Out of Control and Annoying
Oscar the Octopus, was thankful his sad, salty tears couldn’t be seen as he drifted through the reef’s clear water. How did I become the loneliest creature in the reef? he asked himself. All I can do is cause pain, and nobody wants me near them, Oscar thought gloomily. He knew the answer of course—it was his eight awkwardly wild arms. All eight of them were long and impossible to control. The suckers on his arms only added to his frustrations.
Oscar remembered trying to swim through the reef, accidentally striking many of the delicate fish in their schools with his flailing arms as he traveled past. “Sorry,” Oscar would say sincerely to each school he uncontrollably thrashed. After every accident, the fish all turned to him with dirty looks and swam away as fast as they could. The surgeonfish, the yellow tails, they all reacted the same way in the wake of Oscar’s unintentional woundings.
Like the other reef creatures, Oscar was careful to avoid the sand sharks. Their gang was known to be nasty for no reason. He didn’t want to accidentally hit them and give them an excuse to come for him.
A Heavy Heart
One day, Oscar rested on a gathering of rocks on the ocean floor. Voices erupted behind him when he tried to leave for home. “Hey, what do you think you’re doing?” “Put us back!” “We don’t want to go anywhere!” Looking at his arms, Oscar realized he had pulled some clams out of their beds by his suckers! He spent all afternoon getting them unstuck.
Later that same day, a kind turtle noticed that Oscar was alone and looked sad. He thought Oscar might want to suction to his shell and ride on his back for some fun. With his flipper, the turtle tapped Oscar on the back of his head to say hi. Oscar was alarmed, and in his shock, he threw ink in the innocent turtle’s face and swam away before the turtle could pull himself together.
Oscar swam away far and fast until, in his exhaustion, he stopped and started to cry. How did I become the loneliest creature in the reef? he asked himself. All I can do is cause pain, and nobody wants me near them, Oscar thought gloomily. “Well I don’t want to be around them,” he said aloud with a tearful scowl.
Just then, Oscar gazed at the ocean floor. The sand sharks swam by themselves underneath him. No one goes near them, and they’re happy. They’re happy because everybody’s afraid of them! Nobody’s scared of me, he thought. Oscar’s sadness turned to anger, and his heart left him. Everyone will fear me, he thought. Then I won’t need anyone ever again.
Oscar darted through the water with an evil purpose. He wasn’t going to rest until every reef creature felt as bad as he did.
Annoying on Purpose
With an ever-deepening scowl, Oscar dove into the middle of a school of blue stripe snapper fish extended his eight arms and spun around as fast as he could. He dizzied himself striking as many fish as he could reach. The snappers dispersed to avoid him, but not all of them escaped without sore scales.
A smile of devilish pride spread across Oscar’s face as he found some starfish laying atop a collection of rocks on the ocean floor. He remembered his accident with the clams and concentrated on his suckers. He suctioned the starfish and threw them to the other side of the reef. He chucked them one at a time, then three at a time, then two on one arm. Laughing with gleeful satisfaction, Oscar watched as the starfish sailed through the water uselessly shaking their arms against the tide.
Oscar came upon a stingray minding her own business. Floating calmly along the sand, not expecting to be bothered. Oscar crept behind her, blinded her with his ink, and tried to run away. He wasn’t quick enough to avoid the ray’s tail. It smacked him right between his eyes.
Oscar cried out in pain and swam away as fast as his eight arms could move him. When he stopped, he hovered in the water looking at the reef. All the animals saw him and immediately ran from him. They’re all afraid, he thought as a proud smile came to his face.
For days, when he approached any reef creature, they all scattered to avoid him—even the sand sharks. His prideful satisfaction turned sour as his loneliness sank to new depths.
Helpfulness in Action
In despair, Oscar slowly swam to another place in the reef. In his journey, his heart returned to him. Sad, alone, and rejected he perched on a rock after making sure it wasn’t a clam. Although this part of the reef looked similar to where he came from, it was indeed new to him. As he watched the schools of fish swim by, Oscar saw starfish, anemones, and coral. For the first time, Oscar wondered if he fit anywhere in the reef.
Through the clear water in the distance, Oscar saw a blob of something struggling against itself. Approaching the brown mass, he found it was an eel.
“Are you alright?” Oscar asked.
“I’ve tied myself in a knot, and I can’t seem to get untied,” the eel grunted.
“I’ll help you,” Oscar assured him.
Using his suctions very carefully, Oscar grabbed the knotted eel with his arms and gently unknotted the creature’s slender body.
“Thank you very much, friend,” the eel said when the deed was done.
“You’re very welcome,” Oscar said with surprise at hearing the word friend. “Glad to help.”
“Mister—?“ came a little voice from behind him.
“Call me Oscar,” Oscar said, turning to find a small clownfish looking up at him.
“Mister Oscar, sir, there’s a crab with long legs stuck in the coral. He’s not far from here. Could you use your long arms to untangle him?”
“Let’s find out,” Oscar said.
With the clownfish leading the way, Oscar came to the place where the crab’s long legs were indeed stuck among the branches of the white coral.
“I’ve brought help,” the clownfish said to the crab.
“I’m so scared,” the crab uttered in a panic. “I don’t think I’ll ever get out of here.”
Oscar reached between and among the coral branches with his long arms. Lifting and moving the crab’s legs gently and carefully, Oscar freed the crab from the coral.
“Thank you! O Thank you!” the crab exclaimed over and over again. “How can I repay you?”
“Be my friend,” said Oscar. “Don’t run from me when I come near you.”
“You got it! I’ll tell everyone what you did for me,” the crab shouted as he walked off.
Octo-hugs and Friends
Oscar journeyed around the reef helping creatures out of their troubles. The creatures of the reef all came to know him and his wonderfully kind acts. And then one day, he crossed the path of a lonely turtle with sadness in his eyes.
“Hello turtle,” Oscar said in greeting. “How are you today?”
“Oh Oscar, I’m sad,” the turtle replied.
“Can I help?” Oscar asked.
“I’m not caught in the coral or cut by a fishing line,” the turtle admitted. “So, no, I don’t think you can help me. Y’see I once had more than a hundred brothers and sisters. It’s terribly lonely being the only one left.”
Without thinking, Oscar spread all eight of his long arms as far as he could and wrapped them around the turtle’s huge shell. This is where I fit in the reef, he thought as he drifted with his arms snug around the turtle.
“I guess you could help me after all,” the turtle said with a friendly smile.
“You helped me, too,” Oscar uttered as he loosened his grip.
From that day on, Oscar sought out reef creatures that needed hugs. He became known for his octo-hugs. “Hugs are free,” he’d always say. With his arms, Oscar could give eight hugs at once. Oscar was never lonely again. During each of his hugs, Oscar cried salty tears of joy which he wished the reef creatures could see so they could know his happiness.
Connect with your child:
- Why was Oscar sad?
- Did he feel better when he was mean?
- What did he learn about his tentacles?
- How did he make friends?
- How do you think it felt to be hugged by 8 arms!?
Suggestion for parents:
It can be hard to know what to do when children feel lonely. We want so badly to make them feel better and take away the pain. Unfortunately, we can't make friends for them but we can be a listening ear. Try to be sensative to when your child may be showing behaviors that may at first appear as disobedience and rebellion and seek to understand where the behavior is coming from. Maybe they are struggling in school, being bullied or feeling something they aren't sure how to articulate.
Help encourage your child to look at what they think are their weaknesses and creatively come up with ways that it could actually be turned into a strength. Like Oscar struggled to control the chaos his arms created, your child may struggle to sit still but maybe that energy can be put towards product use, such as helping the teacher when their work is done, helping another student or helping mom around the house. Find what works for your family the best and then consistently praise your child every time you catch them doing the thing you discussed.
What did you and your child think of our story?
Let us know in the comments!