How to rear a delinquent…..

BMJ 27 August 2008. Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:a1431
It was late, and we were closing up, when the surgery bell rang. We peered out; no one was there. Then we looked down.

“It’s a baby,” somebody said.

“I can see it’s a baby,” I replied, “But what’s it doing here?”

Common sense would have suggested that we contact social services, but we’d read the books, we’d seen the movie, we knew what was expected of us.

“We’ll just have to raise it ourselves,” we agreed; some conventions must be observed.

We set up a cot in the corner of the surgery and engaged a wet nurse (breast is best). It wasn’t easy: the night feeds, the temper tantrums, and there was also the baby to look after. But those were good times; we’d get strange looks when we took him out in the pram, but we were happy, if a bit weird.

He had a contented, normal upbringing in every way, except for some quirks. Birthday parties, for example. I’d point out all the sharp and potentially lethal objects in the surgery, then we’d play a game of blind man’s buff, the winner being the one with the lacerations least likely to lead to long term scarring and disfigurement—a bit of brain freezingly unforgettable terror and excruciating pain is an essential part of the magic of childhood. Balloon figures in the shape of the fallopian tubes were another perennial favourite, not just fun but educational as well, although when he was in pre-school he did sometimes look a bit confused.

The teens were typically difficult: get away from those people, his hormones were telling him, they know nothing. He was lost and lonely, like the sad heart of Ruth, sick for home amid the alien corn, and he needed kid glove treatment and assurance that the changes to his body and the strange new feelings were quite natural and all part of maturing into an unemployable adult.

And then, one day, he said something that made me realise he was ready for the real world, ready to flap his wings and fly; if you love something, let it go, I thought, it’ll come back to you if it needs a prescription. Overnight, it seemed, my baby had metamorphosed into a young man.

“I’ve an awful pain in my back,” he said, “Can I have a sick note?”

Sad yet proud, I wiped a little tear from my eye; they grow up so quickly, don’t they?


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