Kids Share The First Time They Realized Something Was 'Off' About Another House.
This article is based on the AskReddit question "As a child, what was the strangest thing you noticed about another household?"
[Source can be found at the end of the article]
In my house growing up, my parents wouldn't allow boys and girls to play together. When a group of kids would come over, they would say "boys with boys, girls with girls" and we would all have to play games separately. When I started going to other people's houses more, I was astonished to find that boys and girls could be friends without it being a cardinal sin (unintentional relevancy in that turn of phrase). Joke's on Mum and Dad though, I turned out gay.
My parents spend "date" time with each other every night like clockwork. After dinner, my sister and I were always left to entertain ourselves. Mom and Dad would go watch Jeopardy, have a glass of wine, and my dad would rub my mom's shoulders. And they talk. About stuff other than the house or my sister and me or work. This is STILL the case. We go into the living room between 7 and 8 only if it's a dire emergency because that's our parents' time. Didn't realize that not everyone's parents are like this.
Not strange to the majority, but strange to me as a kid: how uncluttered and tidy all my friends' houses were.
I initially thought that all my friends' parents must have been neat freaks or just didn't have the money to buy things.
Well, as it turns out, my parents were actually hoarders and it wasn't the norm to have books and magazines and clothes and rubbish and who knows what else piled up around the house.
Randomly ended up at a friends house for dinner, totally not planned. One of those last minute deals. Anyway, they had a full spread. I'm talking ribs, mashed potatoes, corn on the cob, baked beans, homemade dinner rolls on the side, I had a Coke and a glass of water. Afterwards there was dessert. I asked them what the occasion was and they all laughed like I was nuts. It was just a normal night. My family never ate like that. I guess this was business as usual for them.
Friend in school lived in a separate house to his parents. His parents had a massive house at the back of the property and he and his brother lived in another house some distance from the parents. His house was basically a large lounge/toy room, bathroom and a room for each child. They lived completely separate lives and only saw their parents when they went to the main house to eat dinner. He was 10 when I found this out, his older brother 12. Thinking back, who knows what the parents were doing if they went to that much expense to keep their kids out the house.
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Usually it was the smell. Some people eat things I had never experienced, and there was one friend whose dad had a reptile room and the entire house had an odd smell. I am not sure if it was the reptiles or their food, but it was not good.
Course meals as regular meals (during the week, without extended family).
I was shocked when we went for a sleepover at our friends house, and it was like a 7 ingredients salad to begin with, along with a handmade vinaigrette, roast beef with rice and veggies, and a freaking homemade Nutella cake for dessert.
At first I was like "that's because we're coming over, they made an effort", but it wasn't. The kid didn't even seem fazed by it, and it turned out the dad was making a ton of money, the mom stayed at home, and every meal they had was at least 1 hour long or more. Not even mentioning the 6-7 hours long meals on Sundays with the extended family. 40 minutes was probably the longest meals we had in my family, for rare occasions with friends/cousins, etc…
At our house, there were chores written on a chalkboard, and as we got them finished, we had to leave a checkmark.
My friend's house was nothing like that.
"What? Your mom and dad do the cleaning? What do you do after your homework?"
"Well, I watch TV or read, or go for a walk. Yesterday, I built this model dragster.
My parents version of being supportive was as if I was their friend. I never got directly told that something I did was great or whatever. My parents weren't abusive, just not really big on the praise and stuff.
I had a friend when I was like 8/9 years old. We would sometimes go to his house and sing and dance around like kids do, and his mum was like SUPER supportive of him, telling him how good he was doing and how she liked his voice or whatever.
She'd say the same to me and I wouldn't know how to deal with it, thinking she was mocking me somehow. It was a really weird feeling when I understood that she was just trying to support this kid and the things they enjoyed.
She was a nice lady. Lost touch with them pretty soon after we became friends because I moved home.
I couldn't understand why they chose that. I remember telling my brother my new friend didn't have a TV and her parents hated white bread. He laughed.
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In my house we always had drinking glasses that matched, like your basic clear glass set. But in almost all my friends' houses they had a wide variety of these plastic cups. Like, cups with various logos on them. Or just plastic cups of all different sizes and colours. I think you get them for free a lot, or you did when I grew up in 80's/90's.
Whenever I see a movie that mimics this, I think they're doing something realistic. Little Miss Sunshine did it, and I noticed right away. Ah, this takes me back to my friends houses, where shit was real, unlike in my weird matching clear glasses house.
Two friends had that one room you weren't allowed in. They were typically "sitting rooms", where there was nice china plates in a glass-front cabinet and white furniture. It was literally the "grandparent" aesthetic.
I always noticed how rough/not soft other peoples bathroom towels felt. My mum LOVED soft towels and would only ever wash them a certain way which is what I was used to. I'd say 75% of my friends towels were so rough and sandpapery and I could never understand how they would rub them on their bodies, I just thought people had more towel pride yknow?
I remember thinking it was weird how my friends talked back to their parents.
Like I was so afraid of confrontation with mine, possibly because they were alcoholics and scary.
I remember my friends just blatantly disrespecting their parents in front of me, and I remember thinking how was I going to be able to get a ride home when Dylan's mom kills him.
We had a friend who would never let us in her house. Never really thought anything of it. On one occasion she invited my sister and I inside to play. She told us that we weren't to touch anything and that we'd have to go straight to her room. They had food and goods stacked high in the living room. Walking up the stairs you could see that they utilized the space wisely. There was a 2-3 ft path that led around the items in a way that everything was accessible. It was like a hedge maze, but with chips, rice, beans, cokes, paper towels etc. We didnt really think much of it at the time only that it must have been awesome to have a grocery store in your living room. The one thing I did remember that was kinda annoying was when I asked her for something to drink she came back with some tap water. I mean they had an aisle filled with soda and you come back with a glass of tap water?
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Where I live the layout of the apartment is pretty much the same or similar in most households. So when I would walk into my friend's apartment and go to 'my room' it would be in the same place, but the furniture would be all different and in different places. That felt really weird. Like as if I moved out of my apartment and then visited it years later only to find completely different people living there.
I remember one old friend from our neighborhood that wasn't allowed to have virtually any toy. I went to his house a few times, and there was nothing to do inside, no games, no toys, nothing, they had to go outside and play.
One time I brought a board game over to play, and his mom had a fit, "I don't allow these things" but surprisingly allowed us to play, but watched us like a hawk.
My mom would always buy charmin ultra, the softest toilet paper. I would go to other people's house and be very disappointed with the quality of the toilet paper.
I had a friend that always got whatever she asked for for dinner. I didn't. If we were having spaghetti because mum said so, we would have spaghetti. She wouldn't change her mind and make omelettes because I asked her to! I would get the omelettes another day.
My best friends house. They didn't use the heat in the winter. It would be just low enough so pipes wouldn't freeze but the house would be in the 50s even during blizzards. If they wanted heat they would plug in a space heater and use that. At first I thought it may be a money thing, even as a kid I could understand that. Turns out they just didn't see heat as a necessity but an annual trip to Disney World, weekly shopping trips, and antique cars were. It was odd staying over her house for sleepovers. When she came over my house she was blown away by the lack of space heaters occupying every room and needing to dress like we were visiting the North Pole even indoors.
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I always thought mixing apple juice with tap water was disgusting especially when the apple juice was at room temperature.
In hindsight, I am pretty sure I disliked (and still dislike) it because it was offered at almost every friend's house... Luckily my parents also thought it was a revolting mixture.
At our house my parents room consisted of the entire second floor. My siblings and I were not allowed to go into their room, or up the stairs, without permission. And their room had an automatic, 6-digit combination lock on it that activated whenever it was shut.
I always thought it was weird when I went to friends houses and they would just walk nonchalantly into their parents' room. Sometimes even hang out in it.
Looking back, my house is definitely the odd one out in this scenario.
I grew up with very tidy parents and my friend's parents? Not so much. I'll never forget the way they reacted to all the rats. Like they were dogs or something. I know people have pet rats, but these were not pet rats. These were "I'm going to bite you and eat all your food" rats.
My step-father and mother lived in a perpetual state of broken marriage until my step-father passed away. Thus, the concept of "family" was absent from our household.
When I would visit friend's houses or girlfriends houses I was always amazed at how people interacted. At my home we simply cohabited, rarely interacting with each other. Instead of hiding out in bedrooms other people lived in the entire home, not just locked away.
I spent the night over a friend's house. When we woke up the next day, her mom said we would have pancakes. I asked her why she was taking all these different ingredients out of the cupboard. She explained that she was going to make them using a recipe - from scratch. I was baffled as I'd never seen that done before. Usually it was just a mix in a box and I'd assumed you'd add water to it and stir.
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I once went over to eat at a friends house and to my surprise: the whole family was there. Like on a random Tuesday or something. We grew up with a big calendar on the door with everybody's different activities. I had hockey 3/4 nights a week, my sis had her musical and theatre thingies, little bro did this, dad that, mom this, etc. We were always doing stuff. But this family just had no hobbies. None of them. It was so surreal. They just worked/went to school, ate dinner together, watched tv together then went to bed (separately). I remember coming home so weirded out. Like an alien race trying real hard to be human, but they took their intel from a sixties' movie.
I had a friend whose parents let her have cereal with milk as an evening snack. In my household, milk and cereal were tightly rationed — I was one of 4 kids and we were on a very tight budget. There was always enough to eat overall, but we we were allowed one bowl of cereal with milk for breakfast each morning. If we were still hungry, we could have fruit or toast. To me, it was weird seeing "coveted" foods eaten as snacks.
Friend's house full of dolls - but not just that. Friend's mom literally designed the house after dollhouses. It's a giant dollhouse full of giant dolls.
Also, it is overrun and being slowly destroyed by a small army of very expensive fluffy cats.
My friend's dad kissed me goodnight (on the forehead) when I stayed over. My own parents rarely even said "goodnight", so it was weird.
Another friend's mom wouldn't allow us to play any video games with women in them.
And another had a step-dad who was at least 20 years older than his mom, and after 9pm would just walk around naked.
We moved around a lot when I was a kid so I met a lot of people, but the strangest of all was this one little girl (the bird girl) who lived down the street from me when I was in 1st- 3rd grade. She was strange to begin with because this poorly dressed little girl collected dead birds. Literally had a back yard full of rows of popsicle sticks with dates and and names for each bird she found dead (we had a lot of stray cats). She had run out of room in the tiny yard and had to begin burying them two birds deep. As if that wasn't weird enough she took me inside her house one day... there was no furniture. They had lived there for years, but it looked like no one had even moved in yet. No couch, no chair, no table nothing personal laying around. Their living room had nothing in it but card board cut outs standing randomly around the room(probably just 10 of them spread out to fill the room evenly). Basketball players, actors, all just standing around like some weird collection of bystanders with nothing but a small path through the center of the "crowd". She tried to get me to come in to see the rest of the house, but I didn't feel comfortable walking through that. There was something weird and creepy about a house not actually being lived in by any real people.
We are told that, if you're not confident, you should just "fake it til you make it."
This is great--in theory. In practice, sometimes "faking it" can have extremely real and terrible consequences, which these people found out the hardest of hard ways.