For other writings in this vein see Conversations with my wife
(What follows contains references to child abuse. Those who have a sensitivity to such issues may find these disturbing)
My wife works as a Child Therapist and our conversations frequently take the form of hour long tirades about one aspect of her work or another. I try to be supportive and a good listener, but some of the cases she handles can strain one's belief that we all share a common humanity.
Wife (who has not stopped pacing since coming home): I don't believe it. I just don't believe it.
Me: Hard day at work, dear?
W: (glaring) It's not funny! They had no right to inform the family. MbPS is governed by a completely different protocol. We're supposed to meet privately with the GP's and compare medical records with what the mother is saying, before....
M: Excuse me: MB whatsis?
W: Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome, you know...
M: I know about Munchausen Syndrome, where you pretend you have an illness in order to get attention. It was named after the stories of Baron Munchausen by Rudolf Raspe. He used to say...
W: (with deadly patience) MbPS is a clinical term referring to an illness or condition fabricated by someone, usually the mother, and ascribed to the child under her care.
M: Whoa! She tells the doctor her child is sick? Makes it up? What in hell for?
W: (sighs wearily) Oh, all sorts of reasons. Maybe the mother was neglected as a child and likes people feeling sorry for her. Sometimes there's a clear intent to harm. A man and his wife went to jail recently for feeding their infant son salt.
W: He died of it, after being ill for a long time with symptoms no one could diagnose.
M: (takes the Lord's name in vain) What's this case you're on about now?'
W: Child X has missed therapy two weeks running, the mother says she's not well enough. First it was ME, now she says Child X's whole system is shutting down, she's lost skills and the ability to talk. All this is supposed to be due to a head injury two years ago that no one has heard of up to now.
M: What does Child X say about this?
W: (grimacing) They always support the parent...the alternative is unthinkable to a child.
M: You mean, that the parent is trying to harm them deliberately?
W: (nods) So I did some checking. There was a case four years ago with this family , a teenage boy whose symptoms proved to be fabricated. My colleague at work is our Child Protection Officer and she is willing to make the referral.
M: Referral? To whom?
W: The NSPCC, it's the Government Body for Child Protection.
M: Sounds pretty serious.
W: You bet. First we hold a private meeting with the various people concerned, the Doctors, the School, to see if anything at all jibes with what the mother is saying.
M: So what happened?
W: The meeting? It hasn't happened. Some dickhead at TAF told the mother about it and now she's denying she ever said that Child X was that ill, I must have misinterpreted what she said, she's been under such strain lately worrying about her daughter, yadayadayada. She'll probably pull the kid out of therapy.
M: What are you going to do?
W: Either I back off and wash my hands of it , or I have my colleague make the referral.
W: It comes down to this: If I do nothing and something happens to Child X as a result...at least if I try I'll be able to sleep nights.
M: So it's a mitzvah
W: You mean 'No good deed goes unpunished' don't you? I don't think I care anymore. I'm in this for the kids, pure and simple. Is there anything for dinner?
M: I got some some smoked salmon earlier. There's bagels and a couple more eggs.
W: God, I wish you could cook.
M: I thought you married me for my good looks.
W: (managing a smile)That was thirty years ago, in case you hadn't noticed.
M: We can watch the next episode of 'Marco Polo'.
W: (yawning)Works for me.