(Posted by Danielle)
In Juanita Havill’s book illustrated by Anne Sibley O’Brien, six-year-old Jamaica finds a forgotten stuffed dog at the park. Instead of taking it to the lost and found, Jamaica brings the dog home to keep for her own. When her mother tells her that she should have returned the dog and when she is not allowed to bring it to the dinner table, Jamaica moves into what Kim John Payne describes as a “soul fever” in his book Simplicity Parenting (2009). Jamaica’s smile turns to a frown, she pouts, she says she doesn’t feel good, and stays in her room instead of helping with the dishes. Applying Payne’s theory, these symptom arise in children when “something's not right; they’re upset, overwhelmed, at odds with the world…at odds with their truest selves” (p. 38).
Payne encourages parents to recognize their child’s soul fever, just as we recognize a fever brought on by physical illness, and to provide loving care in response. Specifically, he recommends quieting things down, bringing them close, and letting it run its course. We see Jamaica’s mother respond to her child’s soul fever much as Payne coaches parents. She shows empathy and understanding of her daughter’s budding love for the toy as she reflects, “it probably belongs to a girl just like Jamaica” (p.17). Instead of insisting that her daughter complete her assigned chore, she stops what she is doing and goes to Jamaica’s room where she quietly sits by her child. “She didn’t say anything. After a while she put her arms around Jamaica and squeezed for a long time” (p. 23). In this quiet time with a loving parent close by, Jamaica is able to come to the decision to take the dog back to the park in the morning. The fever runs its course, and Jamaica can come back to herself and make a moral choice to return what does not belong to her.
At the park the next day, Jamaica meets the girl to whom “Edgar dog” belongs a sweet friendship begins. Through the arc of the story, we see Jamaica move from playing alone at the playground and wanting to keep something that wasn’t hers, to close family time where expectations were gently shared, and finally back to the park where friendship becomes more important than a material object. We also can trace the steps of a soul fever where a child is at odds with herself, reconciles her desire to have the toy and knowing it is right to give it back, and having time, along with non-verbal support, to come back to herself. In this beautifully illustrated book, Havill and O’Brien provide a map of a child experiencing a soul fever and a parent’s effective response.
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Havill, J. (1986). Jamaica’s Find. Boston: Hougton Mifflin Company.
Payne, K. J. (2009). Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids. New York: Ballentine Books Trade Paperbacks