Almost 30 years ago, a young hip-hop duo composed of The Fresh Prince (Will Smith) and DJ Jazzy Jeff (Jeff Townes) released a song called “Parents Just Don’t Understand,” describing key differences between a teenage boy and his parents. Decades later, Mr. Smith and Mr. Townes are both fathers. As cool as we remember them, they have now embraced the roles they had rapped about before, and even have moments where they sometimes just don’t understand their children (but then again, who really does understand Jaden Smith?).
The parent-child connection can be a frustrating thing. Between the groundings and seemingly unfair punishments, the occasional lack of technological knowledge, and their sometimes-embarrassing moments, it’s hard to believe parents were ever teenagers. But before they were talking ceramics, buying newspapers on vacation, explaining the historical significance of something and reminding you to wear a sweater, they too once navigated that awkward, rebellious, unfortunate phase known as the teenage years. They may have been part of a different generation and not have had the same technology, but they’re still very familiar with the rough results of adolescence.
15 They Had Regrettable High School Photos
Apparently, Deb from “Napoleon Dynamite” had some photographic inspiration from decades-old embarrassing high school pictures. Everything about this photo is old-fashioned. The hand by the chin. The gazing off somewhere into the distance of the probably-tight-quartered yearbook photography space. The carpet-gray background. The distinctive curly-haired bowl cut and the class ring the size of a rock. This photo may seem old, but at the time of this father’s youth, it was just the norm. Little did he know how being an unintentional and unironic combination of Napoleon Dynamite and Uncle Rico in a high school photo would come to haunt him. Our high school photo may seem normal to us now, but we’ll have to wait to see how our photo trends age as the years progress.
14 They Received Naughty Messages
Most of our parents lived before the age where nudes and crude messages can easily be sent and received with the little hand-held screens we have now. Before, they had to get their private messages in tangible formats like polaroids and paper notes. This Redditor found a message a little more scandalous and straight-forward to their mother. After wondering why their father had hid the yearbook from them for so long, the Redditor finally glanced through their mother’s yearbook to find this message from a mystery suitor that said something along the lines of, “Lisa, I have admired your voluptuous, sexy body from afar. I dream about your sweet, tantalizing lips…You turn me on!” Talk about forward! Surprisingly, this suitor was not the Redditor’s father.
13 They Made Questionable Fashion Choices
One thing we can always differ with our parents about is our fashion choices. We have crop tops, man buns, and on-fleek eyebrows. Depending on the generation, our parents had mullets, teased hair, and, in this Redditor’s father’s case, high-to-heaven colored, spiked up hair. In a post on the aptly-titled subreddit “Blunder Years,” a Redditor posted a photo of his adolescent father from 1995 (hard to believe teenagers from the 90s are even parents now!). Between the flannel in the background, the tie-dye t-shirt, the angsty, spiked up hair and the general filterless-ness of this photo, I wonder if there’s a photo in existence that can out-1995 this 1995 photo. Maybe the Redditor followed in his father’s spikey-haired footsteps, or maybe they’re out there pursuing a different fashion faux pas.
12 Like, Really Questionable Fashion Choices
The '80s were a special time. The colors. The hair metal. The many hairstyles that did their best to reach heaven. This poster’s mother knows a thing about the '80s. She knows the '80s well. Just based on this photo alone, we can see how un-immune she was to the times: the hair large enough to swallow up a tiny chihuahua, the uncertain stance, the outfit, the paneling, the VHS, the old-fashioned lamp in the background, the stereo, the shag carpeting…we can go on and on with how much this single photo epitomizes the '80s. The point is, if OP ever had the audacity to say their mother doesn’t understand the pressures to conform to the trends of the day and age, they just need to remember this photo. Remember this photo, because if anything, their mother can absolutely understand the misfortune of haunting adolescent photos and distinctive fashion choices from her youthful days.
11 They Satisfied Their...Impulses
Most people have those embarrassing “my parent walked in on me watching the most inappropriate thing!” stories. It may be disturbing to think our parents had those same moments of sneakily trying to watch naughty things, but they did – they just had to encounter different obstacles. We have Netflix, Hulu, television and Internet to distract ourselves with great content and the shows we want to watch. But for many of our parents, they never had the same luxuries we have. In fact, because of their lack of what we have now, they often had to get creative when it came to obtaining adult content. As mentioned by these Redditors, finding/getting their adult content wasn’t an on-demand process for them like it is for the youth these days. Kids these days don’t have to work nearly as hard or wait as much to watch adult content.
10 They Made Sacrifices For Their Romantic Interests
To many of us, our parents were like superheroes – seemingly invincible and always willing and able to sacrifice everything for us (whether we acknowledged said sacrifices or not). But before they ever had children, they too made questionable choices when it came to what they sacrificed and why they sacrificed. Take this Redditor-turned-parent for example, who admitted his regrettable decision to trade one of his valued stones in exchange for a hug with his crush. Why did he value the shiny stone so much? Did he have a smooth shiny stone collection? Why did he, and who did he, have to exchange the smooth rock in order to hug one of his crushes? So many questions. But details aside, this once teenager was willing to give away something he loved for a crush, something many teens do nowadays whether that sacrifice is money or time away from their screens.
9 They Got A Little Freaky
Young love is a fascinating and oftentimes poetic thing. Romeo and Juliet. Jack Dawson and Rose DeWitt Bukater. This Redditor’s parents, when they were teenagers, might have a chance at joining such ranks of poetic teen love. When finding his mother’s yearbook, he discovered a message from a suitor that said, “Mary Ann, a very sexty little titts and big ass. You’ll go far with equipment like that. Love, John.” I think I once read a Shakespeare line along those lines…or maybe that was Snoop Dogg? Fortunately, or possibly unfortunately depending on how you see it, the message was from the Redditor’s father to his mother. It’s great to see that love for each other went beyond those attributes described in that tender message. Oh, young love. Or should I say, young lust.
8 They Made Bad Decisions
Most parents ooze responsibility and the need for discipline, and if it seems like they have an easy time figuring out what crazy things we’re up to, it may be because they too had their own wild moments and mistakes they’re trying to keep from us. In an AskReddit thread asking parents what they hope their children never find out about, one parent detailed their party phase, specifically one vomit-fueled night where the party host had to take care of said parent as a teenager. The now-parent describes the time he had to be cleaned up not just of his own vomit, but of someone else’s vomit, by the poor girl who was throwing the party. The Redditor was so out of it he even asked the unlucky host to wipe his butt, which she sensibly declined. Who knows whether this parent will ever tell their children about their extreme party ways from when they were younger, but it wouldn’t be surprising if they made sure to caution their kids of having too much alcohol and living a night of vomit and regret.
7 They Rebelled Against the Law
Parents weren’t always old enough to drink legally and do normal adult things. In fact, they too had their own rebellious phases and had to get crafty when it came to getting their young hands on items that were beyond their years. This Redditor recognized this first-hand when he found his father’s fake I.D. Even though the fake I.D. seems a little pointless because it would show the father to be under-aged (in our day and age) anyway, the Redditor explained this I.D. was used in 1978 when South Carolina hadn’t yet raised the legal drinking age for beer to 19 or 21 yet. At the time, the father was only 16-17 using this fake I.D. to get some beer for his adolescent self. Now-a-days, the father is probably more focused on making sure his son and his children are safe and not in prison, but back in his teenage years in the 70s, he was a low-key rebel just trying to get his under-aged beer fix in.
6 They Tried Hard to Impress Their Crush
Sometimes we try a little too hard to impress our crushes in our youth, just like our parents, who weren’t always the duo of love they appear to be. Before they were together, or before they met, they were just awkwardly trying to get things going with their boo. Take this now-mother for example. Instead of being upfront about her feelings with her skateboarding beau, she decided to take a risky method of getting his attention by trying to skateboard on a half-pipe – even though she had never touched a skateboard in her life. Unfortunately for her, she suffered an embarrassing and painful fall when trying to do a cool trick in front of not only her crush, but in front of everyone at the local skate area. Not unfortunate for her, she and her crush eventually got in a relationship and still appear to be together with a daughter of their own. Maybe one day that daughter will take a lesson from her mother and take a half-pipe to the eye in hopes of catching a handsome suitor. You just never know.
5 They Experimented with Substances
The '70s were a pretty wild time. From frequent drug use, disco, punk, partying – parents of 1970s youth had a whole different set of rebellion they had to deal with. This Redditor asked their father for a photo of when he was a teenager, to which the father provided this gem of himself at 18 years old standing in front of a giant marijuana plant. The fun part? The Redditor apparently doesn’t even smoke marijuana – the father must have smoked enough for the whole family. In addition to the giant amount of pot, the other standout elements include the dazed look, the shaggy-styled, “That '70s Show” Kelso-resembling hair, and of course – the jorts! The Redditor said that although it’s been years since this picture was taken, the father still hasn’t lost his love for the jorts. When someone mentioned the jean shorts, the Redditor said, “He still wears shorts like these. It’s rather awful.” You can take the man out of the jorts, but you can’t take the jorts out of the man…or something like that.
4 They Had To Nervously Deal With Crushes
Hormones and nerves in relation to romantic crushes are some of the major traits of adolescence. Before parents settled into marriage with each other, or dated like an adult as a single parent, they were exploring the uncharted territories of falling in like, lust, and love at a vulnerable stage of life – like this mother on Reddit. Youth in the 21st century have been cursed and blessed with cell phones, but with the declining existence of landlines and phone phones, they rarely have to deal with the “phone guardians” many of our parents had to deal with. This mother describes just one of the harrowing experiences of trying to get past the parent to get to the crush, and the realization that the young suitor’s parents are fully aware of their blooming, puppy-love romance. Thank goodness for cell phones!
3 They Got Creepy Messages
We get most of our creepy messages through apps and mediums like Instagram, SnapChat, Facebook, and the many dating apps at our fingertips. But back in our parents’ days, they received their odd compliments and unnecessary comments the old-fashioned way: letters and Yearbook signatures. This Redditor found one such message addressed to his mother in her Yearbook. It says, “To a great person with a great neck. I’ll see you sometime this summer. Take it easy on your little brother.” I’m not sure why this Paul fellow felt the need to compliment this woman’s neck, or why he wanted her to take it easy on her little brother. Maybe he was familiar with both her neck and her younger sibling? Who knows what was behind this odd and now mysterious Yearbook compliment. Except Paul. Paul definitely knows what he meant.
2 They Tried Out Distinctive Photography Ideas
We, as a generation, are generally blessed with camera phones and filters in our youth. Our parents? Not so much. Whereas we can play with fun backgrounds, filters, new angles, and new camera shots whenever we choose, our predecessors had different options and limitations with what they could photographically accomplish. Take this poster’s mother. Now-a-days, she could have easily accomplished her vision of calling someone amidst soda cans and crayons with the help of a cell phone and a friend or two. But back then, she really had to work with a special photographer’s vision as well. What vision was she and the photographer trying to accomplish? I’m not sure. But she was on to something. And if she has access to what technology can offer today, there’s no telling where her thematic urges are leading her.
1 They Took Pride in Their Extracurricular Activities
Before they got full-time careers and full-time responsibilities as parents, they were young students trying to balance academics, maybe a side-job, a social life, and their hobbies. This Redditor’s father was so into his hobby of chess, he found a way to incorporate it into his 1987 graduating yearbook photo. According to the original poster, the father had just been given the novelty chess set and felt the need to show it off. Between the subtle grin, the smolder, the charcoal grey background and the dope chess set, it couldn’t have been long after this photo was taken when OP’s mother was swooned into oblivion. Also, maybe it was an 80s thing, but something about putting your hand to your chin while either gazing into the distance or to the camera was quite the popular pose, along with making sure your large-as-Mars class ring was one of the main focal points.