We Can’t Believe We Thought That Was Normal! 10 Messed Up Things Our Parents Did

Kids have limited worldviews. We take our parent’s actions and advice at face value, believing it’s normal stuff that everyone does. 

Sometimes we don’t realize how toxic, weird, and messed up our parent’s behaviors were until we grow up and learn to view the world in a different light. 

While scrolling through the popular R/Askreddit community on Reddit, I came across a thread asking users to share the messed up things their parents did that they thought were normal at the time. 

The answers are sad, shocking and illustrate that some people probably shouldn’t have had kids. 

Grandma’s Medicine

A shocking number of users responded with anecdotes about their grandma’s special “medicines” and “drinks.”

That my grandma used to take her “medicine” with her nose,” replied one user, while another shared that “My family had a joke to not drink “Grandma’s water” because it was just straight vodka.”

Far too many of our beloved grandmothers were getting through life with the help of pharmacies, but that’s not surprising considering the restrictions on women’s rights during their time

A Car Cooler

Another large subset of Redditors realized their families drank far more than average. 

One Redditor thought everyone packed a car cooler full of beers. “My parents always packed one; there were cokes and waters in it. The weird part was there was also always beer in it. Didn’t matter if we were going 12 hours or 1 hour; they packed a cooler. Didn’t realize how much my mom was drinking until years later when she became a non-functioning alcoholic,” they shared. 

Others pointed out the generational divide related to car coolers. 

“I’m in my 30s, so I was born into a generation where we were CONSTANTLY lectured about how unsafe and wrong drunk driving is,” they began.  “But there were no such laws and no such stigmas in my previous generations. In my parents’ generation, it was incredibly common for men to pack a cooler of beer in their car and then drink it as they drove home from work,” they added. 

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Emotional Reactivity

One user shared that they thought it was expected to tiptoe around other people’s emotional outbursts. 

“Being really sensitive to people’s emotions because you never know if they could be in a bad mood,” they replied, adding, “I learned that from my dad to make sure I don’t make it worse.”

Another said they learned to walk on eggshells as a child and carried it with them into romantic relationships. “I had that at home with my mother, and then I married someone who made me feel the same way.”

Insulting Kids

Some parents treat their children with cruelty and disdain, insulting them and calling them horrible names. Unfortunately, the kids internalize the message, growing up to believe these things about themselves and believe that treating children in this manner is normal. 

“It’s not normal to call a 5-year-old girl a b—-,” responded one user. Others jumped in to share their stories of verbal abuse stemming from their parents. 

“I got called a b—- a lot when I was growing up. It never seemed abnormal to me,” replied one. 

Another user shared the outrageous and unrepeatable things their mother said to them as a child but added, “Thankfully, I never understood those insults as normal, probably due to having things like tv and such. But not seeing it as normal is probably a double-edged sword when you’re a kid…because it makes you feel even more alone and depressed when it happens.”


Kids may appreciate loads of freedom, but when they grow older, they realize what they thought was “freedom” actually bordered on neglect. 

“In hindsight, I realize that what I thought was “freedom” was actually neglect. Kids aren’t supposed to be left to themselves in such a degree that they end up raising themselves. From personal experience, doing so leads to a lot of misunderstandings on how things are supposed to be,” responded one Redditor. 

“I had abnormally strict parents for the 90s, and I always used to be so jealous of the “cool friends” with the “cool parents” that had so much freedom. I’m in my 30s now, and it took me too long to realize all the friends that had cool parents never really had actual parents to begin with; they lived through terrible conditions,” replied another, adding, “I’m kinda glad I wasn’t cool now.”

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Period Shame

Unfortunately, some parents took the movie Carrie to heart, shaming their daughters for normal body functions. 

“When I got my period. My Mother acted like it was the most embarrassing thing in the world. I was not given pads or tampons. I had to use my little sister’s diapers and pull-ups. I didn’t even know pads existed,” responded one user. 

Dating Older Men

Young girls are particularly susceptible to believing it’s normal to date adult men while still a child. 

One user described how normalized it was in their community. “I knew a chick in 8th grade who dated a 19-year-old,” they said, but rather than be disgusted, “everyone was so jealous of her.”

Another added that it was also common at their high school in the mid-90s. “The girls my age at the time (15-16yo) dating dudes that were long out of school, usually in their 20’s. No one thought it was weird, but rather thought it was so cool that these guys went after someone like them. They were so “mature”… HATED those guys.”

As we age, we realize how predatory those men really are. 

Happy Marriage

One user flipped the script, describing their family’s happy life.

“My parents were happily married, and our home was happy and loving,” they respond, seemingly in response to all the negativity in the thread. 

A happy, loving family is much rarer than we would all hope. 

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Young Children Who Can Cook

One user thought it was customary to fend for yourself in kindergarten. 

“I thought all kids knew how to cook in kindergarten. I got confused when teachers would say, “what is your MOM cooking for dinner” or whatever,” they replied, adding that they learned to cook when they were seven. 

Young kids shouldn’t have to worry about feeding themselves. 

Being Afraid

Not everyone has a happy home life. Some children grow up terrified of their parents and think it’s normal to feel this way. 

“I was terrified of my parents. Once in class, I got a “yellow slip” (aka a warning from the teacher to behave), and I had a complete breakdown in class because I thought she was going to beat me.,” shared one user. 

Another replied, “My family was so good at faking being nice/normal/happy in public I assumed all families were faking.”

It’s outrageous that so many children live in fear, thinking it’s normal. 

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Children Deserve Better

Though some of the responses in the thread were heartwarming, most were appalling. Children shouldn’t live in fear, feel responsible for their siblings, or suffer from neglect. 

If you’re choosing to bring a life into this world, you accept the responsibility of caring for them. Hopefully, one day in the future, a thread like this will be filled with heartwarming anecdotes of family traditions rather than shocking examples of abuse.