Inspired by Corinne’s recent post on irrational childhood fears (I wrote one about my own childhood fears here), here are some stupid things I believed when I was a child:

stupid things I thought when I was young

That women weren’t allowed to drive

My mum didn’t drive (she actually can drive, but I’d never seen her do it…) and neither did either of my grandmothers. My dad and grandfathers, meanwhile, were all drivers, so my assumption from this was that women weren’t allowed to drive, and only men could do it. My world was rocked to its core the first time I saw a friend’s mum get behind the wheel – and I screamed my stupid head off the first time I saw my own mum do it. Sorry mum – and, you know, womankind in general. I should never have doubted you.

Or drink coffee

Before you go thinking I grew up in some kind of twisted, woman-hating community, let me just say that, as with the driving, this was a belief born from the simple observation that my mum always drank tea, while my dad always drank coffee, ergo ALL women and men must be divided thus in their hot-beverage preferences. One day, however, we were visiting my grandparents and I realised, to my absolute astonishment, that my gran was drinking coffee, while my granddad had a nice cup of tea. Again, my young world was rocked: if I could go back in time and tell my younger self that she would one day drive AND drink coffee, she would probably have assumed she was going to grow up to be a man…

That there was a place called ‘Thyness’

Every morning in school, they’d make us all stand up and recite The Lord’s Prayer, which we learned by rote. No one ever took the time to explain what the words meant, and I’d never seen it written down (I was still learning to read at that time, so that’s probably why), so my mind translated the line, “For thine is the kingdom” into “for Thyness the kingdom”, and I decided ‘Thyness’ must be another place, a bit like heaven – maybe like God’s holiday home, or something? I was quite confused by why God needed TWO places to live, but I believed in the existence of ‘Thyness’ until I one day saw the words to the prayer written down, and felt pretty stupid. Not as stupid as my friend Barrie, though, who spent part of his childhood thinking God was called ‘Harold’. ‘For Harold be thy name?’

That God and Santa Claus were related

Can you tell ours wasn’t a religious house? I knew, of course, that God and Santa weren’t the same person, but it seemed to me that they must be related – brothers, maybe, or first cousins, at the very least. Think about it, though: both had long white beards, a connection to Christmas day, lived in the sky (more on that later), were able to watch us at all times, and were both quite judgey, with a particular interest in whether we’d been naughty or nice. The only differences, as far as I could tell, were that Santa hadn’t created the world, and God didn’t give us toys every Christmas. I know which one was my favourite, is all I’m saying…

That the North Pole wasn’t a real place (also, was a literal pole)

I see you looking a bit confused there: did you not know Santa lives in the sky? I believed he did: a belief born of nothing more than the fact that he was always depicted flying through the sky on his sleigh. If the sleigh could fly, I concluded Santa must live in the sky, because why else would he want to spend a lot of time there? For this reason, I imagined the North Pole (which is where I’d been told he lived), floating above the earth, somewhere between Heaven and Thyness, and supported by a very long pole. Obviously such a place did not actually exist, because COME ON, PEOPLE, so, unlike Heaven and Thyness, which were totes real (and also floating above the earth), I thought the North Pole was just a made-up place, like Narnia or somewhere. Imagine my embarrassment the first time I saw the world map…

 That wolves weren’t real either

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but, as with the North Pole, I thought wolves were made up. I thought this purely because my only knowledge of them came from Little Red Riding Hood: I knew – or was at least fairly sure –  that Red Riding Hood was made up, so the natural conclusion was that wolves were, too. Also, they could talk, and everyone knows animals can’t talk, STUPID.

And neither was I, actually

This is all getting a bit meta now, but to this day my mum likes to tell the story of how I’d sometimes pause dramatically in the middle of whatever I was doing, turn to her, and say, “Mummy… am I REAL?” It seemed quite implausible to me that I could be a real person, so I was quietly convinced I wasn’t one. I have NO IDEA what I thought I was if I wasn’t real, of course, but there was no real evidence to disprove my theory, and actually, there still isn’t. Well, have any of YOU ever seen me? Exactly.

I’m sure there were more of these, but I’ve embarrassed myself enough for one post, so if anyone has some strange childhood beliefs of their own to share, I’d love to hear them!

59 Comments
  1. I found this really funny, especially as my eldest asked me only last night if wolves were real. Obviously I told him the truth, that they were real, they are a bit like dogs and that he has seen them at the zoo. But I can’t help but wonder whether I have just given him my irrational fear of dogs!

    1. When I worked out that they were real, I spent a bit of time thinking they had maybe BEEN real, but were now extinct: I just couldn’t seem to wrap my head around the fact that they existed!

  2. Love this post! I must have so many of these too but can’t think of any off the top of my head. I do however have one related to your “Thyness” one – my mum confessed recently that, despite growing up with a fairly Catholic mother and attending Sunday school, she’d always thought there was a God and a Peter God… “Thanks Peter God” (ie. Thanks be to God). So apparently we’ve now got the normal one, Harold and Peter!!

    1. haha, that’s so funny! I bet there are tons of mis-hearings of that prayer! I’m going to forever assume now that there’s a Peter God, who is friends with Harold 🙂

      1. On a similar note:

        There’s a common German prayer that people say at mealtime. It starts with the words “Komm, Herr Jesus, sei unser Gast…” (meaning “Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest…”) Somebody who knew it only from hearing it had always understood “Komma Jesus,…”, which does indeed sound similar. And had always wondered why a prayer would start with a punctuation mark…

  3. I used to wonder all the time whether I was real! My parents always got a kick out of it, but my childhood was full of existential mini-crises. I’m glad to know at least one other person went through this.

  4. Haha I love that you thought that God and Santa were related – kinda makes sense in a kid’s mind! They are both kind of magical, all powerful beings! I think I must have been a kind of boring kid, I didn’t have any mind blowing moments when I questioned my own existence or anything like that!

    1. Oh, totally – I think I must have seen some picture of God which depicted him as having a long, white beard, too: they were practically separated at birth!

  5. When I was little, my dad asked me how I knew I wasn’t just a character in a book somebody was reading – talk about existential crises! I *still* don’t know that I’m not. And YOU kind of are, even if you ARE writing the book yourself. Amber, ARE WE REAL?!

    1. OMG, ARE WE?!

      I think reading a lot probably contributed to the confusion… I knew there were things that were real, and things that were made up, but when so many of the “real” things seem made up, and so many of the made up things seem real, how are you supposed to know?

  6. Thanks for these… the joys of a young mind! I also thought the North Pole was a literal pole. Why else would it be called a pole?! When I was kid I was convinced that there were little people in the TV acting out everything for me on the screen. I used to go behind the TV and look for them!

    1. Oh, that’s awesome! And I hope you’re not offended by the comparison, but I remember when Rubin was a puppy, if there were dogs on TV, he would sometimes run round to the back of it to look for them – I think he thought they were trapped in there 🙂

      1. My Gran had a dog that did this. She was a rescue, and we think she must have had a litter taken away from her. If there were puppies on the TV, she’d spend ages looking for them.

  7. Children are always getting funny ideas into their heads about what is “for girls” and “for boys”. I mean, basically, society has told them that gender is very important and that many unconnected hobbies and interests are either male or female, so they’re working very hard to sort out which is which based on what they see around them. I was pretty sure salt was for girls and pepper was for boys, and that boys were supposed to do all of the vacuuming and cooking, purely because my dad and grandfather did (imagine how I felt to discover what society really thinks about that!).

    I never really thought I wasn’t real (except in the vague Philosophy 101 sense of “how can we even know anything exists at all?”), but to this day there is a part of my brain that is convinced that Elvis is fictional. I genuinely find it quite jarring when people reminisce about going to his concerts. I thought that the whole birth of Jesus thing was just an alternate Christmas story to Santa Claus, and I was quite surprised when I realized people actually believed the in the former but not the latter (er…mine was also not a religious household either).

    And I’ve got my own Thyness too: we were taught the nursery song Frère Jacques in school, but unfortunately my French was rather limited, so I was convinced that “Sonnez les matines” was actually sonnalomatina, and also (for some reason) that this was the longest word in French. That’s why they put it in the song. Obviously.

    1. I totally thought it was something like “sonnalomatina” too! Now that I look back on it, it’s actually quite weird that children are/ were taught to recite French nursery rhymes and the Lord’s Prayer by rote, without being told what the words actually mean. I remember there was quite a lot of the Lord’s prayer that made NO sense to me at all. I mean, why was I forgiving “debtors” – I was five? And God didn’t actually GIVE us any bread, so why was he to be thanked for it? So confusing!

  8. This is a brilliant post Amber! I especially love that women drink tea, and men drink coffee. The logic of a small person is unbeatable! I thought that if you stood in wet concrete, you would get cancer. I actually think a schoolteacher told me this, but for years, I avoided wet concrete like the plague!

  9. I bought this house based on a childhood fear of the dark. We had an L shaped top landing and the light didn’t reach one part where out bedroom was. I was so scared going to bed, so when I saw this house with a”square” galleried staircase with lots of light I knew I had to have it so my kids would never be afraid there. 🙂

  10. This post was super cute. I love child thoughts. If you haven’t seen the video “You poked my heart” on youtube, watch it. It’s an argument between a small girl & boy over whether it is “sprinkling” or “raining” outside.

    One of my friends thought well into adulthood that the word “subtle” (pronounced in her head as “sub-till I suppose”?) that she read, was a separate word than the word “subtle” (pronounced the normal way) that people spoke. Her mind was blown when she realized they were one word.

    When I was small I convinced myself that I was a unicorn trapped in a girl’s body. Way too much of the movie “The Last Unicorn” for me.

  11. Oh dear, the Harold one tickled me!! Having grown up in Wales, nobody really told me the distinction between English words and Welsh ones – even English speaking Welsh people use the odd bit of Welsh, but they don’t TELL you that it’s Welsh. How is a child supposed to know?! It wasn’t until I went to university in England and was happily using Welsh vocabulary that I realised nobody outside of Wales spoke like that…

    And to this day, I still think that Gary Glitter sings “do you wanna be in Margate”.

    1. I had similar issue in that my parents have a tendency to invent words and sayings, which will be the result of an in joke or something. To this day I sometimes have to stop and ask myself if a word I’m about to use is “real”, or if it’s just a word my parents invented! Terry’s mum, meanwhile, is Greek, and sometimes picks up or pronounces English words wrong – Terry grew up thinking there was a thing called a “planget”, which was a particular type of blanket: it took his friends ages to convince him otherwise 🙂

      1. Family language jokes! My dad is the worst for this. I am forever saying things I think are quite normal only to be stared at as though I am slightly mad. Suggestive biscuits (digestives), flimos (flamingos), giraffets (draughts)…thanks, Dad.

  12. Try having parents who have the same birthday… I genuinely thought for many years that you could only marry someone if you shared the same birthday. I’m pretty sure I believed that well into secondary school… I think the evidence here clearly suggests that it’s all the parents’ fault.

    1. Ha! My mum and her brother have the same birthday, although there’s a two year age gap between them: I knew not everyone had the same birthday as their siblings, but I DID think that people had children purely as a result of making the decision, “I think I’ll have children now”, so my grandparents obviously just wanted to keep things neat!

  13. I don’t remember thinking stupid things or having existencial crisis when I was a kid, but I was TERRIFIED of the Grinch. Just seeing a picture of him made me hide under furniture. I even remember having a dream in which he kidnapped me and hid me under my bed- good times. I only overcame my fear when I was 12. I was scared of a book/movie character for nine years

  14. This is hilarious – it’s crazy the things kids come up with! I used to think that “tomorrow” was a day of the week and constantly asked my mum “Is it tomorrow today?”

  15. One day my 4 year old son came running inside from the garden to tell me he had seen God. Intrigued I followed him out for him to show me a beautiful rainbow in the sky. That’s God

  16. I thought God/Santa were related too. When I went to my parents house this Christmas, I found I Christmas list that I had wrote to Santa when I was around 8. It asked him to wish Jesus a Happy Birthday and deliver him a birthday card that I had wrote for him and left beside the mince pies.

    It’s so strange the things we seem to quietly just accept as a child!

    Corinne x

    1. Haha, love it! It really is funny the way children just accept these things – I mean, it never even occurred to me to just ASK people what this ‘Thyness’ place was all about or anything – I just quietly accepted it existed!

  17. Genuinely have tears of laughter rolling down my face reading this. Thyness & Harold be thy name in particular are killing my abs right now, possibly Catholic school related problems in humour :L

  18. Haha this is quite cute!
    When I was little I thought our (the Australian) anthem went “our land is dirt by sea” instead of “our land is girth by sea”. In my defence I’m sure the average child has no idea what girth means and at least dirt makes (some) sense!

  19. I did think all men who had beards were nice men because my dad had one (still does, still do 🙂 )Where my parents live it’s in the hills and there’s a few farms about, in the last few years I lived there the farmer began to use his field (stopping us using it to play on I might add, how dare he!) and he had highland cattle and every winter they would disappear, I always thought they went back to Scotland, I was 22 when I was finally disillusioned.
    Also my great grandparents had some beautiful 1930’s bedroom furniture, the large wardrobe stood on the landing and I always thought there was dead body in it. It took me years to go upstairs on my own.
    Ooh and I thought another great grandma was a witch because she was quite old and wrinkly with white hair, and she ate porridge, the food of witches obviously. Poor woman, every time mum made go over to her I cried!

    1. Oh no! The cows!

      I always found large wooden wardrobes super creepy when I was a kid – to this day, it’s hard not to think of them as “haunted”!

  20. I did a similar thing when I was little to your Lord’s Prayer story when I misunderstood the words to While Shepherds Watched. Apparently I asked my mum who Ted was (“all see Ted on the ground”…).

    1. *Splutters* I’m loving all these mis-hearings! More convinced than ever that schools need to teach children what the words actually MEAN in these things!

  21. I am with you on the North Pole being an actual pole. Why else would it be called that?!

    Also, I thought that only a woman could be Prime Minister because Margaret Thatcher was in office from about 20 days after I was born until I was 11. My parents watched that comedy show Yes, Prime Minister and I had the hardest time understanding why the Prime Minister in it was a man. Surely only women could do that job?
    x

    1. Ha, much like my God/Santa confusion, I thought Margaret Thatcher was related to the queen – they were both “old” (to me, anyway) women with short, curly hair, who were in charge of the country, so I figured they were related:)

  22. This was a great post Amber, gave me a chuckle. I used to believe that sabre tooth tigers were not extinct and that one would eat me. I was absolutely terrified and would sit in bed at night thinking the house creaking was an evil tiger coming to eat me.

  23. This post was funny, Amber, and profound because now I know I’m not the only kid in the world believing something completely nuts! My family moved from California to the midwest when I was 10. During the time we were crossing the ‘desert’ aka Nevada and Arizona, my parents let me sit in the front seat with them (this was the 70’s, no seatbelt required). This was a really special treat because we were a family of 8 in a station wagon, with three kids in the middle seat and three in the ‘trundle’ seat in the back which also faced backwards. We were separated by age. The three big kids and the three little kids. That meant my twin and I were stuck with our next oldest sister who unfortunately suffered from motion sickness but refused to take the pills. I hope this is conveying just how special this FRONT SEAT visit was. The odd thing is for YEARS I was convinced that my parents moved me to the front seat because I was MELTING. LITERALLY. I have no idea where I got such an odd idea. No part of my body has ever shown evidence of any kind of melt. But I told that story every chance I got, far longer than I should have picked up the clue phone that it couldn’t be true. I must have been very believable because no one who heard it was ever skeptical but maybe they thought I just didn’t know what ‘literally’ meant.

  24. Hahaha I also believed Jesus and Santa were the same, I think because they have that mystery surrounding them. You never see them but you’re meant to believe in their existence. You made me laugh, thank you!

    http://www.ohheyblog.com

  25. We used to sing the alphabet, and I though l-m-n-o-p was one letter called elemento. It didn’t occur to me to wonder why that letter had a longer name than all the others.

    We also used to tell my little brother to stop acting like a know-it-all and he couldn’t understand why being like a Noah Doll was a bad thing. I mean, Noah is a good guy in the Bible after all!

  26. when I was really little, like four or something like that, i thought that every adult male was named Ola. Since my father, my aunts boyfriend and my older sisters boyfriend where all called that it made total sense to me./ida

    https://loveitorleaveme.blogspot.com

  27. I love this! I also believed all kinds of ridiculous things when I was a child, probably partly because of reading. I still slightly struggle with the fact that I’m real – I get odd flashes of absolute terror about it every now and again (less so now I’m older and have actual, real stuff to worry about). How can I possibly be a real person, and this be my life? How do I know I’m not a character in someone’s book?

    It freaks me out so much I have to distract myself and actively think about something else until the feeling goes away… which I need to do now…

  28. This is fantastic! Harold be thy name, indeed. I can remember being on the playground in preschool or kindergarten, around age five, singing “Swing low, sweet cherry ott,” while rocking on a spring horse. I had no idea what cherry otts were, but they could carry you home. It was several years before I finally learned about chariots and the whole thing made much more sense.

  29. Whenever I asked my Mum when we were going to do something that was happening in two days she’d always say “not today, not tommorow but the next day.”
    For years I used ‘the next day’ instead of ‘the day after tommorow’. It took me ages to figure out why people couldn’t understand me! 🙂

  30. I loved reading this! When I was a kid, my mom used to tell me that I needed my vegetables to become a big girl. She didn’t realize how seriously I believed this until one evening she served me Mac n’ cheese without peas (I always had peas in my Mac n’ cheese!) and I flipped out. “I need my vegetables!! I’m not going to grow up!!!” I wailed, while dragging over my stepstool to the freezer, and flinging frozen veggies to the ground. … Yea, I think parents don’t realize quite how literally small children believe everything. (I was about 3!)

  31. I used to believe that if you had blue eyes, you saw everything in shades of blue, brown eyed people saw everything in shades of brown ect. I just thought I had magic (blue) eyes that let me see in glorious technicolour!

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