I feel it coming on – it’s in the air of our home when our little ones need more rest, more down time, more slowness. Like a physical fever, they need me to be close, to stop the busyness of the household, to provide more snuggles.
I remember this past Fall when the signs of soul fever were particularly heightened for my 1st grader. She was coming home teary and sullen. Mornings were difficult as we packed her things for school. Unlike her typical cheerfulness, she was often pouty and defiant about going. It kept me up nights knowing that her spirit wasn’t being nourished and like a magnet, I felt her need to be close to me.
My husband and I both agreed that she wasn’t in the right learning environment and we pulled her out. She spent two weeks with me at home while we decided what to do about school. The exhaustion and sullenness slipped away within the first week of reading books on the couch, grocery shopping, playing with her little brother, and being creative. There were no more worksheets or homework deadlines, no more spelling tests. The cloud of overwhelm and hurriedness of 1st grade blew away and we were seeing a bluer sky; the fever broke.
We made a radical decision for her to attend the Emerson Waldorf school, just 15 minutes from our home. Within the first 3 days it was like having the warm and happy child we knew, back. It will be 5 months at Emerson come April. Frequently, she tells me how happy she is. It’s hard for her to decide what she loves most – handwork, painting, German, Spanish, and math. Beautiful images, verses, stories, and movement provide the lesson plans. The work that she was once just learning through just paper and pencil has come to life, inspires her, warms her heart. Her busy classroom of letters, numbers, a whiteboard, bookshelves of books, cartons of supplies, posters, star charts for classroom chores, writing journals, and marker drawings – all of this was replaced with a bigger classroom of simple desks and chairs, cubbies for a blanket and pillow for rest, a hook for her coat, a shelf for her lunch, muted pink-peach walls with one row of watercolor paintings by the children, a blackboard with a colorful chalk drawing, and a row of rain boots outside. Even her classroom environment was inviting, warm, and calm.
Not every family can pull their child from one school and send them elsewhere when they recognize soul fever. What you can do, is be aware and notice when your child is giving you signs that he or she is overwhelmed, perhaps out-of-sorts, more moody, or when their behavior is more challenging.
I think what can be particularly interesting to note is that children of today are, more than ever before, being asked to participate in life with a soul fever. Defiant behavior, sleep problems, picky eating, over-controlling behaviors, aggression, and school difficulties can all be a result of a soul fever. Sadly, parents may not recognize these as symptoms of something actually wrong, but accepting that this is who their child has become.
What is at the core of a soul fever? Too much. Too much stuff – toys and clutter, too many choices, too many demands, too many scheduled activities, and too much information much too soon through media and adult conversation. AND not enough. Not enough down time, not enough free play, not enough time without screens, not enough creativity, not enough boredom, not enough silence.
So your task for today is to Notice if your child has a soul fever. Just like when you notice signs of a physical fever, there are signs of a soul fever. Is your child pouting or disagreeable in a more extreme way than usual? I’m not talking about the normal ups and downs during a regular day that your child will exhibit. I’m talking about something that doesn’t feel right to you, as a mother. A soul fever lingers. If it’s hard to judge because things have been over-the-top for awhile now, it actually may be a very clear sign that your child is desperate for a break.
I’ll share your next step in my next post once you’ve identified and noticed soul fever in your child and you’ve determined that your child is clearly overwhelmed, even if they seem to be going full speed ahead.