Children, food, discipline, strangers


I understand why this woman is annoyed, with me or with her child, or with both of us. She bought the kid the stick of candy he was whining for, and now he turns away, no gratitude. She lifts her eyes and there am I, a Westerner with a camera, yet another annoyance, recording her life as if it were scenery.

But I have been her. I have struggled with the Candy World, and seen my daughter seduced by a wily ex-mother-in-law who fed her candy and fat when my back was turned. A shameless old woman so desperate to be loved that she would lie to me while my daughter still sucking on the gift lollipop. And when her trove of sugar was exhausted (she kept a handbag full), she would turn to fat – corned beef, bacon, anything baked with corn syrup or fried in lard. Make yourself the source of an addictive substance and you will always be ‘loved’.

My children, even though they left the house long ago and are grown, reappear in dreams of those moments from time to time. I would like to re-dream my children sweetly, instead of those tense battles for domestic control. The other night, again, first my daughter and then my son were eating candy, and they would not stop. Parental orders issued into the void. It’s not the candy. It’s your best intentions evaporating.

I hope that this woman has forgotten this moment, that her dreams are clear as water.

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