I've watched the children come and go
A late long march into spring
I sit and watch those children
Jump in the tall grass, leap the sprinkler
Walk in the ground, bicycle clothespin spokes
The sound the smell of swingset hands

I will try to sing a happy song
I'll try and make a happy game to play

Come play with me I whispered to my new found friend
Tell me what it's like to go outside
I've never been
Tell me what it's like to just go outside
I've never been and I never will

I'm not supposed to be like this
I'm not supposed to be like this but it's ok

Hey those kids are looking at me
I told my friend myself, "those kids are looking at me"
They're laughing and they're running over here
They're laughing and they're running over here
What do I do? What can I do? What should I do?
What do I say? What can I say?

I said "I'm not supposed to be like this
Let's try to find a happy game to play
Let's try to find a happy game to play
I'm not supposed to be like this but it's ok"
Ok


Lyrics submitted by xpankfrisst

The Wrong Child song meanings
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17 Comments

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  • +3
    My InterpretationI always really really loved this song, and the reason for this is that I identify myself with The Wrong Child. To me, he is not disabled nor disturbed, just sensitive and introverted, spending time on his own and living in his own world. Beginning school is a shock to him and he gets picked on and bullied. Children often put the blame on being bullied on themselves, hence "I'm not supposed to be like this" (strange and odd and different). I also imagine "Let's try to find a happy game to play" is something a loving mother says to the sad child. The part about not going outside is not to be taken literally - he is wondering what it is like in the outside world where the other children jump in the tall grass and leap the sprinkler. I think these lyrics apply to outsider feelings in general.
    Loudeacon January 20, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General Commentwow, this isn't so uplifting..

    obviously, this song is about a disabled kid who's watching the other kids play and thinking that he never will be like them. his mentality is so uplifting, though "I'm not supposed to be like this but it's ok"
    lethologicalon August 03, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThis song is very special to me, the whole album is, actually. From the very first time I heard it, the immediate image that came to me was (as others have stated here) "the boy in the bubble", yeah; and I imagined the writer (Stipe?) fresh from watching that TV movie starring John Travolta of at least a decade earlier, sitting down and penning this song. (Lol).

    The song takes it beyond that simple context though, I feel, in that it applies to anyone and everyone who feels general alienation and isolation. It is a song for the lonely, the rejected, the hurt. The person out there that never really felt that they fit in with the rest of the world - that's my take on the "broad" scope of it, anyway. In a way it's a very sad and tragic song, but at the same time gives the listener the spiritual hope that it's not 'really' so bad maybe ("But it's Okaaaay"!) and that there is hope no matter how bad you feel it is - even if you never do manage to be freed from "that bubble. So it's overwhelming 'darkness' is balanced by an uplifting reassurance.

    I love R.E.M. They are amazing to me in the sense that they have the ability to take the complex and simplify it into a song like this one. "Everybody hurts" tends to do the same to me as this one does when I listen to it. Such utter and raw emotion, translated into such a simplistic little "musical" package. That is the "art" (and 'wonder'!) of R.E.M.
    Sarkoloffon May 11, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General CommentActually, I never thought of the lyrics in "literal" terms because so much of R.E.M. lyrics are metaphorically driven. I have always felt this was a song about a young person realizing he/she is gay. Michael Stipes uses so much of his personal life in creative ways with their songs, why not this topic? Perhaps because I am gay I can hear the loneliness in Stipes' voice as he sings almost lamentingly, thinking back about his own childhood. In addition to the lyrics, just the sound of his voice hearkens back to my teen years when I began to realize I was not like, nor would I ever be like, the majority of my friends.

    The descriptions of the kids playing in the first verse, to me, simply represent that the other kids are doing "normal" things because they are, by society's standards, "normal". The person singing is obviously "not normal" in some way. The description in the second verse about never having been outside... again, I don't read that in a literal sense but in a figurative one... I've never been outside and I never will, to me, is more of describing the most absolute normal activity of a human being... to go outside... but in this case, meaning being "normal" like the other kids... and knowing that I am gay I will never experience what they are experience. In that sense, I will never go outside of what I know is my world.

    The other kids are "looking at me" and laughing (presumably at him) as they are running over there. They seem to be making fun of him but as he says, although (by society's standards) he is not supposed to "be like this... it's ok".

    As I mentoined, I am gay myself. While society is more and more accepting of homosexuality, at the time this song was written, it was still not accepted at all. It was not considered "normal".

    Just my two cents. One of the things I love about their songs is that there can be so many interpretations and meanings to anyone who takes the time to really listen beyond the music and into the lyrics.
    bimdanon February 19, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General CommentWhy would a disabled child not ever go outside?

    I think it's about a disturbed child. The double voice on the track is quite disturbing to me.
    simsfreqon January 14, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentWhy would a disabled child never go outside? The kid could be missing his legs or have some deformity that makes it very hard to run around like the other kids are.
    xodon March 09, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentOh boy- why does this song remind me of David Firth animations? When you really look at the song it starts to become so much more unnerving...

    It could even be an -adult- that's disturbed, that has a child's mind. He sits in the park, helpless and made fun of by children.
    Yubi Shineson July 05, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI Googled this and found a site that said it's about a story in the newspaper about a kid that had been really badly burned and him going outside again.
    But I'm not sure about that. Because it says the kid's never been outside. It makes me think of an abused child creating an imaginary friend, or a kid with haemophillia who couldn't go and play with the other kids and everyone else made fun of them for it.
    psycholollyon September 10, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI've always assumed this song was about the "Boy in the Bubble" from the late 1970's.

    wired.com/news/culture/video/…
    forest29on March 18, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis seems simply to be about insanity, maybe paranoia.
    This person hasn't been attached to the outside world, even if he's literally outside. He's within his own mind, speaking to himself. He doesn't know how to react when approached.
    He knows something is not right about him, but is still just stuck in his head.
    Napuraon November 22, 2007   Link

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