Here’s a rather bizarre but fun thought experiment. First forget one of your parents. Forget they ever existed… Now replace them with someone else. It can be anybody… Real, imaginary, famous or fictional… Now try to imagine what life would have been like to have them as a parent. What would your relationship with that parent be like? Would they inspire you or cast you into despondency? Would they be cruel or kind? An intriguing idea certainly… So I gave it a go and imagined:
MY FATHER: SHERLOCK HOLMES
Firstly let’s start off by examining Sherlock Holmes and his children, or lack thereof. Canonically at least Holmes had no children. He wasn’t even married though there is considerable consensus and Irene Adler had some sort of thing going on though in truth there is little canonical evidence of this. Watson specifically states that Holmes wasn’t in love with Adler and had no emotional feelings for her whatsoever. We have very little to go on regarding Holmes and his relationship with women at all really… He’s charming and courteous towards them but decidedly unromantic and unfeeling. Even Doyle himself stated that Holmes was so inhuman that he was hardly likely to fall in love. So it therefore should come as no surprise that he didn’t have any real children. However, this has not stopped the speculators and there have been numerous attempts by other authors to create a ‘child of Sherlock’ situation, usually involving Irene Adler as the mother. For instance, it’s been hinted that Nero Wolfe is the son of Sherlock and there are quite a few more floating around somewhere in the literosphere. He’s also had several romances in this way, most notably various dalliances with Irene Adler but also a few others like the girl from ‘Young Sherlock Holmes’ and even, in certain cases, Dr Watson. However, as I’ve already mentioned canonically Holmes had no children or lovers and he was a bachelor until the day he died.
It could be assumed, therefore, that to imagine Sherlock Holmes as one’s father would be something of a herculean task but this is not the case. In actual fact it is a far easier feat to accomplish than it at first seems. Going back to canon, specifically concerning Holmes and women, Holmes was always charming and debonair towards women, he was always chivalrous and he was never cruel, although there is a situation during one case where he briefly becomes engaged to gain information. Therefore this can give us a hint as to how Holmes could potentially become my father. Evidently he would not be my natural father as from what we have already seen it is not within his emotional capabilities to sire a child. As I see it there are two possible options concerning how it could happen. The first is the most logical explanation and that is that for one reason or another I am irrevocably left in his care by social services. The only other reason I can see is that he would do it as a duty to a friend, a sort of ‘look after my wife and child for me’ type of thing… But somehow I find that idea less plausible and I think it’s most likely that in a situation such as that Holmes would act as more a guardian rather than as a father/husband. No, I believe the former to be an infinitely preferable idea than the latter.
And that begs the question of how Holmes would initially react to my presence. The one thing we can be certain of here is that he definitely wouldn’t be going all gooey and tender at the eyeballs. He wouldn’t be affectionate or behave in any loving, parental manner. My opinion here is that he would initially react with bemusement, incredulity and also, perhaps, a little bit of indifference. It’s probable that he wouldn’t know what to do with me and the fact that I would be incapable of anything except crying, sleeping and a few other things would completely bemuse him. However, it would also fascinate him and he would just spend days watching and observing my behaviour and I think he’d derive a great enjoyment from that. Likewise, as I grew and developed he’d gain much pleasure from watching and observing. He would find it remarkable how over time I would gradually respond to more of the world and I think the way in which I learned to walk and talk would intrigue him most of all, particularly the way in which the evolution of language in a child is a slow process that gradually builds up over time based on what that child hears and how it is spoken to. You can almost guarantee that as the son of Sherlock Holmes i would get a lot of talking to and hear a lot of things, particularly if he was working on a particularly difficult case. He’d use me as an unresponsive sounding board, wandering around the room and saying things that I couldn’t possibly hope to understand and making seemingly random observations based around any noise I just so happened to make at the time. Who knows… My presence might even help him to solve a few cases.
But observation and fascination aren’t really looking after a child. That takes a little more effort and I can’t really see Holmes changing my nappy or even feeding me on any regular basis. I don’t think he’d neglect me or let me die on purpose, that just isn’t his way. I’d still be fed and have a new nappy every now and again. It just wouldn’t be a regular thing. It would possibly happen whenever Holmes got tired of the crying and he would probably do it just to shut me up. Besides this, Watson and Mrs Hudson would definitely ensure that I was well looked after. They wouldn’t let anything bad happen to me and if Holmes was being particularly ambivalent towards me they might stage some sort of an intervention. They’d certainly make sure I didn’t die whilst in Holmes’ care and I’m sure Mrs Hudson would check in on me at least twice daily if not more. Watson would also pay regular visits, probably not daily but several times a week at least. Maybe even Lestrade or Watson’s wife Mary would come by every now and then just to make sure I was still ok.
That said I think Holmes would at least care for me in other ways, even if those ways were somewhat different from the norm. He would at least make sure I had some human comforts like a bed and a blanket, even if that bed was just a cardboard box in the corner of the room and even if the blanket was a torn up coat. It’s still something. At least I’d be warm and have a ‘bed’ to sleep in which is more than can be said for some children around the world. And at that age would I care? Probably not a jot. I’d be safe, warm and fed for one thing and at that age what child really cares how they live You could probably even extend this to nappies and food if Holmes did bother to deal with those things. No doubt I would either have my bare backside wrapped in old newspaper or simply be allowed to crawl about naked for a while before Watson or Mrs Hudson came along to cover my shame. And in terms of food I can hardly believe that he would give me milk…If this were the case I’d probably be drinking copious amounts of Brandy, obscene drams of Whisky and even the odd snifter of Cognac from time to time.
My childhood would also be unconventional in terms of toys. Watson would inevitably give me an old teddy bear or something like that but that would be my only conventional toy. The rest would most likely be random objects that were just thrown my way, perhaps a bottle or a broken chair leg or some other discarded and useless item like the Mazarin stone or the crown of Charles I. Some of my toys might even be knives or even pistols, things which Watson would certainly disapprove of though I don’t think Holmes would mind so much. Hopefully he wouldn’t let me harm myself too much. I probably wouldn’t have minded too much anyway. To a young child a toy is a toy regardless of whether it’s a knife or a plastic dinosaur.
I also doubt Holmes would ever give me a birthday or christmas presents, though I’m sure Watson and Mrs Hudson wouldn’t forget me. Not that I’m saying Holmes would forget me it’s just that he doesn’t seem the type of person who would give christmas presents, even to his own child. But the thing is that once again I wouldn’t mind. You don’t really miss things you never had so a lack of presents from Holmes wouldn’t be a bother. However, if Watson or Mrs Hudson were to miss my birthday I might end up creating something of a fuss. I think Holmes would be rather sceptical of their presents, perhaps even dismissing them as a kind of trivial and pointless nonsense. Nevertheless the lack of presents from Holmes would possible make me appreciate those other presents from Watson and Mrs Hudson all the more. In return I’d probably never give Holmes anything either. He’d probably never accept anything for one thing and I can only imagine the sheer look of bemusement/disgust on his face if I gave him something like a fathers day card.
As I grew up and learned to talk it’s possible that I would start to get on Holmes nerves a little, particularly when I was being particularly naive and asking a lot of questions. I’d frequently be told to shut up and Holmes would do all in his power to make me leave him alone. Certainly he’d try and fob me off on whoever was around at the time, the likes of Watson, Lestrade, random clients who came through the door, Moriarty… I think, however, that there would also be times when Holmes would be thrilled that I was inquisitive and those questions would appeal to his vanity. He’d like nothing more than answering my questions with all the detail and relish he could and there is no doubt I’d be hanging on his every word and Holmes would love that just as much. Undoubtedly these responses would create an adoration in myself and as the years went by I would surely begin to pick up some of Holmes deductive skills and maybe even develop a few of my own along the way. I’d certainly be able to observe things that other people my own age couldn’t. I might be able to deduce someone’s birthplace based on their gait or even recognize who they had been with based on the smell of their fingers. Probably not in terms of those specifics but I’m sure you get the picture. What I’m trying to say is that growing up with Holmes my brain would constantly be being filled with all sorts of tricks and skills that would enable me to become just as good a detective as he is.
Holmes probably wouldn’t care if I went to school or not though… He doesn’t strike me as the sort of man who would absolutely insist I got a good education. He would probably assume that a formal education was a waste of time and that my time would be better off on the streets with the baker street irregulars, who I would undoubtedly know very well and who would most likely be my closest friends. I sincerely doubt that they would go to school so it’s more than likely that we’d all spend our days hanging around Baker Street and causing a nuisance. But school is a legal requirement and so social services would inevitably become involved and Holmes would presumably still be indifferent to my formal education. He might even be extremely rude to the social worker, casting her out of 221b with a sharp word in her ear. Hence once again it would be left to Watson and Mrs Hudson to escort me to the gates every morning, probably with much protest and mostly from Holmes. The nearest secular school to Baker street is a place called ‘The Gateway School’ and although it looks like a very nice place I still don’t think Holmes would approve. Holmes would rather see me hanging with my friends, the Baker Street irregulars though it’s probable that in the modern age social services would be packing them off to the same school and inevitably we’d all form a kind of playground gang and cause the teachers no end of grief. Holmes would certainly approve of the gang I feel, I can see him making some remark about how it would do me some good and build a bit of character.
And with school comes the annual parents evening. If Holmes ever did attend it would, without a doubt, be one of the most hilarious things to ever strike north London. Holmes would spend every waking minute analysing the teachers, outing every aspect of their lives and humiliating them in the process. Somehow he would bring this around to claiming how these deductions contributed to poor teaching on their part and even when they tried to talk to him about my poor behaviour he would invariably once again blame them in someway. For the teachers it would be a nightmare but from an outsiders perspective it would be comedy gold. The idea of Sherlock Holmes and a parents evening seem so contradictory to each other and so absurd that it can’t be anything but hilarious. But if Holmes didn’t go to Parents evening then Watson certainly would and he wouldn’t be nearly as fun as Holmes. In fact I can imagine Watson taking my education very seriously. He’d be quite stern and strict, especially concerning my mischief making with the Baker Street Irregulars. There would be certainly be stiff words involved afterwards even though Holmes would brush Watson’s concerns away when he later reported back.
It wouldn’t be all fun however, especially when I reached my teenage years and I started to become more independent. I can imagine my flying the nest would come as some relief to Holmes and he would certainly be grateful when I wasn’t there… But for me it would be a problem as I would never be able to have any secrets or ever go anywhere without Holmes knowing. If I came back late at night for instance Holmes would somehow deduce where I had been and what I had been up to based, perhaps based on the mud on my shoes or even the time I left/got back. I don’t think he’d be angry it would just be very frustrating. Also, in terms of coming back late, Mrs Hudson would also give me quite a ticking off. I’d never be able to sneak in or out and Holmes would be able to deduce every little aspect of my life… Even down to who I had been spending time with. What I’m saying is it wouldn’t be very fun for me. In my eyes Holmes would seem overbearing and maybe even interfering and it might lead to a lot of heated debates between us.
And as for the first time I brought a girl home to meet him… Well that would be awkward. Now I know I said at the beginning that Holmes has a kind of indifference towards Women and seemed incapable of love but I don’t think that would pass down to me at all. I can imagine the Baker Street Irregulars being quite a sexually charged bunch, particularly when they got to their teenage and being a part of that group an awful lot of that sexual energy would be transferred to me. It would mean that I almost certainly wouldn’t be as indifferent towards women as my father and from my teenage years onwards I would certainly be quite heavily involved. The trouble would come when I brought that first girl back to meet Holmes. Holmes would probably display his usual indifference and also maybe some of his eccentricities which might freak the girl out and maybe even scare her off. After this happened a couple of times I might even start pretending that Watson is my dad until things got a little bit more serious and I was thus forced to introduce her to Holmes. This is still despite the fact that Holmes would know who my girlfriend was, where she lived and if I told her Watson was my dad then I can see him going around to her house to set the matter straight… With the end result possibly being her parents getting freaked out as well.
Sex itself would be another awkward matter. Holmes, being indifferent, wouldn’t teach me a jot so it would certainly be Watson who taught me the facts of life. Then would come the moment… THAT moment… You know the one I mean. The one involving cherries. I’d never be able to have sex in Baker Street because Holmes would undoubtedly burst in whilst I was in full flow so it would probably happen elsewhere. Not that Mrs Hudson would ever allow it in Baker street of course. But i’m of the opinion that somehow Holmes would be able to tell when it happened. He’d know and the moment I came home he’d be on me. I think that his sexual indifference means that my actions would disturb him considerably and he might spend hours afterwards trying to work out what I was doing. As for me I’d be completely embarrassed and ashamed. In some ways it would be worse than being caught in the act. It wouldn’t be a pleasant experience.
Over the years I think we’d develop a strong admiration for each other. Our relationship wouldn’t be a normal, caring father-son relationship but we would still have a strong bond. After I’d left home I think we’d miss each other quite a lot. The trouble is I’d never be able to call or write as Holmes and friendly phone conversations seem to be a misnomer. In later years our relationship would be more down to the occasional visit but I think they would be definitely worthwhile. Holmes might not be the ideal person to select as a parent but if he was my dad I don’t think I’d want anyone else.