January 28, 2023 | Maria Cruz

People Share What Made Them Realize Their Family Wasn’t Normal

Even if we don’t want to admit it, our family definitely has a weird quirk (or five) that other people don’t share. While some aren’t as toxic as others, every family comes with some kind of baggage. It didn’t take long for these people to realize that their families weren’t exactly normal.


#1 Strange Expression

When I was six, I was invited to a sleepover and we ruined my friend's mom's make-up and clothes after playing dress-up without her permission. Her mom said, "Claire, this is the last straw. I've had enough." I started packing up my things because I assumed her mom was going to call CPS and Claire was going to a new foster home.

I sat on the porch waiting for the cop car and Claire's mom came out. We had a very confusing conversation and eventually Claire's mom realized that when my mother got very tipsy and sad and I pushed her, she would call CPS to bring me back to foster care. Claire's mom had a very strange facial expression. She explained that she hadn't really meant anything with that sentence, then she took us all out for ice cream.


#2 Graveyard Run

I'd say after I left high school is when I fully realized how messed up it was. When you grow up in those scenarios it becomes completely normal to you. While I was in school, my friends were the outcast kids and they also had weird family lives, so it seemed normal to us. I grew up in a three-bedroom one-bath house with 13 people, five dogs and three cats.

After I moved away from my hometown and made other friends is when I realized how abnormal everything really was. One day we were talking about childhood stories and I mentioned going on graveyard runs and everybody looked at me like I was nuts. I explained that my dad used to wake my sister and myself up in the middle of the night and tell us we're going on a graveyard run and to get into the car.

He would drive to a cemetery, pull all the way to the back and say, "All right you have to make your way to the front gate to come back home.” We would get out of the car then he would turn off all the car lights and drive away while we chased after it. I feel like that was much more of a light-hearted weird thing we did. As an adult, I only have fond memories of that experience. My friends told me that was really messed up, though.


#3 Out of the Blue

I don’t think I heard my dad say he loved me until I was 24. It's weird to see other people’s parents, especially fathers, be affectionate and loving with their kids. I don’t know. I can’t remember if I've heard him say it in person, but I've gotten it via text messages. Out of the blue, for a while, he started sending really kind good morning texts. I think because he had time to burn on his way to work at a new job. That was a few years ago and we really don’t speak anymore, so I don’t know if he says it to other family members more or less still.


#4 Jarring Jealousy

Looking back on it, I’d have to say that seeing other family dinners is what did it for me. I remember one time when I went to a friend’s house. At dinner, we went around the table talking about our days, thinking up answers to silly questions, the works. The jealousy was so jarring I could hardly enjoy the moment.


#5 Pray it Away

I grew up wealthy and was born in '87. I had a nice house, nice things, normal parents with a large social circle, etc. But, I've had epilepsy since birth and always assumed my parents put 100% effort into my well being because they were very loving with access to lots of money. However, my epilepsy was really bad.

In 2015, I started getting serious medical treatment for my seizures and every doctor was like, "Dude, this is really bad. You need to have brain surgery now.” I ended up having three and all went great, but a few years later I sat down with my parents and asked why they never did anything. Their answer was, "We did a lot! We prayed every day that Jesus would heal you and he finally did!" No mom, Jesus was not a young, sexy and hard-working lady that was willing to give up everything to see me get better. That was my wife. She made it happen.


#6 British Standards

I only realized this as an adult. But, holding in your emotions and releasing them every few months is definitely not normal. My family isn’t the most emotional of people, even by British standards. We never say "I love you" to each other. I will say for the record, though, that my parents have told me now and then they are proud of what me and my sister have accomplished in our lives. They're not cold-hearted people at all. I just think they express things in a different way to the majority of people.


#7 Blink of an Eye

I grew up in a little town in Texas. While I could end it there, that's not all. My brother is autistic, nonverbal and incontinent. I've been extremely poor all my life and grew up in small houses with barely enough food to feed everyone. When I was old enough to start school, I went. It was pretty normal and I made friends. I had a good time at school, loved my teachers, and seemed like a normal kid with a normal family.

My mother came with my brother one day in a stroller to come pick me up so we could get food from the Bank. She picked me up from my classroom so all of my friends and classmates saw my brother (he was nine, in a stroller). Before I went to see my mom, one of my friends asked me who they were and why a "big boy" was in a stroller like that. I told them he has autism and the stroller helps my mom with him.

I went off to my mom and came back into school the next day, all my teachers, classmates and friends were treating me different. I went the rest of the year wondering why everyone stopped liking me in the blink of an eye. Then, I realized pretty quickly after the year was over that people thought my brother is weird. I tried to hide him for a couple of years and told my mom not to bring him when she came to pick me up. I started not to care after a while because I love my brother and I was going to stand up for him no matter what.


#8 Relationship Goals

I didn’t realize it was relatively abnormal for parents to be affectionate and totally loving towards one another. I grew up watching my parents kiss in the kitchen, pinch each other’s butts when they thought we weren’t looking, and hold hands anytime they walk more than 10 steps together. I thought that’s just what parents did, but I was sad to discover my mine are way outside the norm. I realized that most parents merely tolerate one another if they’re even still together. My parents are celebrating their 40th anniversary next year and they are more in love than ever. They set a standard of relationship that I don’t know if anyone can match, but I’m sure going to try.


#9 Bad Jokes and Puns

We have our own dark sense of humor and our own family vocabulary. I remember when my friends joined us on a family vacation once. The only thing they said to me afterwards was, “Now we know where you got that terrible sense of humor from!” There are just lots of bad jokes and puns every second of the day.


#10 Dealing With the Consequences

When I realized we were all addicted to my mother's pain killers. I still remember the first time at 16 finding out what opiate withdrawals were. I couldn't go to school without any kind of substances every day. It made me the kid I wanted to be: confident and social everything. Yet we looked like the perfect upper-middle-class family until we weren't anymore. I’m still dealing with the consequences of that at 31 years old.


#11 Realized Twice

I don’t know when I realized we weren’t normal, but I think I was really little. I saw dads being kind, calling their little girls their princess and not getting mad at them all the time. I think that’s when I realized being yelled at every day and feeling scared around your dad wasn’t normal. Thing is, I just thought it was okay.

I thought he was always right and I just needed to do better. I thought it was okay feeling like you couldn’t escape from your dad wherever you go. When did I realize this wasn’t okay? That he was hurting me emotionally? Well, I would say when he screamed names in my face after I didn’t understand what he said when I was 11. So, I guess you could say I realized twice.


#12 A Good Investment

My mother is one of nine children. Seven of them had kids, their kids had kids, and some of my cousins are grandparents. I'm the third youngest of 31 first cousins. All of my aunts and uncles on my mom's side are still living. The family is spread literally from coast to coast. I live in upstate NY, I have a cousin in San Diego, CA. Every other Thanksgiving, one random cousin hosts a family reunion. As many of us as possible travel to one location to hang out, play board games, drink, cook, and just be together.

I never really realized how special that was until the last reunion. The hotel clerk asked me why we were in town. I explained my family situation and her eyes got misty and sparkly. Her face spoke volumes. She was in awe and happy and sad all at once. She said, "You’re so lucky. My family never does anything like that, and we all live in the same town."

It was then that it hit me how special my family really is. All of my children are friends with their first cousins once removed. They’re all best friends and none of them even live within 400 miles of each other. We fight to love each other and invest financially in our family memories. 10/10 will continue to invest.


#13 Zero Consideration

When people would ask if I was we were a military family because of how often we moved. I went to five elementary schools, two middle schools and four high schools. The truth was my mom couldn't commit to a job or a marriage for very long and would start over with zero consideration for the stability of her children.


#14 Personal Details

I realized something about my family when I met my wife’s parents. My mother is very clingy and attached and probably tells me way more as a son than she should. My wife’s parents are more of the “don’t do anything stupid” kind of folks who talk to her but like a daughter not with all of the details of their personal lives.


#15 Routinely Checked Out

That dads don’t go to night school and assume daytime child care duties once mothers return to work. My dad was the only male chaperone for school trips. After the split, my dad also had full-time custody of myself and my half-sister (his stepdaughter), no courts involved. It was never an issue with my mom because “he just loved being a dad. I loved watching him be a dad.” I had no idea men so routinely checked out of families until my late teens.


#16 Therapy Session

The big one was when I was 14 years old and I went to see a therapist with my mom. I found out that she had attempted to take her life when I was ten years old. All I had known about the situation before then was "I went to grandma's for a week.” Also, when I was around seven, I asked my friends if their moms hit them. The answer was no.

I'm determined not to end up like her. The things that have happened really aren't her fault, she's just got a ton of mental disorders and she has a complete disappointment (me) for a son. I won't be having biological kids (gay). I might consider adopting a child but I'm scared I'll mess it up. I love kids, but I don't want to be a bad parent and I'm not sure I'd know how to be a good one.


#17 Emotional Problems

I started hearing people say they loved their family more than their friends and even partners. I just couldn't understand why at first, so I asked people who said that. Then it hit me. As a teenager, I've always thought that your family is meant to not understand you or help you with your emotional troubles. But people told me that theirs did, so I discovered that my family was actually abnormal for not being able to handle emotional problems. Everything bottles up in the family. I also learned that the father of the household was meant to be loving, not cynical and ignoring everyone.


#18 Some People

When I was a little kid, my mom used to put me in a box and would threaten to mail me away to another family. She would also threaten to drop us off at the orphanage as well. From there, it only escalated and she also threatened us that she would run away. I really don’t know why some people are the way they are.


#19 Family Quirks

I'm British and come from a family who tell each other they love each other and hug and kiss a lot. When I was 12, my best friend came on our family holiday with us. My mom and I hugged and then my mom asked my friend about her family hugging. She said they never did. It then occurred to me that I had never even seen her mom or dad hug, kiss or tell her little brother that they loved him before bedtime. I realized that not all families did that and that my family had lots of what I’ll politely call, "quirks.”


#20 In Other Ways

My dad was incredible. But looking back, I don't ever think I've heard him say "I love you." He was just emotionally unavailable. It messed me up a bit because now I think back to how my dad handled everything stoically, with so much control. But for me, I stress, get upset, and worry about handling some things.

I wasn't the easiest kid and internalized some childhood trauma, which just ruined who I was. I didn't even realize it was a problem until I started having flashbacks at 19 due to another occurrence. On top of that, I had so many head injuries (due to sports and goofing around), I saw a personality shift and memory issues.

He never had those issues. He's always been super in control, calm, collected, etc. I guess he just doesn't understand what it's like to be in my shoes, and I get it. I never blamed him for it. When I started self-harming and showed him, he said, "There's no way your life is bad enough to do something like that."

From the outside looking in, you'd think that's incredibly callous. I was mad at first. But looking back on it, I realized how scared he was that I had gotten to that point and he had no idea. I saw fear in his eyes for the first time I could remember. That's when it clicked with me that he's a mountain of a man, but he deeply cares for people in his life. Maybe he just has issues showing affection, which, I experience due to that. All in all, I wouldn't trade my dad for anyone else. He showed his love in other ways that I didn't understand until I was older.


#21 That Was Fun

When I was younger, I grew up in a strict household. So, I noticed some hefty changes while moving from Utah and being raised in a strict Mormon household to California. I’d say I saw some different things in high school. Honestly, that was an eye-opener. Try making friends in high school after growing up in Utah culture. That was fun.


#22 Crumbling Down

My sperm donor never matured past the fourth grade. Despite this, my mom is too obsessed with her image to dump him. To be honest, she’s no better than he is. She constantly wants to control every little thing I do. For the longest time, I felt like I wasn't allowed to breathe unless she said so. No contact has done wonders and all the lies she filled my head with have come crumbling down in a glorious fashion.


#23 Bare Minimum

Telling "funny" stories, like the time my dad deliberately ran over small animals while me and my brother screamed at him not to hurt them. We were only about 10 and seven years old. The reaction from friends let me know that their parents would never do that and it wasn't a normal "my dad's annoying" moment.

Also, the realization that when we have people around us, we perform really well. We're funny, bounce friendly insults of each other, have a great feel of rapport. As soon as we don't have an audience, we don't really interact more than the bare minimum. There were weeks where I didn't know if my dad was in the same country or just in his room with headphones in. It wouldn't have impacted my life either way.


#24 A Lot of Bitterness

When I met my best friend’s family. Ever since then, I realized that most of my family is completely toxic. For example, my mother and my grandmother never got along and she hates me, my brother and my mother. She once threatened to call the police on my brother, because he was sleeping . He occasionally works a night shift, so obviously when he arrived early in the morning and slept until noon, she was hysterical. She screamed and banged on the doors.

Other occasions include my grandfather threatening to hurt my brother because he was cooking me dinner (I’m a couple of years younger and he was already 18; both of our parents were working late). I don’t know where this comes from, but my family has constant passive-aggressive behavior and a lot of bitterness.


#25 There Was No Humor

I met people who didn't think it was okay to spend hours insulting people behind their backs, including total strangers. Whenever my father saw an unattractive woman, he would go on and on about "that fat ugly woman" and my mother would chime in with, "Her face is like the back end of a bus!" There was no humor; they were 100% serious. This would go on for hours.


#26 You Get the Idea

When I realized that none of my friends’ families had big raging arguments multiple times per week. I also realized that it wasn’t normal for a mother to swear and scream at their 10-year-old child and call them names. Plus, I realized that it also wasn’t normal for a mother to threaten to end her life mid-argument and then just drive off and disappear for hours. You get the idea.


#27 Half the Night

When I was in elementary school, my mom would get me to sit up half the night with her while she was tipsy and talking about her mom taking her life. She then wanted my opinion on why she did it. I memorized the right answers. She also asked me about why my dad left her and for my take on various toxic things she'd been through. It was easier to sit there because if I went to bed, she'd stay up all night to scream and cry.


#28 Kicked Out

My mom told me multiple times to my face that she will always love an invisible make-believe man in the sky more than me. When I cut contact, she had a mental breakdown about not being able to control me. She then told her entire church group about the things she put me through, hoping to gain sympathy and paint me in a bad light because I abandoned her when she was so caring. That backfired and now she’s basically kicked out of the church.


#29 Comes and Goes

Besides being split up, moms don't eat edibles, smoke with, or make beverages for their 13-year-olds. Dads aren't supposed to go into debt in every single relationship because they only know how to be manipulated and used. You're not supposed to be mistreated by your siblings either. I've been diagnosed with major depressive disorder, OCD, and bipolar disorder as a result of trauma.

I've also had one attempt at my life. I remember having anxiety and troubling thoughts as far back as four years old after witnessing my mother having schizophrenic episodes. Depression really hit hard with verbal and physical toxicity from one of my dad’s girlfriends when I was 10. It comes and goes but stays longer than it's away.


#30 They Didn’t Come

My mom and dad used to lock me in my bedroom at night. I thought this was completely normal and understandable, but one day I woke up really hungry and started banging on the door to be let out. It got to the point that I was screaming and hitting the door with all my weight. I was also crying because I thought everyone left me. Nobody came to get me until I cried so much that I threw up on my bed and passed out on the floor. I don’t know if nobody heard me, I don’t know if nobody cared. I just know that they didn’t come.


#31 Becoming Strangers

My mom wanted my brother and I to be raised with a loving extended family. So, for 15 years my grandmother, aunts, uncles and cousins pretended to be a close-knit family whenever we were around. Then I found out that they all hate each other and us. When they knew that I knew, all pretenses were dropped. Pretty much overnight, my loving family members became strangers who tolerated us at Christmas.


#32 Helicopter Parents

When I noticed that a bunch of other kids could go wherever they wanted at 10, but I wasn't allowed to even walk to the end of the street on my own at 14. I guess my parents had good intentions, but I had to protest a fair bit to walk home from school one time because I didn't feel like waiting for someone to give me a ride.


#33 New Perspective

I went to a friend's house in high school and saw her mom had one of those mini wine bottles. I made a comment about how I'd never seen them, and her mom said the whole bottle would go bad before she finished it. It wasn't until my college psych classes that I realized my parents’ habits of buying wine by the case, falling asleep tipsy every night, and hiding bottles from each other were all bad signs. It put a new perspective on a lot of my childhood.


#34 Hoarders’ House

Never letting anyone to our door so they couldn't see in and see how messy we lived. Clothes mounded up against everything, dirty dishes on surfaces, ashtrays overflowing, etc. It was sad for a while because I couldn't have any friends over. Eventually, that changed and we lived cleaner, but we were still just as messed up. Maybe more so.


#35 Chocolate Chip Pancakes

I went to a sleepover with my class at "Cory’s" house in the second grade. We had a lot of fun all night and her mom bought us pizza. In the morning she said we would meet her dad because he was making us breakfast. I was terrified. My weekends visiting my dad, he would make my brother and I breakfast and if he didn't think I was grateful enough he would scream, call me names, and make me eat everything even though I couldn't. I had never met anyone else's dad and I didn't want to.

Looking back, breakfast with Cory's dad was nice. He made chocolate chip pancakes, bacon, and there were a bunch of different juices and fruits to choose from. I almost started crying because I realized how bad my life was with my dad. I was still kind of scared of her dad but he was really nice and his pancakes were amazing. They were the first chocolate chip pancakes I ever had not from a restaurant.


#36 How People Should Live

I was in college where people didn't know my family. That’s when I realized how different we were. I'd talk about things in my life that seemed normal and people would accuse me of lying. I thought it was perfectly normal that my dad came home from an office job with two homeless women and their kids. They stayed with us for a weekend, we bought them some new things they needed and got a local church to assist in finding them help. I'm pretty sure they had just crossed the border illegally.

We're solidly middle class, but they just spent a lot of time with those who had less and my parents were always ready to help anyone. It was from anonymously donating a few hundred dollars to the neighbor who was disabled and had just lost her husband, to the random strangers he put up in a hotel for a night when their car was broken down in the middle of nowhere and they couldn't get a tow until morning. I'm positive there was so much more we didn't know about. They didn't hide it or flaunt it. It was as normal as going to the grocery store to us. Now that we're adults, we're all the same way because that's just how people should live.


#37 Loud Voices

Going to my friends’ houses. Growing up, I never thought my family was loud. Being that loud all the time was just normal to me. When I went to visit a friend, we were told to be quiet and tiptoe around at night so we didn't wake their parents. On top of that, everyone was also really soft-spoken when they were talking.


#38 Not Even Close

I'm 26 and I don't remember either of my parents telling me I love you. I haven't said it to them either, it just feels strange to do it. Oh, and I had a tattoo of their birth dates and the location where I grew up done, but when they saw it they just started joking about it. So, that wasn’t even close to the reaction I was extracting.


#39 Really Weird to Me

I can count on one hand how many times in my entire life I've eaten at a dinner table with my family. My family also never cooked ever. It was take out and TV dinners almost every single night. My friends never understood why I got so excited to eat at their houses for dinner and have "real food." To add to that, my new college roommates were super confused when they saw me go to my room to eat dinner. It was what I've done my entire life and now the idea of eating dinner with others at a table is really, really weird to me.


#40 The Way I Am

My fiancé and her kids did not get my humor for the longest time. I’m very sarcastic and blunt in a way that, if you don’t know me, you’d have to guess if I was being serious. Once they came around all of my family, they quickly saw how we will call each other names like ugly, dumb, etc., but not at all meaning it. After being around that, they realized when we make fun of each other it’s our way of showing we care about each other and it explains the way I am.


#41 Uncomfortable Mom

When my friends said my mom made them feel uncomfortable. I learned not everyone’s mom constantly screamed at their kids. My grandma was even worse and was constantly fighting with my mom and everyone else. I thought it was normal for your grandma to throw something and for your grandpa to call her a psycho.


#42 Playing a Game

When I got diagnosed at 18 with PTSD after I mentioned something in passing to a therapist while in a psychiatric unit. I said that my cousins and I use to play a game where they would blindfold me and lock me in a room. Then each of them would come in, touch me and leave. I was told it was something that everyone did and it happened my entire childhood until I started to develop at 12 years old and my parents moved us from one state to another. I internalized it as so normal that I didn't even think to tell my parents about it. My therapist looked at me in horror and explained my depressive disorder was tied to PTSD.


#43 Your Own Home

Casual nudity. Why bother getting dressed walking to and from a shower? Why wear a top or pants if it's hot and you’re in your own home. Oh, dad's naked as he walks to the shower. If it offends you, don't look, as my parents would say. Apparently, this is weird to a lot of people. All it did was make me really comfortable with my body.


#44 A Warning

My mom yelling at 13-year-old me to pack my bags and leave since I had a different opinion. I thought this was just to threaten me, but she actually got the bag and started to pack for me. I begged to have me stay. I’m still here but that bag is still here as well, with all the clothes packed in it, in my closet as a warning for the years after.


#45 Keeping Quiet

When I was 14, my friend shared this huge secret that her dad was having an affair. I thought, “I'll do everything in my power to help her through this. I can't imagine what she's going through.” It really changed my world knowing that things like this actually happen in real life and with the people you know. I was young and didn't know better.

Fast forward to a year later. I found out my dad was doing it too and I knew it was never going to be normal. The moment that happened, I felt like the dad I knew and had this relationship with passed away because I was never going to see my dad and my family the same way again. I had to hide all of this from my mom while it was happening. That messed me up really well.


#46 Hard Labor

It wasn't until much later, but apparently eight-year-old kids aren’t supposed to do hard labor from the end of school until dark. Also, having a parent pit you against your siblings apparently isn't normal either. As well as when your parents calling your sister a bunch of awful names on a regular basis at 14. Or better yet, when you don't let your tipsy, angry mom into your room and she calls 911, saying you threatened to hurt yourself.


#47 All Dads

I was actually hurt, taken away, adopted, and hurt again. The first time I thought all dads were like that. The second I actually didn’t realize until I read about parentification, and my friend asked me if I was being mistreated. Apparently, I used to tense up and act more reserved around my family, especially my parents.


#48 Mother’s Behavior

My mother always tries to make me and my brother fight and then screams at us for 15 minutes straight. Also, apparently being screamed at on a daily basis isn't normal. Neither is obsessive veganism or her “feminism.” I also found out that some people don't get yelled at to the point you can't hear your own voice anymore because you stated facts about your mother’s behaviour.


#49 Seeing a Therapist

It finally clicked in college that I had basically no relationship with my parents. My family never did anything together. My mother was always angry over nothing and my father was gone most of the time. I really knew when my sibling, who’s 10 years older told me she had seen a therapist after she finished college because of our parents.


#50 Out of the House

When I saw mothers hugging and complimenting their sons more often as I grew up. My mother locked me out of the house at age 12, at 9:00 p.m., in January when it was -5 in NY because I asked for a hug. Her reason for locking me out was to get me to go live with my intoxicated father. My dad did have a problem, but at least he loved me for being me.




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