I don't have kids. I likely never will. I don't have a dog, or a cat, though I do feel a sort of paternal fondness for the three intrepid rats that eat the dregs that fall off the bird feeder in our back yard. I also have a very ambivalent relationship with most restaurant meals, so basically I have nothing to take pictures of and post on Facebook to make me look like a functioning human being surrounded by value and adorable things.
I do, however, have a shitty little cactus.
This is the closest thing I have to a living thing solely dependent on my care. And I just described it as "shitty" and "little," so already my maternal instincts are non-existent.
Within about four months, my cactus-child died. Or at least I thought it did. The orange flower on top went white, the top half of the stem turned to a nearly sheer cray paper texture. The very bottom also paled out. I thought I'd killed it. I was a bad mom. A Lifetime mom. The kind of reckless mom Nancy Grace makes millions eviscerating with her vicious drawl. A Florida mom.
Did I water it too much? Too little? Did it have too much sun? Too little? My boyfriend's cacti, in the meantime, sat right next to mine and bloomed like a fucking Montessori kid with a private tutor. Why was my cactus-child the ugly, loser one?
How the fuck do you kill a cactus anyway? They're one step up from a pet rock.
I left my tiny dead cactus-child in the pot, like a mom leaving her kid in an overheated car so she can run in and have a quickie with her gas station manager boyfriend in a tiny bathroom with a broken toilet. I avoided throwing it away for months. And months. Until recently, when I'd had enough of seeing my failure in the window and plucked it from its brother and anal-bead-esque vine-y things that I bought with it but still have no fucking clue what they are.
And when I did this, I noticed for the first time, my cactus-son had a new arm. It was ALIVE. It was GROWING. It was LEARNING and HAVING LIFE EXPERIENCES and GETTING WISER and I WAS A GOOD MOM.
I AM A GOOD MOM. A GOOD. MOM.
It feels, truthfully, less like a moment of parental validation and more like that moment in Jurassic Park when not-that-paternal Sam Neill and his two surrogate, high-functioning Montessori kids discover those dinosaur eggs in the wild and he's all like "Life finds a way..." Life finds a way, despite me.
I celebrated by watching Netflix, playing Dark Souls and forgetting to water my cactus-child for another two weeks.
BUT IT'S STILL ALIVE! I AM A GOOD MOM!