Long time readers have heard me talk about my family before, and will know that I grew up in the church. Now when I say "in the church" I don't mean going to church a lot. I mean ... like ... making church. Behind the scenes production team kind of stuff. My parents were both ministers, and I spent six days a week in church as a default setting. Meaning if I wasn't at school or out specifically doing something else, I was in church.
I didn't like it. At all. But it never struck me as potentially toxic or damaging to me. That didn't happen until I was an adult.
Now I'm not saying religious upbringings are all bad, or that minister's kids can't be healthy happy people - but holy sh*tsnacks did my life lack balance! I had no friends outside of the kids of other church officials (there weren't very many.) I was often unsupervised for hours at a time in a room in a church where tons of other adults had total access to me. It didn't end well all the time. On a good night I would fall asleep in a pew somewhere and one of my parents would wake me up to take me home when they were done. On a bad night... you can research statistics and make some informed guesses.
Lack of sleep is incredibly damaging to children. I was subject to insane expectations and pressure because everything I did/didn't do was seen as a direct reflection of my parents and the church. Mistakes were not allowed. I had no time to gain any social skills or real-world knowledge, but I was intellectually quite advanced so I started high school at 12 years old and was the perfect victim for older, bigger, less naive classmates. My parents were hyper-focused on church and totally blind to how it hurt me. I stopped going as soon as adulthood allowed and almost never go back.
Again, I'm not saying church was toxic, I'm saying my parent's hyper-focus on it with no regard to their child was toxic. It wasn't purposeful or malicious. My parents adore me! It was honestly just batsh*t insane.
Reddit user u/RehmanAbraham asked:
And yeah, this came to mind immediately, so I read through to see what other people's experiences have been. Turns out, I'm totally not the only one who looked back as a grown-up and went "... wtf?"
Here are some of the more popular responses.
When my mother "left" my dad, she pitched a tent in my walk-in closet. I was 7 or 8 and she lived in my closet for months before she got her own place. I still remember her reading her Joyce Meyer books by lamplight.
Howling With DukeGiphy
We lived on a farm in the middle of nowhere (at least 35 mins to the nearest grocery store.) I am not sure how it started, because I was a kid; but any time our puppy dog howled, we would all howl. Loudly. To the point that it was a deafening sound and would kind of make your ears rattle.
His name was Duke. I would occasionally howl first because then he would follow and then so would my mother, father, and two older brothers. I thought it was awesome and it felt invigorating to do. I now realize this is odd.
The 1997 Computer Incident
On the day my dad decided to buy our family's first PC, he loaded me and my younger sisters into the back of our little two door Honda and drove the 20 minutes to the store.
After purchasing the computer, my dad realize there wasn't enough room in our tiny car for three children, car seats, and the giant 1997 computer. So he LEFT US at the store, apparently thinking that if he bought us all candy bars, that'd be enough to keep a 5, 3, and 2 year old occupied and out of trouble. He took the new computer home and then turned around to come back and get us, having left us alone for easily 40 minutes
My mom was always very invested in our romantic lives, partly because that was an area where we didn't stack up well as compared to our cousins. The most insane manifestation of this was when I agreed to go out on a date with a guy, only to find out before the date that he was a predator.
Mom flipped out trying to convince me not to cancel the date. "You don't know if you don't give him a chance!"
Thankfully, my dad was on my side and I cancelled the date. But Mom sulked the entire rest of the night and demanded I log her in to my Facebook account so she could scroll through my friends list so that she could see which of my male friends were straight and single so that she could push me towards them instead.
Locked In Our Room For Hours
My brother and I would be locked in our room for hours at a time and told to be absolutely silent. Went on for a few years.
One morning I woke up super early, earlier than normal, and was hungry. So I went to ask my mom for oatmeal. I open the bedroom door, and my mom is rubbing the back of a shirtless, sleeping man who is NOT my dad. Mom panics, jumps out of bed and gently pushes me out of the room. I kinda stand in the kitchen confused, when my dad comes in from another part of the house and asks wtf I'm doing, and sends me back to my room.
They finally divorced a couple years ago, and my mom confided that my dad made her sell herself to pay the bills for a while when we were kids.
A lot of memories made sense after that.
Murder Weapon For The PB&Js
My parents visited underground Atlanta back in the early 90's. Not the safest place. Anyways, my brother was a baby and crawled under a bench they were sitting on. He pulled out an umbrella bag with a very sinister knife inside.
My parents don't report the knife or anything, but instead KEEP it and it becomes a staple knife in our kitchen. So yea, pretty sure my parents used a murder weapon to cut the crust off our pb&js.
Third World CountriesGiphy
When I was in 6th grade (I think) my mom decided we needed to understand what it was like for people in third world countries. We ate oatmeal for breakfast, beans and rice for lunch, could have one fruit for a snack, and beans and rice plus some romaine lettuce for dinner. All of this for a month, and we were only allowed 3 cheat meals.
In high school looking back I just thought she was batsh*t nuts. But once I started having bills and such of my own it occurred to me, my parents were just that broke. They just didn't want us to think of it that way, so they tried to make it into some lesson. Damn do I love those two people.
I was seven and my brother was five (during the early 80's). We were told to wait in the school parking lot for the babysitter to pick us up. Thing is, we never met her before and had no idea what she looked like. So we waited until a woman pulled up with a picture of us in her hand. She showed us the picture and asked if it was us. We said it was and she told us she's our babysitter. We got in the car without thinking twice. Seemed like a good idea at the time.
The Scenic Drive
My dad had a bad drinking problem. As a young kid with a drunk for a dad I never really thought about him purposely killing us. He was an angry drunk but mostly verbal abuse. It wasn't unusual for him to go out for a ride after a drunk fight.
He had just gotten into a fight with my step mother and needed a drive to burn off all the alcohol in his system. He drove us twenty minutes into the woods on a sandy trail in a minivan. He didn't say much during the ride. We got stuck (obviously because we were in a 2wd caravan) but luckily some 4wd truck dude came through and winched us out.
When that guy showed up dad wasn't quiet anymore and we left the woods when we were unstuck and went home. I'm not sure what his intentions were that day but this was the only time he took some of his kids with him. I'm guessing that's what had my stepmother so upset. The look on my stepmothers face when we returned made me rethink whether it was a fun ride in the woods or a "f*ck this life" moment worthy of the nightly news that I had just narrowly averted.
Throughout my childhood I would end up being my dad's therapist. He'd often tell me he sometimes wished he would go to sleep and never wake up. A bit heavy for a 12 year old to hear from their parent I guess.
After I became a teen and could drive, he'd call me in the middle of the night while I was at my mom's house and ask me to rush over because he was sick and needed help. I spent a lot of nights feeding him jello and sitting awake in his room so he could sleep because his medication would make him hallucinate and think demons were going to kill him in his sleep.
It wasn't until I was older I realized I missed a lot of my childhood because I had to parent him instead of the other way around.
Eventually he found a wife who takes care of him and cut me out of his life. Apparently he tells her stories about how I never spent time with him and never cared because she sends me rants about how awful I am.
My dad fell victim to many money scams in the early 2000s. He would always say he's sitting on a gold mine and I thought we were gonna be rich. Yeah I don't think he's learned his lesson, I still catch him replying to bullsh*t emails.
She Couldn't Just Leave
My dad began doing drugs and drinking crazy amounts of alcohol when I was young. I didn't really notice or think it was strange until I was around 12. All kinds of weird stuff ensued: he peed on my moms dog, broke my kids table, threw a hair dryer at my mom, and more I don't know. My mom and I moved out when I was 15 and I was so excited, but then he decided to go to rehab and I didn't understand why my mom couldn't just leave.
But rehab changed his life, he's like a different person and honestly it's so weird being around him being all nice and stuff now. Still an ass sometimes, but harmless. I'm 20 now, and I think I've moved on from my hate and I love him but idk. Emotions are weird.
Alex Jones And 4th Grade
When I was still in elementary school I lived with my dad/step-mother. Long story short, thet were extremely racist and homophobic. Racist towards Middle Easterners specifically. This only started when I was 8 and he began to watch Alex Jones almost every day (back in 2013 when Alex Jones had less eyes on him).
The way he explained it made sense to me, an 8 year old with a very manipulable mind. That kind of sucked later on because I had a best friend in 4th grade named Ali, who I found out was Muslim. I, under the manipulated spell of my father, did not know what to do.
I didn't want to ask my dad if having a Muslim friend was okay, because I know how he thinks. He'd pull my ass right out of the school if he knew. And I didn't want to stop being friends with Ali.
To make the rest of a very long story short. I moved to my moms and don't speak to my father often. I haven't spoken to Ali in a while - not because I'm a racist, but moving to my moms meant moving 300 miles away.
Now I do my best to be nice to every one, no matter their beliefs, skin, or sexuality. If any Muslim users read this, I am truly sorry people like my dad exist. And I'm sorry that their prejudices rub off on their children. Maybe someday we can all live together regardless of skin color. Best of luck to those of u who stuck through that long-ass story.
Armed And Unmedicated
My family doesn't believe in mental illnesses despite everyone having one; so little-to-none of us are properly medicated. All of the teen boys are armed to the teeth and have been in trouble with the law...
I'm almost 24 and have been trying to find a way to convince my parents to let me get therapy. (Literally once a week, free. But, I'd have to pay gas money but I can't because I cannot find work so I have no money...)
"There Won't Be A Fire"Giphy
My mom would take batteries out of the smoke detectors and put them in the TV remote. When I first noticed her doing that I asked, "What if there's a fire?"
She rolled her eyes and said, "There won't be a fire." So we didn't have smoke detectors for decades.
In 2013 there was a fire and the only reason we didn't die was because my husband noticed it. Everyone was asleep.
My aunt and uncle had a small doll that the whole family treated as their daughter. Her name was Ramona and we took her everywhere with us. We talked to Ramona as if she was a real person. She had clothes, toys, a bed and she even had her own seat at the table. I knew Ramona since forever and it never crossed my mind that other people didn't do that. I was 25 when i realized that Ramona was a replacement for the child they could never had.
My uncle died 10 years ago and it sort of felt that Ramona died too and my aunt decided to bury her with him so they could be together
So growing up, I was a fat kid. My parents would lock me in my room for hours with no food and a cup of water to "sweat the calories out of me."
Where I live, temperatures go from 90-105 degrees. I had no idea what was going on; they just called it "sweat time" and acted like it was a normal thing. So i just rolled with it and played on my ps2.
MAGGOT HOT DISH
My family lived on a farm that had lots of farm animals and any animals that died would be tossed into a dumpster and were picked up later for disposal. Of course the rotting animals would attract flies in the meantime. To keep us busy my mom would send my sister and I, with little zip lock baggies, out to collect maggots out of the dumpster FULL OF ROTTING ANIMALS. My mom would then pretend she was making the maggots into rice dishes.
My sister and I would ACTUALLY EAT THIS thinking it was the maggots we collected and were totally fine with it. Didn't find out this was weird until late elementary school.
My parents had a strict no talking at the dinner table rule, like not even to ask to pass the salt, not a single word was allowed to be said while we are eating. I grew up with it and just accepted it, I really struggle to do "social dinners" to this day my brain just goes "food time not talk time"
My dad didn't like vacuuming so growing up, he'd make me and my brother pick up pieces of lint and fuzz off of the carpet by hand for long periods of time. I prefer tile flooring now to say the least.
So what do you look back on and cringe?