The Big Issue : Edition 512
THEBIGISSUE20MAY–2JUN2016 13 respect. This was a poorly formed question and one that I might have answered at four by screaming. Even if I were 12, I would have told my mother not to be such a confusing person and how the hell was I supposed to remember so many species of ocean life at such a tender age? I would also remind her that part of the fleeting joy of childhood inheres in not having to do dumb and boring stuff like deciding what to have for dinner. But Phelony, despite the impediment of having a ridiculous name and mother, was far more cunning than I will be at any age. She had learned to manage her mother’s pointless interaction, which continued apace while I stood there and waited for my fish. Mrs Phelony asked her issue a dozen questions and they were all of the “what do you think?” variety. “Do you think Junyper will like that?” “Will we have this with salad?” etc. I briefly considered asking Mrs Felon if she had any memory whatsoever of what it feels like to be four. If she did, I advised in my mind, then she would know that it made just as much sense asking a small child about the week’s menu plan as it would to gain her advice on a system of progressive national tax. Four-year-old persons are going to answer almost any question about food with “chips” or “NO”, and this is why we ignore them and throw broccoli at them for about a decade in the dim hope that some of it will actually land in their mouths. They are little people with no neural capacity to think about long-term benefit and we should not expect them to give us sensible advice about nutrition. At some point in the last 20 years, however, many in my generation of parents decided that children had the cognitive capacity of adults. I know parents mean very well in offering their children choice. But, I suspect they are not thinking that choice can be, even for adults, not so much a privilege as a burden. I am a midlife person of reasonable intelligence and in average mental health. But even I am overwhelmed by the number of “choices” I am forced to make every day. I don’t want to select that mobile plan or that variety of green leafy vegetable or that courier service. I just want a grown-up to tell me which is the best so I don’t spend all jolly afternoon paralysed by the worry of the consequences of my choice. As I had only very few and very simple choices offered to me as a child – apologise or go to your room; chocolate or vanilla – I can’t even imagine what this confusion is like for a little one. Goodness knows, I am not offering anyone parenting advice. I am pretty sure that if I had ever been foolish enough to reproduce, my child would grow up to be a monstrous sociopath. I am just wondering if any of us can pause occasionally to remember that choice is not always freedom, but often a terrible chore. “Part of the fleeting joy of childhood inheres in not having to do dumb and boring stuff like deciding what to have for dinner.” RAZER A Choice to Make PHOTOGRAPHSBYJAMESBRAUND RECENTLY, I WAS at the fishmonger. And, yes, I’m quite aware that I have offered you a glimpse into life as it is experienced at the counter of my seafood provider on no less than three occasions in the past year. But, please, be indulgent and remember that my life is (a) very uneventful and (b) largely lived in order to eat fish. So. Anyhow. Recently, I was at the fishmonger. (I bought king dory, which was later pan-fried and served with a salad of embarrassing simplicity.) Also recently at the fishmonger was the primary caregiver to a small child whose name I can only suppose was spelled “Phelony”. Possibly “Phelonee”. Almost certainly not “Felony” which should – as I am sure you’d agree – be an actual felony. “So, Phelony,” the aforementioned caregiver said to her child. “Do you want scampi or flathead for dinner tonight, or will we have the pipis or the rockling on Wednesday?” Being both a frightened victim of name-abuse and a four-year-old person, Phelony simply answered, “Yes.” Phelony immediately gained my » Helen Razer (@HelenRazer) is a writer who would like to hire a grown-up to accompany her at all times...or at least whenever she has to renew her phone plan.