Lessons learned from bad plant parenting | #parenting

It’s easy to dismiss or idolize the role of a mother. I have worked with kids for the last five years of my life in every role from nanny to swim instructor to tutor and beyond. I love working with kids, but I have never wanted or pictured myself having my own. Fast forward to now, I’m nearly 23 with five plant children and I am beginning to wonder if even plant motherhood was a good idea to experiment with in college.  

Normally my little indoor garden is only ever victimized by my over watering and my incredibly rude cat chowing down on the innocent, budding leaves. All this changed as my usual problems washed away into the land of insignificance.  

My two elephant ear plants had their beautiful, large, green leaves consumed by what I suspect to be a Hannibal Lector type deer, and the little leafy stemmed plant my mom gave me when I moved into my first apartment had nearly frozen to death in the plummeting temperature over the weekend. 

In order to keep my plant children alive after the natural world, which they have been sheltered from their whole lives, showed its cruel side, I did what any mother wouldn’t do when faced with their children being unwell. I adopted another plant. 

I didn’t think through the impulse adoption though, because after two days of using up the rest of my potting soil to repot and refresh my plants beds, I was severely lacking supplies for the newest addition. The rest of my soil was used up, and I didn’t want to bother my roommate at work over something as ridiculously timed as barrowing her unopened bag of potting soil in late October for a light agricultural exercise. Plus, I knew she was using it for a few plants she bought to give as gifts. 

I ran out of soil halfway through planting the large snake plant I just took in. I wanted to be considerate and not steal soil from my roomie, so I searched for other answers. Staring into the green silky leaves of my new child, I could sense its uneasiness of having its roots only partially buried, and no further steps for its new mother to take.  

That’s when I remembered the medium sized pot on the side of my porch that had once held another green kid who had been scorched by the sun in mid-July (RIP Jeremiah). I grabbed the pot from outside, where it sat among the slush and ice October flipped us off with, and took it inside to donate the earthy contents to my youngest’s bed. 

Unfortunately, my spade would barely pierce two inches of soil because the whole thing had frozen solid. I once again gazed at the sad snake plant I had yet to give a weird name to and knew that if I wanted to prove myself as a plant mom, this would not stop me. My mission was clear.  

I started by multitasking. I placed the frozen plant bed near the oven while I baked bread and heated the rest of my dinner. Still solid. I took the plant and pot of frozen dirt into the bathroom with me and took a really hot shower with them close by. Still solid. I then took them both to my room and cranked up my thermostat. Here is where a little progress was made, but large clumps of potting soil were still resistant to all my pathetic attempts. It was time to go big or go home. 

I placed the frozen soil under the grow lights in my room, turned up the thermostat a little more and plugged in my heating blanket to wrap the pot in the worst swaddling job ever recorded. 

After an hour and a half, I was able to properly plant my newest plant baby into its new home, only to realize I should have transplanted one of my elephant ear plants to the bigger pot and put the snake plant into the medium sized one.  

About the time I had this realization, my roommate got home to find the gardening evidence on the porch and in the bathroom. When she started asking questions, I explained my frozen dirt and new plant in pathetic detail. She stared at me for a minute and finally said, “I wish you would have said something. I have that extra bag of potting mix outside you could have had.”  

There have been chaotic times in many of my jobs assisting with childhood development and working childcare. This senseless series of events reflected the disorder of so many trips to theme parks with my human children and attempted tutoring sessions with less than motivated human pupils.  

Motherhood is still a giant hesitation for me both in the human and the plant world. My lack of ability to keep my flora family from freezing their roots off and being eaten alive has stoked this anxiety because how could anyone like myself find fulfillment and purpose in the fear and chaos of raising children, whether they are from human or plant origin?  

My overall suggestion to anyone who wrestles with the anxiety of one day having a kid or two is, first and foremost, maintain a few healthy plants in 20-degree weather first. Repot some slightly matured seedlings before thinking too much of about taking on the responsibility of caring for a more animated creature. Maybe I should have just stuck with my plant-eating cat. 

Rebecca Pratt can be reached at arg-opinion@uidaho.edu. 

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