Two weeks ago we (finally) managed to start reading The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnet, together with S6.7. After 2 chapters the book is proving to be quite demanding for the both of us.
When S6.7 has a query about a word it’s actually difficult for me to provide her with a good answer due to my own limitations in the greek language. My first instinct is to simply translate the word to english which of course is not very helpful to S6.7….
Also, she has a lot of questions of the “Why” and “What” nature. Normally, i don’t really mind those but the questions here are about things i don’t feel i’m equipped to answer. It’s quite a dense book and even after only 2 chapters there’s a lot going on.
For example, Mary’s parents are neglecting their daughter and several times it’s mentioned that nobody loves her while she did not love anyone and treated people badly.
“Why did her mother neglect her?” asks S6.7. “Why doesn’t anyone love her?”
For the latter i could scrape an answer such as,
“….because she did not feel loved by her parents, she reacted and treated everyone else badly. She grew up being spoiled and only caring about herself. You need to love and treat people well in order for others to love you.”
That still leaves question number 1, the source of Mary’s early loveless childhood, unanswered. Simply tell her that some people are too selfish and prefer to party than take an interest in their children? That just because you have children it does not necessarily mean that you are a good parent? Is that something she can understand?
Then her parents die of cholera.
S6.7: “What is cholera?”
Me: “It’s a disease. They died because of an illness.”
However, to her cholera is too abstract, like a word i made up and to be perfectly honest a disease i don’t know that much about apart from that it’s no longer as great of a threat as it used to be. I could not answer her next question, “What does it do to you?”. But this only motivates me to find out and tell her which is what i promised her i would do (and i did).
This only sidesteps another issue of the next question which i simply cannot give her a good enough answer.
“Why did both her parents die?”.
Is she finding it difficult to understand that someone can grow up with no parents and experience so much grief? I don’t know. The death question shows its face again in Chapter 2 as we learn about Mr Craven’s history (her widowed uncle).
I want to give her answers. There aren’t any that are universally absolute of course. However, the idea is that they are enough to provoke and stimulate her thinking in order to do her own “research” and reach her own conclusions. The thinking process is much more important to me than the actual conclusions.
I don’t feel that i’m doing that well at the moment and it’s because i don’t know how. I never really thought about things in that way before. Adults have more or less settled on their thinking of things and discussions between us are usually of one trying to impose his own beliefs on another person. With S6.7, we are talking about someone who simply doesn’t know the world but actually wants to know more about it and she has not already decided on what and how she is supposed to think.
When we started reading books with S6.7 i thought it would be a way for us to spend time together and entertain ourselves but in a way that we would both feel engaged. However, due to the nature of this book it seems that it can’t be as simple as that. No, it’s much more.