There are times at night where someone can't sleep and so they do what any rational person does - dig through old memories. Although there can be some pleasant and joyous memories tucked away in someone's mind, often times, people will dwell on the things they have done in their past that they still regret.
A Reddit thread recently asked people to share the cruelest thing they did in their childhood that sticks with them to this very day. A lot of the people in the following stories did something (or some things) that they still regret decades later. Take a look at some of the most startling stories on the subject. All posts have been edited for clarity.
"There was a little old lady who lived down the street from me as a kid. She had a beautiful flower garden which she tended every day. I had a pretty crummy childhood, so I would take every opportunity to inject other people with the venom of sadness and despair.
One night, I snuck out of the house, got a rubber mallet from the shed, and went down the street to her flower bed. I smashed every plant she had. It's among the most senseless things I've ever done, and probably the only regret I have from my childhood.
The next day, there was a little handwritten sign up, basically saying, 'Why would you do this? These flowers were for people to enjoy, and now, people won't be able to see them anymore.' I'd like to think that that lesson has helped me become a much better person that I would have been without it. In a very real way, her flowers taught me a lesson my parents never did."
"I had just gotten home in the afternoon from middle school and there was about an hour or so I'd be home by myself before my parents came home from work. On this day, I decided to boil a few hot dogs as a nice little snack while I watched 'Total Request Live.'
My buddy from next door came over and invited me over to play video games or whatever else we were into at the time. An hour or so went by and I came back into my house and realized the stove was still on and the hot dogs were burning. Apparently, the Teflon from the pan releases a noxious gas that is lethal to birds and killed my mother's beloved parakeet.
My mom came home about 10 minutes later and immediately saw this dead parakeet and started crying. She looked me right in my eyes and said, 'Everything in my life is dying!' (this was around the same time my parents were getting divorced) and she slammed her bedroom door. I didn't see her until the next morning."
"When my brother and I were kids, we used to get picked on a lot, especially on the bus. There were these older kids always making comments about us being the product of inbreeding and asking if we were sleeping with each other. I can't remember how old we were, but I was still in elementary school when this happened so I was in the fifth grade at the most and my brother would have been in the second grade, the two boys were in high school.
My brother and I were out riding our bicycles up and down the sidewalk, turning around at a local gas station because we weren't allowed to go far. On one round, we heard screams for help. We looked up and saw two guys dangling from the scaffolding between two silos on the local grain elevator about 100 feet up or so. We immediately recognized them as two of the boys who gave us a hard time on the bus. We turned around on our bicycles and went home, went into the house and acted like we didn't see a thing. We didn't call for help, we didn't tell our parents. We just left them there.
A little while later, someone did call the police, the boys were rescued and charged with trespassing. They never said a word to us about it, so I don't know if they knew it was us from that distance or what - or maybe they thought we did go home and tell our parents. My brother and I never discussed it for years. We're both in our 30s now and it was probably last year when I started really thinking about that situation more and the consequences of what would have happened if one of those boys had fallen - what if nobody called the police and they died? I really regret not doing something about it because now I think back and feel guilty.
What kind of kids just leave people hanging like that?"
"In the second grade, there was this brand new kid in school named Donny straight out of a Native reservation who could barely speak English. Basically, here in Canada, it gets to -30 degree weather a lot, and when you stick your tongue onto metal like fence posts, it's stuck there and you either need hot water or you just rip it off.
I wanted to try it out at recess for whatever reason and told my friend I was going to do it. Of course, I did it and my tongue got stuck and I panicked and ripped it off. I was bleeding like crazy. Donny was one of the guys there.
So basically, I was one of the smartest kids and had my own spelling words because the ones they gave were too easy so I grew up with this massive ego, and didn't want to look like an idiot in front of my teacher. So instead of saying I did it, I just said Donny pushed me into the fence and fabricated this entire story. Because he barely spoke English, he had no idea what was going on and they got him in trouble for it. He spent the entire next day in the office, they called his parents and he had to stay in at recess for the next week.
He moved maybe a month later. I feel so bad for it now and I'd love to apologize to him if I had the opportunity."
"Back in grade school, there was a kid named Michael who liked to dance. He was fair skinned and had medium to short-medium length black hair. On one of our class trips to the beach, we took the train. I was on the bottom half of the train sitting mostly by myself since my friends were on the second level and the teachers weren't allowing kids to go up and down the train stairs so wherever you were at you had to stay there.
Often back in school, kids would tease Michael and call him Michael Jackson. He wasn't particularly effeminate, he just liked to dance. So people would call him gay and things like that. Kids can be really mean.
I was sitting on the bottom level with my green Qui-Gon Jinn lightsaber and Michael said something to me along the lines of, 'Hey, that lightsaber is really cool can i see it?'
I replied something like, 'No, you're gay.' Then it turned out that one of the chaperones on the bottom level was his mom and heard the entire interaction to which she then scolded me for saying something like that and to never do that again. I felt so bad and immediately knew I did something wrong especially when I could see his face and how hurt he was standing behind her.
That was a significant moment in my life where I learned that you shouldn't treat people how everybody else treats them, you should treat everyone with kindness and respect. He didn't come back the next year. I often think of this incident and want to find him to apologize but I don't know how to find him since he didn't make it to picture day and no one I went to grade school with remembers his name."
"I didn't have the best childhood. My mom was very self involved and my father had crippling depression along with anger management issues. My parents had just split up when I was 12 years old and my father had attempted suicide twice unsuccessfully, though my mother, brother and I thought they were more cries for attention than actual attempts.
One Friday afternoon, he called me crying, saying he couldn't take me this weekend as he was having a particularly bad go with his depression. Being angry that I couldn't go to my dad's apartment to watch cartoons and eat ice cream and hot dogs all weekend, I told him, 'Oh, why don't you just go try to kill yourself again.'
I never gave any kind of attitude to my parents before. I was always a very well behaved kid despite the home troubles and I was legitimately proud of myself for finally standing up for myself in the wake of all the crap I'd had to deal with as a result of my parents' divorce (moving to a small place in a bad part of town, switching schools, etc).
That was until my father was found dead from an intentional overdose that Sunday. That phone call was the last time I ever spoke to my father and I pretty well coached his suicide. In fact, based on information from my family (none of whom are aware of my call with him) I was likely the last person he talked to before he decided to end it.
Over the years, I've come to terms with the fact that something would have sooner or later made him pull the trigger so to speak, and he never mentioned anything in his note but the fact that I know I contributed to it is something I've never been able to fully forgive myself for and I don't think I ever will."
"I decided I wanted to burn trash in the middle of the Texas summer so I did just that. I just threw some cardboard boxes and other stuff into this barrel on my property we always had, figuring it would be contained. I poured some lighter fluid in there from my dad’s grill, lit a match, and boom!
Up it went and my weird child obsession with fire was quenched until the fire jumped out of the barrel and started racing towards the pine woods. There was apparently a raccoon in there I doused with lighter fluid and set on fire under the trash I was trying to burn.
Well, I ended up burning up a good portion of trees behind my house before the firefighters came. Thankfully, it wasn’t that bad and our house didn’t burn down but it was the scariest moment of my life. I don’t think I ever burned anything again, my heart was broken. I cried for days I felt so bad for that raccoon.
I told my mom I betrayed Steve Irwin because I hurt an animal. I’m pretty sure I started writing a letter to apologize but I was afraid he wouldn’t forgive me so I decided against it."
"I would have to say that the worst thing I did as a kid that still haunts me is when I accused my mom of physically abusing me at home. I was in the fifth grade and had arrived at school after having an argument with my mom that morning.
I was still fuming from our argument and decided in my impulsive little mind that I should tell my teacher that my mom had been beating me excessively at home.
My teacher knew my mom well because she and my mom were both on the PTA and my teacher's daughter was in the same Girl Scout troop with me. My teacher was in shock and immediately had me go to the principal's office and tell the principal what I had told her. I repeated my story and my mom was called to the school.
I had that, 'Oh no, I just messed up,' moment and anxiously waited in the office for my mom to come to the school. When she got there, the principal and my teacher explained the story I told. I refused to look at my mom and I heard her exclaim, 'What did she say?!?' very angrily. I knew I was in big trouble.
My mom explained to the teacher and principal that what I said was a complete lie and she had no idea why I would falsely accuse her of those actions. The teacher and principal quietly expressed that they were confused by what I had said about her because the school has worked closely with my family to ensure that I was adjusting well with the various medication trials I had been going through with my psychiatrist (I had been diagnosed with ADHD when I was 3 years old and it took years to find the right medication and dose that worked for me). My dad had also been the cafeteria manager at the school for almost eight years before moving to another school the year before I started fourth grade. So the school knew my family and my psychiatric situation very very well.
Long story short, I had to give a verbal and written apology to my teacher, my principal, and my mom for falsely accusing her of physical child abuse. And my mom had a very long talk with me about the dangers of giving false accounts of child abuse and how it could have led to a full investigation by DSS and have cost my mom and dad a lot of money for court and lawyer fees.
It is important to note that my mom was never physically abusive towards me. EVER. I was in the wrong for my actions and to this day I still feel like I was a terrible child for doing what I did that day. I remember crying my eyes out and feeling so guilty for lying and almost getting my mom under investigation by the authorities all because I was mad at her. My mom and I still talk about it sometimes and I always apologize profusely because I still feel guilty and shameful for doing that. One of the many reasons I felt bad was because my mom had actually been severely physically and emotionally abused -- almost killed several times actually -- by her adopted parents and she was never saved from that situation until she left at 18 for the army. Now that I am an adult, I can see how it could have been very traumatic for my mom to go through being falsely accused of child abuse when she dedicated her life to ensuring that she never abused either myself or my older brother. So needless to say, that memory haunts me and it will probably still haunt me for the rest of my life."
"I remember when I was 12 years old, I was hanging out with the 'cool gang' at my school. I'm not really sure how I ended up spending the day with them as I had never done so before then. At the time, I was pretty good friends with this one kid, and he wasn't in the so-called cool gang. We saw him walking by and one of the guys I was with at the time started throwing stones at him. All of the others joined in too. They told me to join in, and to my huge regret, I actually did. I didn't enjoy any of it at all, and I felt awful doing it. The kid didn't run away to his credit, he just continued to walk on and wait until we were out of throwing distance. He wasn't injured either as thankfully we all threw like 12-year-old boys at the time and missed. But I know he was embarrassed and hurt on the inside by that.
It's only a small thing of course, and I've seen him many times since and everything is fine. We're both 26 now, although we're not friends anymore we'd still talk if we bumped into each other. I've actually apologized to him since, and he laughed and accepted it. But for some reason, I've always thought what I did when I was 12 was my huge regret of childhood. I think it's because it's the first time I realized I could be so easily swayed by others into doing things I really shouldn't. Just to fit in. At that time I cared more about what these idiots thought about me, than hurting the feelings of someone who doesn't deserve it.
I've learned from this since, and I actually can safely say I've never done anything like that again."
"I feel like such a horrible person for this especially considering I was once in this girl's position as the super shy depressed kid in middle school.
During my first year of high school, I was sitting with a group of girls and we saw this girl sitting by herself, we invited her over and got to know her. She became very attached to me. At first, it was sweet since she didn't have friends but then she began to get very manipulative and stir drama in my friend group saying one person was talking badly about me, just petty drama to get me all to herself.
She'd show me her self harm scars which was triggering but I thought it was all because she trusted me. Maybe she did? I don't know. It got bad and I just wanted to be done with her. It got the point where she was giving me best friends necklaces and wearing them around. I lost one and she bought me another necklace but not because she knew I lost it but because she did it just to do it.
So I was sitting with the same group of friends again and I told them about it. One girl said she knew what to do and ripped the clasp off the necklace then told me to give it back to her. I knew it was wrong, but I did it anyways. At first she smiled then she stopped smiling and stared at the necklace.
I felt terrible I wanted to apologize right after I did it, I tried finding her social media to message her but can't find her."
"I had a friend who was rather bossy but I was too nice to say anything. In the fourth grade, we would carpool once a week to our acting class that we had outside of school. Her mom was a third grade teacher at our school, so we would usually just hang out at the school until it was time to go to our class.
One day, my friend decided to build a fort made out of textbooks in an empty classroom. I asked if I could participate, but she told me I would just mess it up and to just roll around in a swivel chair to entertain myself. I was insulted, but obeyed.
So she was in her completed textbook fort, which I wasn’t allowed inside of, and I was kicking off of walls and other surfaces to accelerate myself in the chair as it was my only entertainment at the time. Without thinking, I kicked off of the fort, and the textbooks collapsed onto her. For the the first time ever, I had seen the tough girl cry. I felt horrible.
Her mom ran into the room and asked if I saw what happened. I didn’t know what to say, so I told her, 'I think maybe my foot was in the wrong place.' I think she assumed I meant it messed with the structural integrity of the fort, which, in a way, it did.
Neither of them ever found out it was me. I don’t talk to the girl anymore as I have moved since then, but I still feel bad about the whole thing."
"When I was a little kid, I used to be a Girl Scout. Every Christmas, the Girl Scouts would have a Christmas secret Santa type of thing. You would get in a circle and play a song while passing presents around and when the song ended that was the gift you received. Everyone had to do it.
Well the presents were wrapped and I noticed one that looked like a Barbie doll. Now at the time I hated barbies, I hated them with a passion. Every year, my parents or someone would give me a Barbie doll even though I asked my parents not to give me one. Another reason was that my male relatives when I was a kid would get these cool toys and other stuff whenever we visited for Christmas but I would always get a doll. When I would go home or went to my room after receiving the dreaded Barbie doll, I would rip off it’s head.
Now during the game many of the other girls noticed that it was a Barbie doll as well. Many of us tried to pass it off to each other as quickly as possible. But it landed on me. With all my child rage I began throwing a hissy fit, screaming about how I got a Barbie doll. I even ripped it out of the package and pulled of its head, stomping on it.
Let’s just say my parents had to take me home. The good news was I never received a Barbie doll from my parents ever again, but looking back at it, the girl who brought the Barbie doll didn’t seem well off and probably came from a poor background. A Barbie doll was probably all her parents could afford.
So I was pretty spoiled brat on that one."
"When I was about 6 or 7 years old, we went to Palm Springs on some vacation. This was probably '98 or 99, when Pokemon was HUGE. My mom wanted to do some shopping and took me to a mall. One of the stores we went to was a book store.
Well, I was in luck: in this store they were selling the Pokemon Handbook that included Mew and Togepi, which the original handbook didn't have. I showed it to my mom and begged her to buy it. However, considering I already had the original book she said no. I was sad, but continued to look through it. Then we left the store and began doing window shopping on our way back to the rental car.
The parking lot was all the way on the other side of the mall. When we finally got there, I tried to open the car door but noticed I couldn't: there was a book in my hand. I turned to my mom and showed her my accidental thievery. She looked at the book, then looked across the parking lot at the mall.
My mom decided it was too far to walk. I got my stupid Pokemon book, and became the first successful thief in my family."