specialized program to help him get through school, though he will be graduating with a modified diploma. There was just too much time in between him first experiencing his depression and us getting the *right* kind of help to keep his grades from taking a hit.
But as someone who has also lived with depression for most of my life, that was the most heartbreaking thing my child told me. Im so sorry. I know what hes in for. At least Ill be there for/with him.
I work at a public school in Mississippi. I’d like to say I teach, but I dont because of the increasing emphasis placed on standardized test scores and data. Students as young as four (pre-k) are tested several times per year on Chromebooks and are placed in one of four color coded categories: (lowest to highest) red, yellow, blue, or green. We are required to display each childs progress (or lack of) in our classrooms for all to see. The largest part of our yearly evaluation is based solely on these scores.
My happy, kind, compassionate, creative, funny, generous, DYSLEXIC son was in kindergarten last year. Last September after the second round of testing, my baby came to my room inconsolable. He spent the afternoon and most of the night in tears refusing to tell me what was wrong. Before he fell asleep, he said, “Mama? I need to tell you something bad. Please don’t be mad at me, but what if I’m not green? I just can’t do words because I’m not smart, but I promise Ill try to be. God just hasn’t put letters in my brain right.
It took me a while to compose myself & explain to him how very little I value those tests, but he still gets sick every test day. I finally just told his teacher to send him to me on test days, and she let me take out my frustration on her class data chart. We filled my sons boxes in purple with orange polka dots.
Heather Mullins Williams
My son has a brain injury. For a long time he was too young to really understand that his challenges were not typical. One day he started asking questions about some of his challenges, and I answered him carefully – but honestly. He didnt really seem to think much about it, but apparently was processing it slowly. A few days later, he said to me, Mom, there is nothing the doctors can do to fix my brain, right. I am just always going to be different. I am not usually very emotional, but this one really threw me…
My 18 year old son had just started his second semester at a nearby university. We saw each other on Sundays and texted every couple of days. He started not communicating and saying odd things that didnt sound like him. He eventually came home and told me he had not left his dorm room in some weeks except to eat and was so depressed he couldnt go to class anymore. I got in touch with the school who had a very gifted counselor/dean just for students in crisis. During the first session, she asked him very gentle but probing questions to assess his mental state. He relaxed and finally blurted out that everyone including me would be better off if he was dead. That he was a terrible person, friend, son, student, and human being. I was overcome with sadness for him, and for me.
The counselor did help him a lot move away from suicidal thoughts, and stabilize. But he did have to move home and leave school. He is still at home, hes 20 now, and still dealing with the dark demons of self loathing some of the time, but most days, hes a bright, quiet, creative, sensitive soul who is content to spend time on his own creative and inventive pursuits. He does take an anti-depressant medication, but does not do drugs or alcohol.
My husband died suddenly when my son was 5 years old. I sat him down the next day to explain to him that daddy had died. I had to do it in a calm, almost practical tone because I didn’t want him to cry. I felt that he was too young for his heart to be broken that way. He took it all in calmly.
Then he said to me, Mommy, I want a new heart, this one hurts.
I learned that day how much physical effort it takes to stop oneself from crying.
Some of this material has been edited for clarity.