What to Do When Someone Is Different

Trying It Out

Charlie

Courtesy of Meg R. Zucker

One day when Charlie was around 4, I took him to the mall and we saw a woman who appeared to have been burned. In a clear and booming voice, Charlie asked me (pointing with his two fingers), "What's wrong with her face?" The woman looked down at Charlie and smiled uncomfortably.

Bracing myself for anything, I grabbed Charlie's hand and approached the woman.

"Hi, I am Meg, and this is my son Charlie. I love your outfit. Where did you get it?"

"Bloomingdale's," she responded with a grin.

Then Charlie, who was holding my hand, also turned to her and asked, "Are you a mommy?"

She looked at him directly. "I'm not a mommy, but I am an aunt and I have two nieces and a nephew. In fact, my nephew looks a lot like you!" Charlie smiled at her and then went over to the fountain in the mall so he could throw in his penny for a wish.

As we were getting ready to drive home, I leaned over to Charlie in his car seat and said, "Charlie, everyone is different. Each person's uniqueness is what makes that person special. If we all looked the same, this world would be an extremely boring place, don't you think?" He smiled and nodded.

After buckling him in, I asked, "What did you wish for when you threw your penny into the fountain?"

"I wished that I could meet that lady's nephew who looks like me."

It suddenly occurred to me that he may have believed her nephew had only two fingers on each hand, just like he does. Striking up a conversation with her not only made her feel more comfortable and accepted, it made Charlie feel more connected too.

Originally published in the December 2011 issue of Parents magazine.

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