Every family has their fair share of secrets; some are dark and dangerous, while others are more light-hearted. No matter the secret, some kids spend their entire childhood not knowing anything is amiss. However, when they become adults, everything can change.
People on Quora share the family secret they did not know as a kid. Content has been edited for clarity.
The Origins Behind The Rule
“My grandmother was a sweet woman. She raised 10 children of her own, and three grandchildren. I loved spending time with her, and when I was 17, I bought myself a plane ticket. I planned to spend the summer with my grandparents and getting to know some cousins.
What I hadn’t realized as a child is that my grandmother really didn’t like anyone in her kitchen. She wasn’t nasty about it. but she was firm. I had always helped my mom in the kitchen so I naturally expected to help grandma. The answer was a firm no. I was a little hurt.
Years later, I was talking to my mother about that visit. When I mentioned the kitchen, she explained that as a boy my Grandfather had a little sister whom he adored. One day she was in the kitchen while his mother was cooking, and the little girl (about 3 or 4) reached up and grabbed a pot handle. She pulled a pot of boiling water down and over her head. She was scalded to death.
I can only surmise that the ‘no kids in the kitchen’ rule was really my grandfather trying to protect from that ever happening to any other child.”
“He Felt Betrayed By His Mom”
“As I grew up through high school, I would always complain about living in Florida; I really wanted to home back to California; there was more to do, the weather was better, there was more opportunity, and fewer old people.
Well, I found out why we really moved.
Small backstory: my parents had been dating on and off for only a few months while working together at the Los Angeles Marriott. My dad (18) got my mom (21) pregnant, and they both pulled out of college and moved in with his mom.
Okay so here’s where things get a little messed up. I love my grandma (my dad’s mom) with my whole heart. My high esteem of her was probably why my parents saw it fit to never tell me. My grandmother apparently let them move in when I was born, with intentions that my father would buy the townhouse they were living in from her. Because of this, for the whole first year of my life, my dad was doing nonstop renovations in the two-story townhouse in Westminster. My dad paid for all of the materials himself and did all the work by himself except for one of his brothers.
At the end of this year, I learned my grandmother had listed, toured, and showed our house all behind our backs when we were out of town. When she sold the house, she got a ton more for it than she ever would’ve gotten for it before my dad did all that work. He felt betrayed by his mom, who didn’t even give any of the money to our family of two babies and two young adults. My father promptly got a transfer from his job to go to Florida and he left a month before we did. That last month was good with my grandma, and I’m proud looking back that my parents have always still kept her a part of my life. Just wish we didn’t ever move to Florida.”
No One Wants Anything To Do With Him
“My dad’s father had been involved with a bank robbery in the 1950s. The employees couldn’t open the small town safe they had, so my dad’s father and another man loaded the safe into their old 1950s car. They drove back home, then parked in front of my grandmother’s house. Then they went inside to eat dinner with the safe half sticking half out of the trunk.
Twenty minutes later, someone sees it and calls the cops. The cops find out a bank had been robbed two counties over, and the safe had been taken. The men wore mask but they had on short sleeve shirts and they knew it my grandfather and his friend.
They kicked the door in and arrested both of them, scaring the heck out of my grandmother. They tell my grandfather he’s going to prison for a long time and give him a chance to say goodbye to his son. When he goes to kiss my dad goodbye, he hits my dad in the head hard with his handcuffs while dad is just under a year old. He screamed no man will raise his child but him and gets hit in the head with a billy club and tackled to the ground. From the story my dad got from his mom, they dragged me out of the house, then scared my grandmother even more by saying if she doesn’t leave him right then and file for divorce the next daym they are taking the kid and claiming she was an accessory.
My dad died at age 61 and never spoke a single word to his biological father in his life. Every time his biological father would try to write him a letter my dad would throw it in the trash. My mom used to answer the phone and when she found out it was him she would hang up immediately. My brother, sister, and I all refuse to have anything to do with him.”
“Things Started To Go Downhill”
“When I was a toddler, shortly after my younger brother was born, my parents divorced. As a kid, of course, I asked so many questions that all boiled down to – why? I got different answers; they just weren’t clicking, they were fighting a lot, or my mom had unresolved trauma. Those were all true, but they weren’t the real answer.
Flash forward to earlier this year. I hadn’t asked in years, because as a teenager in today’s world I had enough stress as it was. I was talking to my dad (he has primary custody) and we got into some pretty deep stuff. He mentioned that he and my mom did pot in college. Which, whatever, a lot of teens and young adults do, I don’t care. My dad said when he found out my mom was pregnant, he stopped immediately, never started again. It’s not healthy. He pressured her to stop but she didn’t.
That was when things started to go downhill for them.
She eventually stopped when I was a year or two, but by then my parents were fighting pretty regularly. I don’t remember this part, but from how they treated each other for as long as I can remember, it makes sense.
And then, a couple of months ago, I found out the reason they divorced. My mother cheated on my father. With a guy from her work. Now, my father isn’t a saint – he has anger issues and is somewhat emotionally abusive – but he has never and would never do something like that.
My brother was born two years and three months after I was. We’re 98% sure he’s my full brother, but my dad didn’t take a paternity test, so we don’t know.
Growing up, nobody treated my brother and me differently from each other. But they weren’t very nice to my mom, and I could never see why they treated her so coldly.”
Her Secret Remained Hidden For Years
“My great-granny was a unique woman all her life. She was born into a family that was part of the Appalachian community, one of fourteen children.
Red hair and blue eyes, she was beautiful in her youth. She came down out of the mountains to marry my great-grandfather; a poor share-cropper.
She carried with her a few possessions and the traditional knowledge of her people. She later passed that knowledge and her old family Bible to me—priceless treasures. But she also carried with her a secret. It was one she would keep concealed all her life. She kept it from her new husband and all her future descendants.
Years passed. She birthed five children at home and watched them all marry and give her grandchildren, and eventually great-grandchildren. Great-grandpa would die when I was just in second grade but great-granny lived until I was sixteen. I was privileged to be able to help care for her, and I rotated with my grandmother and great aunt in caring for my great-granny at night while she was sick, leading up to her death.
My grandfather pulled me out of school one day, telling me great-granny’s time had come and she wanted me there when she crossed over. My great-aunt, my grandma, and I tended to her all day. Other family members drifted in and out saying their goodbyes, but we three, the ones who’d tended to her medical care and watched over her in the nights, were the ones to remain by her side until the end. Later that evening, with the three of us holding her, she breathed her last and crossed over safely.
I cried for her something fierce. She was a special woman in many ways. In a literal sense, she was a bridge between the past and present; the old ways and the modern. But she was also my friend.
The following days were filled with her funeral preparations and gathering old papers. One afternoon, my grandmother opened her mother’s old trunk, the one she’d brought down the mountain with her when she came to marry great-grandpa.
In the bottom was a letter, written in dainty cursive, dated just before her marriage. The letter said something along the lines of, ‘My name is Maudie, and soon I’m going to marry. I have a secret that he must never know. I’m not really as old as I told him. He is much older, and he would never marry me if he knew the truth. But I am going to a place where no one knows me. I hope to make a new start and keep my secret hidden.’
My grandmother was stunned. If this letter was true, then my great-granny was SEVEN YEARS younger than we knew her to be. Did great-grandpa ever find out? If he did, he never confronted her. But this would mean she was actually 14 instead of 22 when she married! And only 16 when she became a mother!
She kept her secret all her life. By the time the letter was found her gravestone had been made, so in a way, she managed to take her secret to the grave.”
“This Attitude Explains Everything”
“In 2013, I was dating a Russian woman whom I would end up marrying. My parents were worried about us having kids, and I told them that this woman cannot have children. She’s had several issues before, and thus we have come to terms with it.
I told my parents that she could not have kids in a preventative strike to not have to listen to their lecture.
Then my dad said the words I have never forgotten, ‘Well, kids aren’t really all they’re cracked up to be. Kids can really keep you from doing what you want to do in life.’
I remember not being able to speak.
As I’ve considered this over the years, everything about how I was raised and how our family interacted gradually made sense. My mom must have always known how much my dad didn’t want to be held back by kids so early on, and my dad’s impatience and personality all make sense now.
What’s more, is that neither my sister nor I ever knew that he felt this way until I was 40, and she was 45. This attitude explains everything, but the fact that we didn’t know it is a testament to how great of a father and a man that my dad is. He is utterly heroic to me. Neither my sister nor I were ever ridiculed, belittled, abused, neglected, or ignored. My dad did all of the things that a good dad is supposed to do, and far more than most, all the while never voicing his frustration with the situation.”
Her Secret Was Exposed
“My dad paid almost half a million dollars of gambling and shopping debt of my moms. I found out after she died.
When she had money problems, she seemed to panic more than most people should. I thought maybe she just had anxiety but looking back it was because my dad couldn’t know she took out even more credit cards. We went out to eat at least five times a week. She almost never cooked at home. She went to the casino all the time to the point where they started comping mine and my sister’s daycare services (Which cost upwards of $8 per hour per kid).
My dad told me that when they got divorced, he knew he was gonna be on the hook for the debt since she acquired it all when they were married in a community property state. He paid the debt off entirely and made sure to note when they separated so courts couldn’t take him to the cleaners. Again.
He was furious when he found out she had a reverse mortgage on the house he let her keep (Yes I say let. He paid for that too and still gave it to her so the kids could live with her. Even after dropping half a million on her debt). By the time we sold the house, my sister and I got a fraction of what it was worth. He thought we’d get enough to be able to each get our own homes. Which we would have had my mom not have taken out a massive loan for her gambling and she maintained the home. My dad wanted that house to serve as an investment for my sister and me. She turned it into her own bank account to serve herself.
Their divorce is way more clear to me now. I wouldn’t want that in my life either. And I’m glad she’s gone. I saw the light when I became an adult. I knew she was a horrible person but this shed a new light on it though.”
“The Whole Town Was Convinced He Was Evil”
“My mother died when I was four, and I lived with a great aunt for two years. That is, until my biological father tracked me down and snatched me away to bring me from the USA to the UK. No, that’s not an exaggeration. He figured out what school I attended, intercepted me as I got off the school bus, and by the time anyone realized I was gone we were on our way to Europe. Literally approached, grabbed, and placed in a car where I was assured I was safe and supposed to be there. I cried and begged to go home, but the adults told me that I was where I was supposed to be. There was a passport for me although I have never had an American passport. We boarded a plane while I was too stunned and confused to complain or protest.
Just like that, I was whisked away from the land of my birth and earliest years.
I was always told my mother died in a car wreck, and I never questioned anything. As a teenager though I did recall the above incident and asked my father why he went through all of that trouble when he had been granted my custody in court. He said that not only would the police not help him, but the whole little town in Ohio was also convinced he was evil and caused my mother’s death. How did he make her crash her car?
That’s when I found out my mother didn’t die in a car crash. She committed suicide as a result of mental illness. Her family was convinced my father was the cause of her death because she had complained about his expressed interest in me before she took the overdose of prescription pills and drank enough to render her unconscious. She was 28 years old. Mind you, it was the U.S. Air Force and not my father who accused her of mental illness. This was the reason she had to leave her posting in England (where she met my father) and return to the USA, where I was born. She communicated with my father, though, after my birth, sent him pictures, and he even applied to be added to my birth certificate as the father, so so much for her fearing or hating him.
During this conversation, I also learned that I had an older half-sister from my mother. She had been raised from a very young age by her father’s family after he took her to Mexico beyond our shared mother’s reach. This is what my mother told my father when she was pregnant with me and supposedly happy about having another daughter.”
A Family Scandal
“My grandfather’s first wife died of tuberculosis. According to the family story, his relatives were offended when he remarried soon after (to the maid of honor, no less, who lived across the street). According to the story, he was a single father of a three-year-old girl and feared that she would be taken away to an orphanage (this was in 1903).
When I started doing genealogy a few years ago, one of my first discoveries was his obituary. In the obituary, a sister was listed as a survivor. I was shocked. My father had never once spoken of any aunts. Looking further, I discovered that my grandfather had five siblings who all lived in the same city all their lives. I had always thought that he was an only child. Still, more sleuthing revealed that my father had been a pallbearer at the funeral of his last surviving aunt and that she passed away when I was old enough to have remembered her if we had ever met.
I could understand some ill will over my grandfather’s quick remarriage, but a lifetime of isolation seemed to be carrying a grudge for too long. The relatives all lived within a mile of each other and attended the same church.
When looking for my grandfather’s marriage certificate, the real reason became clear. He and my grandmother were never legally married. Apparently, the maid of honor (who was then about 33 years old) simply moved in with my grandfather (who was 39). She and my grandfather became a common-law wedded couple. In ~1905, in a fully developed city in Massachusetts with a strong Roman Catholic culture, such things just were not done. It was surely a very great scandal in the family such that my grandfather’s relatives had nothing further to do with him.”
“Then It All Made Sense”
“It was during a winter vacation my family and I drove eight hours to visit an aunt who lived in a beautiful village on the coast. We were going to stay over and planned to look around and do touristy things the next day. My dad was tired from all the driving and was finally enjoying some rest after he had freshened up.
I had slept for the most part of the journey and was bubbling with energy. There was still time until dinner would be served, and my cousin asked if I wanted to visit the beach nearby. I immediately agreed. I went running to my parents and told them of our impromptu plans. My dad, who was visibly tired told me not to go, and that he would take me the next day. When I insisted that I wanted to go, he relented and said he would also come along.
I rolled my eyes thinking what the big deal was, and why was he being so touchy about it. Did he not trust me to take care of myself? I could see he was tired, he would fall asleep the moment he hit the bed, yet he wanted to behave as a responsible and possessive parent, and why?
It wasn’t until many years later that I would find out why. I came across a family photograph that had a girl I hadn’t ever seen before.
I asked my mom about it and learned that she was my first cousin, who had passed away before I was born. This cousin was visiting our grandparents for the holidays and my dad was in charge of looking after her. When he was occupied with some work, she had wandered away. Unfortunately, she fell in the water and the beach and drowned.
When I linked the two events and all the other times that my dad tried so hard to keep me away from water, I realized that it was all because of his guilt from that day. And that he is constantly haunted by fear, that his lapse of attention or judgment might take away another loved one. Even scarier when he feels that it could be his own kid.
Guilt consumes, I know. I stared straight into its eyes when my tired father gave in to my demand that day. Only thing was, I didn’t realize it until much later. And then it all made sense.”
Learning What Mom Did That Night
“In 1978, my mother shot my father to death in the night. My brother, sister, and I were told it was accidental, as she had gone outside to shoot a varmint (Skunks, raccoons, and possums are a 24/7 problem for farmers and ranchers and must be dealt with promptly). Apparently, the weapon had gone off as it was being stowed.
Fast forward 42 years.
Last year, our unknown-to-us half brother found us. Mother had had to give him up for adoption, as that was what was done in 1956 if you were unwed and a teenager.
About seven months ago I had to tell my boss’s wife that he was having an affair. This triggered an unusually strong emotional reaction in me – specifically huge anger towards my boss. I told my little brother about this weird reaction I was having.
He said, ‘Oh, sis, you don’t remember do you?’ and proceeded to tell me about when our father had an affair.
Apparently, my mother told him she was going to take us kids and leave. He said she could leave without us and he would take us away from her by court order. A short time later he was dead by her hand, accidental shooting at 3 am.
Mom passed away in 2002, secrets somewhat intact.”
“At First, He Believed It Was A Coincidence”
“We have a family ring that is allegedly cursed. It’s a silver ring with a dark blue diamond placed in the middle. It has been passed down the family for centuries. My father ended up getting the ring, and he kept it in this huge box and sealed it away in the bank.
Every time I went to the bank with him, he wouldn’t allow me to even take a mere glance at it. So, I had no idea what was inside.
When I turned 15, my father decided to tell me about the heirloom. He waited until I was 15 because that was the age he too was informed as to why the ring was cursed.
He then told me whoever put the ring on his/ her finger, a family member or someone close to them dies. He then told me his own experience with the ring. When he was in his early 20’s, he decided to wear the ring since he didn’t believe the whole ‘cursed’ myth.
The day he put the ring on is the same day his mother slipped and died from the stairs.
At first, he believed it was a coincidence. So, he then put it on his finger again. When he did, his brother died in an unexpected car accident the same day.
So, this heirloom is our family has been passed down to our family for centuries. It’s undoubtedly dangerous, which is why my father decided to bury it somewhere years ago.”