Storms, Squirrels, and a Little Boy’s Paradigm Shift

By | January 26, 2009

By Dale Smith  (GrandpaDale) © 2008 Philip Dale Smith  

First, what’s a “paradigm shift?”

That’s a fancy way of saying, “a change in how you look at things.” When I was a preschooler, I needed one. Probably several.

The first paradigm shift I recall came when I was about five years old. As I got ready for bed, a storm hit. A strong gust slammed the old house. It shivered, creaked, and moaned. The thin linoleum floor covering lifted and dropped in keeping with the surges that swept under the house and up through floor cracks.

The first rattle of rain hit the tin roof followed the staccato tattoo of the downpour. No insulation muffled the sound. Soon it was a roar. Thunder cracked and lightning flashes through the windowpanes far outdid the dim yellow light of the “coal oil” lamp that Mother would soon take from the room.

I was afraid.

I didn’t cry, though I may have wanted to. Fortunately, in our family we could talk about things and express our feelings. Mother sensed I needed reassurance.

She sat down on the side of my bed and put her hand on my shoulder.

“DaleBoy, wasn’t it fun to watch the little squirrel twins playing on the big oak tree this afternoon?

“Yup, sure was!” I replied.

“My, didn’t they scamper about? They’d dash around and around that tree and into their nest hole way up near the treetop.” She stroked the back of my neck and my shoulder.

“Uh-huh,” I said. “And in a minute one would pop his head out, look around, and out they’d come again.”

“They’d scramble down the tree trunk head first, then turn around and scamper back up,” she said.

“Yep, but cats can’t come down headfirst,” I said. “They go up a tree headfirst, but they hafta back down and can’t turn around. Sometimes they get scared and won’t come down, at all.”

“Dogs and rabbits can’t come down headfirst either, but of course they don’t climb trees anyway,” said Mother.

I chuckled. “‘Course not. But Daddy says God fixed squirrels with special hinges in their ankles, so they can go either way.”

“Um-hmm. You think the baby squirrels are out playing on the tree now?” Thunder rolled gently.

“No, Mamma! Not in this storm! I betcha they’re snug in that hole way up there.”

“That’s right! Last fall we watched the mother and daddy take leaves in there to make their nest snug and warm.”

“Yup—they really worked! Made trip after trip with their mouths stuffed with leaves.”

“Daleboy, do you suppose those little squirrels are afraid? After all, that big old tree must be swinging and swaying back and forth something fierce.”

“No, Mamma, they wouldn’t be scared of the wind and I ‘magine they’re used to lightning and thunder.”

“And they have each other,” she said. “That big old tree is their home. Swinging and swaying, it probably rocked the twins right to sleep.”

“Yep” I said, and yawned, feeling her hand gently stroking my back as I lay on my side talking with her.

“Well, you sleep tight. And I sure hope BillDale doesn’t pull the cover off of you like he did Saturday night.” She kissed me on the cheek, patted my shoulder, and started from the room, taking the lamp with her.

“Don’t think he will,” I said, glancing over my shoulder at the other side of the bed. “He and ScrewDriver and DoorKnob, are already sound asleep. ‘Night, Mother.”

Soon I joined them in slumberland.

Those three boys were my very best, almost-real, imaginary friends. The last two, I think you’ll agree, had unusual nicknames. Sometimes it was a bit crowded for all four of us to sleep in the same bed. We were getting pretty big. Maybe that’s why they soon quit coming around. I still miss them.


Do you know a child with a phobia, habit, or life outlook they need to overcome? Try to create an open, non-critical atmosphere so they’ll be willing to talk about it. Is there a story you can tell that relates to it, or is there a book about a child who successfully dealt with the problem?

Perhaps you can help the child make a paradigm shift.

Squirrels, a storm, and my gentle, sensitive mother sure helped me make one. I guess BillDale, DoorKnob and ScrewDriver played a part, too, since they set a good example by ignoring the storm and going right off to sleep. Thanks, fellows.

If you liked this story, tell me about it! I’d love to have your feedback. If you have a story you’d like to send me, please do so. You may send it to It would be great to hear from you.

“To build a better tomorrow, love a child today.”

–Philip Dale Smith, “GrandpaDale” —

  • By Millie, January 31, 2009 @ 9:20 pm

    Enjoyed the storm and squirrel story so much.
    Reminded me of my imaginary childhood friends,
    Tonsil Do and Mrs. Newt!.
    Thanks for sharing your life with all of us.
    God bless and keep you strong!

Links to this Post

WordPress Themes