The one that sticks out

A story for my 5-year-old but others can relate too.

He was also the one that doesn’t fit in. I mean, he had four brothers he hung out with, they were all synchronized, they even lived together because it was more convenient for them but he knew he didn’t fully belong there.

Why? Well, he was much taller than any of them. Wherever they went, he felt people are staring at him, thinking how ugly he is. His brothers were aware of that but they ignored it. Sometimes all five of them would stand in front of the mirror and he would discretely look at them. They were smiling, being proud of themselves, so he pretended he is proud of himself too. He would pretend he doesn’t notice his height. Maybe they will like him better if he is more similar to them.

Sometimes, when they would all fall asleep, he would sneak out and observe the world without them. He was enjoying his freedom, not being a part of the group all the time has its privileges. Sadly, that feeling never lasted long. Each time someone saw him alone, without his brothers, that someone would get insulted. Imagine that! A person gets insulted just by looking at you. If he didn’t move instantly or if his brothers didn’t join him, that person would start a conflict. Some conflicts were verbal, others more physical.

Each day he sank deeper into the feeling he will never be like others. He did his best to fit in, to be less ugly to people he didn’t even know. Nothing helped. One morning he decided to talk to his brothers. They were curious about what was that meeting about. After he finished describing his feelings, his brothers remained quiet. He thought that even they can’t find the words to comfort him. Then he heard a voice. The first brother that was ready to speak made him feel better.

“You know, I feel the same way you do. I am the chubbiest of us all. People do not stare at you because of your height. They stare at me because of my fatness. Other people react to me strangely. When you guys sleep, I too get out to enjoy some privacy. People driving a car see me alone out there and they pull over trying to get me in their cars. That scares me a lot so I run into our home as fast as I can.That is not the worst thing though. The worst thing is how you guys treat me. The four of you have always been closer to each other than to me. Whenever we are doing something important, like meeting new people, or greeting old friends, you guys send me to stand opposite to you. If we are carrying something, the four of you are always on one end and I am alone on the other end. I am the one that doesn’t fit in.  It is hard to be me.”

When he finished, another brother had something to say.

“You guys shouldn’t complain, at least you look special. I am an average looking fellow. Nobody notices me but I notice all of them. Ever since I was a child, I would sneak out without you guys to observe people. Sometimes they were too far away for me to see them properly. In those moments I would position myself into their direction in order to see better. Mum was always telling me not to do that. Apparently it is rude for me to be alone without you guys. And I wasn’t even saying anything. Just looking at the people.”

The third brother had something to say too. He straightened himself as much as he could before he started to talk.

“See, guys, at least all of you look healthy. Look at me! When you are sleeping, I try to get out but I can’t. See, I can’t even walk straight. I seem impaired compared to you guys. Of course, when I am with you, it is not visible but when I am alone I walk atilt. I mean, I can’t even look at people this way. And this golden chain around my neck. Why did that person put it here? It was hard being me without it, let alone now. You are all free of chains so you shouldn’t complain!”

As he finished his talk, little brother stood up.

“You are complaining but all I see are big and strong brothers. I am the tiniest, the thinnest, the most fragile brother of us all. When we play handball or basketball, I am the one that gets injured. Your strength protects you from injuries. Nothing protects me. When we were kids and we had a fight with our best friend, I was the one making peace with him. I would hug him, he would hug me and that was it. Now, if I want to get out without you guys, people look down at me. How dare I not to hold the cup the way you guys are holding it while drinking tea? Why am I not more like my bigger brothers?”

This was the time to ask my son “Do you know who those 5 brothers are?” He didn’t know. I described each brother – his physical appearance and the reaction people have when looking at them – and I raised each finger on my hand as I was describing it. He had problems understanding the role of the middle finger because he never saw it being used in that way. I just told him people find it rude because it is a form of swearword. We do not use it because we do not communicate with people that way. That was enough for my almost 5 year old. When he agreed he recognizes all five fingers, I had another question for him.

“Did you notice how middle finger was unhappy with his appearance?” He nodded.

“How did he feel?” – “He was sad.”

“What do you think about that and about what his brothers told him?” – “They were all sad by the way they look.”

In what I told him next I used adjective “ugly” because it was more convenient for me to get him more familiar to the topic.

“This is how people feel too. They think they are different and uglier than others but that is not true. See, each finger thought it is ugly and other fingers found it exceptional and better than themselves.”

I waited for a few moments to see if he understood what I told him before I continued with our bedtime ritual.



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