We are jumping ahead to Chapter Two, “Soul Fever”. Kim John Payne opens up this chapter with the fact that parents know their children so well and all of the different sides our children can have, “the too little sleep side”, “the overcome with silliness side” etc. He admits toward the bottom of the page that our love for our children never falters, but the instinctual knowledge of our children can wax and wane.
In many cases, I have talked to parents who have felt so disconnected from their children. This can especially occur as children grow older and are out of the house for almost more hours a day than they are home. I have also talked to parents who are very fearful of their children being away from them and are fearful their connection will no longer be strong as their children’s world expands. It is a delicate balance, and I think worth checking to see where you are right now, today, with connecting to your children.
Simplification can help declutter things so we can focus on what matters. Kim John Payne talks about when “something is not right; they’re upset, overwhelmed, at odds with the world….You could think of these as “emotional fevers,” yet I prefer “soul fever” because there is something so uniquely individual about the way each child manifest their tribulation.”
Have your children ever experienced “soul fever”? What did you do?
I think “soul fever” can be more difficult to treat than a physical malady because it may involve tough choices. It may involve saying, “No, we are staying home this week” or it may involve saying, “You can only do one extra-curricular activity this semester of school.” It may even involve changing an educational situation or makes choices that are hard at the parental level so we can be at home.
Kim John Payne remarks in the story of “Teresa”, a teenager, that what is often needed is “consistent, commanding, and compassionate adult presence.” A teenager is working toward self-regulation and it is not a smooth, gradual incline toward that state. So, think about how much we often expect out of our tiny children.
The solution for soul fever is often just two or three quiet days. However, I find many parents are struggling with children whom they describe as more consistently “off” in terms of emotional regulation, tolerance for small things, changes. It is very important to show these children not only the importance of “downtime” (ie, where are they and what are they doing when they are their best?) but also to look beyond just a two or three day period if an entire change of pace is needed. Bring your children close to you and do what you enjoy doing together and re-group toward your next steps of family wholeness.
Tell me about your experiences.
Oh Carrie, we saw one of these soul fevers in our daughter earlier this year. With great reservations we had enrolled her at a local Montessori preschool just one day each week. We live in a small town where there are only two preschools – a Montessori and a conventional. While she was happy enough to go off to preschool the child that I had at home for the rest of the week was so changed – so unfocussed in her imaginative play, always wanting to do “an activity”, teary, angry, loss of creativity in drawing (she went back to just scribbling where she had been drawing rudimentary figures) and just generally off.
I had a battle with my husband to agree to taking her out of the preschool because we had no other preschool place for her. But, once I had been for a viewing – they don’t let you in through the front door normally – I knew that it was not the place for her; it was so cold. For example….as a demonstration of what she had being doing all term (I suspect actually she had just been wandering aimlessly around as that was what all the other children were doing) they had her colour-in and label a map of Australia. For a child that couldn’t read what a meaningless activity! Then they told me, by which stage it was 11am, that she hadn’t had any morning tea yet because there hadn’t been a spot at the morning tea table before I came. Looking over at the morning tea table (4 seats for 30 children) half the class was hanging round the table with their lunch boxes just waiting for a spot to eat. Finally, as we were leaving the teacher told a small group of boys who were playing together with wooden blocks and making a minimum of noise that they would need to go and find something else to do as that was so-and-so’s work! After that, I knew I had a battle worth fighting!
So at the end of one term take her out we did and slowly but surely my old little girl has come back – though we are still are working on recovering on the ‘I want to do an activity” hump…. Late this term I revisited the conventional preschool in town and through some church connections there (small towns!) we got her a place in the 3 year old room (she has just turned 4) for six hours once a week. She loves it. The first day I picked her up they were in a circle playing “The Farmer in The Dell” and I thought that is what preschool is supposed to be about! That, and finding out that the centre has a shoes off policy outdoors in Summer. It may not be my perfect vision of preschool at a Steiner school but sometimes distance prohibits the delights of that type of facility.
Your new preschool sounds lovely and good for you for following your intuition and using your observation skills and connection to your daughter to help guide things. This is also an example of something that needed a change and was more major than a few days of rest. Those decisions can be hard to make, and how wonderful that you could find what was right for your little girl.
we went through something like this with our son just a few weeks ago … he is 4.5 and was just so CHALLENGING for a period of time — listless, prone to hitting his little sister, constantly saying, “i don’t know what to do!” … i took it as a sign that i needed to recalibrate a lot of things. i spent some good time on your website reading development stuff for the age (very reassuring!) and then spent a lot of thought on outlining our summer rhythms. i realized that i was expecting him to take more self-initiative for his time than he is ready for, so i put quite a lot “structure” into our weekly rhythm to help me guide him through the week (i.e. tuesday afternoons we do chalk drawing outside; wednesday mornings we work in the garden). being really specific like this has helped our whole family! a few weeks later and my son is back to his normal chipper self and i hold to the prescribed rhythm as it makes sense. but clearly we both needed a return to some kind of grounding! also, his pants got shorter, so i’m guessing there was a growth spurt in there too. : )
So, I too experienced a soul fever with my eldest when she went off to k thus past fall. I hung on for a semester then took her out to “play”. Most people think I’m doing her an injustice by not socializing her in a traditional school buti knew deep down this was what she needed. Her play has increased tremendously over the past few months. She’s been with me so much more but going back to her Waldorf based preschool a day our two a week was also wonderful. What I wonder about with her versus my other two children is or natural connection to each other. She was the child I always had on a schedule, never co-slept, sleep trained non- gently (cry it out & no going to them), etc. & I seriously wonder if this had caused a strain on our connectedness? My other two were much more relaxed, attached, nursed on demand kind of parenting & i seem to get them so much more deeply. What do i do to help resurrect this natural bond? My oldest is also more anxious, unsatisfied kind of personality. I really hope i haven’t permanently damaged our connection. I am planning to homeschool her this fall & I’m really hoping this will strengthen our bond. Thanks for allowing us to share!
If it is any consolation, I do think some of it is just plain temperament, being oldest, and being a girl. I don’t mean that to sound stereotypical at all, but there is a pattern I see in oldest girls. I would go back to the book ‘Hold On To Your Kids”. Quantity time is always the best healer,I think and I think homeschooling will be wonderful for you both.
No guilt. Keep moving forward.