I wonder how many people truly think getting a pet is good practice for being the parent of a human. I know countless people who use this as an initial excuse to get a pet, but I’m talking about people who have actually gone and done both. God knows it seems like a good idea at the time, when you are young and dumb, when you have neither. Taking care of one living thing, and doing it well, should naturally be a good predictor of being caretaker to another, right?
The first clue I should have had that this really isn’t the case is my abysmal record with flora. I grew up next door to my grandmother, a transplant from the Old Country who could take clippings from your lawn mower and turn them into the Hanging Gardens with a garden hose and sheer will. To get from my house to hers, I would traverse the backyard, winding through the towering green vines of cucumbers, tiptoeing through rows of cabbages, solemnly parading past the Virgin Mary plaster statue presiding over a flowering rows of color, and arrive at her doorstep where she was invariably nursing some sort of injured bird back to health. Her vibrant green thumb and gift with all things living continued its genetic march through to my father, where it then hit a brick wall and drowned in a sea of weed eater, a precious gene lost to the world.
My lineage is more accurately traced through the maternal side, starting in Ireland where we managed to destroy an entire country’s harvest of potatoes. My Black Thumb of Death then fled the scene of the crime, parading over the pond where it co-mingled with some French Canadian lumberjacks to produce my mother, who provided for me a lovely house filled with teapots, doilies, and the finest, most beautiful silk roses money could buy. We had not a single real plant in our house growing up. Not for lack of trying, mind you. My mother left countless brown withered stalks in her wake before declaring the house a plant-free zone and telling my dad if he wanted real plants he was welcome to grow them outside.
When my husband and I purchased our first house, I cheerily mentioned my plan to buy some lovely silk ferns and I saw the blood drain from his face. No fake plants, he declared, himself the progeny of another Eliza Doolittle of all things Green, and I made a genuine attempt to keep a plant, any plant, alive in the house. I failed miserably, each and every time. Plants are hard to keep alive. They don’t meow in your face if you’re late watering them; they suffer in silence, leaving you to discover their wilted, limp remains peering accusingly up at your from their resting place on the counter. Dogs and cats are much easier; their very existence is a constant reminder that there is a need to be met. And if you forget, even for a hour, god help you.
Despite my rotten track record with plants, I surged forward into animal ownership with an underlying certainty that I would succeed in this venue, and I was right. I found that I excelled at animal care. But I was wary, wary of making any assumptions about my ability to be a human parent simply because I could mind the cat well enough. Sadly enough, I was entirely correct in my extrapolations. I am pretty sure I am a middling to fair human parent at best, my tousle-headed, sticky fingered hooligans a living, breathing testament to my mediocrity as a raiser of humans. I have a theory that while you may love plants, pets, and people, there is only one category in which you truly shine. This is a theory I just made up right this second to make myself feel better, so if you are the gardening genius who raises Champion Airedales, 10 pound heirlooms and a house full of Yale grads, just keep it to your smug little self and let me bask in the glory of my singular gift, ok?