Squirrels

All people are genuinely human. We all experience the human existence differently, but we share over 99.9% of our DNA with every other human on the planet (and 50% with bananas). However, with all of this similarity there are different things at which each individual excels.

My folks raised us in cities. The smallest town I’d ever lived in until my 20s was Santa Fe, NM. In retrospect, Santa Fe still feels small. I was raised as a city kid. I have a Texas accent, but it is minimal. I was 11 before I knew what a grain elevator was, and the only reason that I can name many Texas wildflowers, is because my mother is from a small town in central Texas, and it was very important to her that we know the names of the Texas wildflowers. My dad was also raised in a small town in Texas, and both of my parents prefer city living, because that is where they best excel at their gifts.

My mother told me a wonderful story recently, which I felt embodied an idea that has been germinating in my subconscious for a while. My mother was raised in the country, as were her cousins. They were very close to their grandparents, and their grandparents had a cottage on the outskirts of a small town in New Mexico. In the summers Papa, their grandfather, would play a game with them.

He would come outside with a bunch of shelled peanuts and line them up. The kids were required to sit completely still and quietly, and they were little kids, probably between about ages 3 and about 7 or 8. They would do it, though, and happily. Papa would unshell the peanuts slowly, and put them a few feet away from the kids, and himself. A squirrel would come up and take a peanut. Then the squirrel would hurry off, as squirrels do, and tell his friends. (In my head I assume that squirrels have some very intesnse and intricate communication system, not unlike GPS, which guides them to free food. This might mean that all squirrels are actually college students.) Then Papa would slowly put the peanuts closer and closer until the squirrels would eat the peanuts out of his hands. This only worked, however, if all of the kids sat perfectly still and quietly. And they wanted to, because they wanted to see the show. After all, who wouldn’t want to see a live reenactment of Snow White or Davy Crockett? It was the 1950s.

A lot of positive changes have happened since the 1950s. However, as my mom told me this story I couldn’t help but think of how many kids come through my door because of attention difficulties. Their teachers report that they can’t sit still. Their parents are frustrated that it seems like they don’t listen. Their coaches are recommending tutoring so that they can stay on the teams, and their doctors are recommending medicine. ADHD is very real, and for the kids and adults who struggle with it the medication can make huge improvements in their quality of life. But I can’t help but wonder, have we neglected to teach this generation how to focus? What incentives do they have to sit still and listen quietly? Who is setting that example for them?

I hope that you can find incentive in your own life to be still and calm in the upcoming days. Perhaps you’ll have the opportunity to go to Zilker park, with some peanuts still in their shells.

Nyssa Hoerner is an LMFT-Associate, supervised by Bill Woodburn, LPC, LMFT, MEd, and is currently accepting new clients. Sign up for her newsletter by visiting her website at www.nyssahoernercounseling.com.

Photo Credit: Cyril the Squirrel Up for a Challenge by Brian Snelson https://www.flickr.com/photos/exfordy/

A single golf clap? Or a long standing ovation?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.