I once heard someone assert that a person should be able to nurture a plant for a year without killing it before they even entertain the notion of parenthood. I understand the logic behind this statement; namely, that if you can remember to care for a house plant — a being totally dependent on you, and also unable to articulate its needs — you might be ready for the sacrificial love having a child requires.
I’m not sure I agree 100% with this theory.
For one thing (full disclosure here), I’ve killed a lot of plants in my time, so maybe I just don’t like the way I end up looking in that scenario. Also, as the parent of three children, I can state unequivocally that a plant acts nothing like a child.
Does a plant wake you in the middle of the night because they are sick? Or hungry? Or bored? Does it play video games at sunup on Saturday morning with the television volume at full blast? Does it eat half a tube of toothpaste when you aren’t looking? No, a plant doesn’t do these things, but a child can – and will.
Does a plant throw a temper tantrum in the middle of the grocery store because you won’t buy the doughnuts with the sprinkles? Will it hide half a snickers bar under its bed, attracting every ant in a three mile radius to your home? Does it kick the back of your seat repeatedly with the toe of its sneaker the entire two hour drive to the airport until your lower back throbs and the pain radiates up your spine directly into your skull until you beg for mercy?
Of course not. A plant doesn’t do anything other than helpfully provide you with the oxygen you need to live. It’s just…there.
There are other things a plant doesn’t do that a child will. A plant doesn’t hug you. It doesn’t care about you in any sort of meaningful way. It doesn’t change your life, fill your heart, or teach you what it really means to love another more than you love yourself. But a child can – and will.
Go ahead and get a plant if you want one, but please understand – it’s nothing like a child. If you really want to get an inkling of what it’s like to be a parent…try taking care of a puppy* instead. They’re cute, they leave their crap everywhere, and you can’t leave them alone without coming back to a trashed house.
Sounds a lot like parenthood to me.