Evolution has been mostly great for humans. It got us to stand upright, pinch things between our thumbs and forefingers, and develop life-sustaining tools like those scalp massager things you get at the mall. Notably, evolution also made us starry-eyed about babies. Even though babies are sticky, wet and loud, we ache to put their little feet in tiny socks.
This arrangement successfully propagated our species for a couple hundred millennia, and it might have continued to do so, if not for the fact that we straight-up ruined the entire planet. Too pinchy for our own good, we filled oceans with the plastic packaging of so many scalp massagers that climate change is close to irreversible.
These beings won’t learn your name, and their consciousness is debatable.
With scientists telling us The Day After Tomorrow is actually Today, many people are understandably reluctant to bring another human into the soon-to-be uninhabitable Earth. But knowing that climate crisis is upon us doesn’t instantly dissolve thousands of years of pro-baby programming.
Of course, some folks don’t want to have kids—eco-apocalypse or no—and if that’s the case for you, I’m jealous. Feel free to go read a must-watch list of R-rated movies. For the rest of us, I’ve compiled a guide to non-human organisms you can put tiny socks on, metaphorically speaking. These beings won’t learn your name, their consciousness is debatable, and they won’t live to see climate stuff get really bad. But they might need you, in all your surplus parental instincts, and many of them share traits with real-life children (e.g. they are very small).
RAISE PLANTS INSTEAD OF KIDS
This is the plant baby for those who want to expend little to no effort parenting or maybe didn’t plan on having children. You can tell succulents are easy to care for because it’s socially acceptable to just give somebody one unexpectedly, as a housewarming present. A succulent is like a really chill baby that sleeps through the night right away… and sometimes you forget they exist for three weeks.
Ok so this is more of a real plant, because you can accidentally kill it if you forget you own it. It’s a planned pregnancy kind of plant. A good option for the would-be parent who longs to go to special stores and buy special like…soil…or whatever. The kind of good parent who takes you to Limited Too instead of Children’s Place.
This is a fussy plant kid who gets colic, pulls boxes off grocery store shelves, and, when friends come over for a playdate, still wants to play with you. They look amazing on your Instagram because they’re objectively lovely, but you do resent them for being so annoying. Maybe they’ll thrive because you micromanage their care! Or maybe they’ll grow up poorly adjusted from all your praise. The only child of plants.
ADOPT AN ANIMAL WITH A SHORT LIFESPAN
Listen, grades aren’t everything. There’s nothing wrong with having an undistinguished child. They sell more cookies for their scout troop because adults feel bad they don’t have any skill patches. A goldfish is ideal for the parent who loves to root for an underdog and thinks participation trophies are just fine.
An exotic bird is that kid who constantly gets stopped on the streets by Gap casting directors. Beautiful to behold, the envy of all their friends, loves to eat seeds. Relentless fucking copy cats. Perfect for the vain parent that has always dreamt of a little mini-me!
Squirrel, ferret, or other apartment-sized wild animal
Strap in, because this pet-child is not for the faint of heart. It’s for folks who grew up with three or more siblings and know how to keep their cool amid chaos. If you and your six, sweaty little brothers used to chug root beer and lose your minds at Chuck E. Cheese, taking care of a wild animal in your studio apartment should be fine.
NURTURE A FUNGUS
Did you know you can grow these on your fire escape? You can harvest them for summer salads or roast them to enhance savory dishes. In other words: the best kind of child to have, a gratifying experience all around. Does well in school, has good friends, makes you proud.
A rewarding option for stay-at-home parents! This wholesome fermented tea made from a yeast and bacteria culture is the homeschooled kid you see peeking out from behind their bedroom curtains as you walk to the bus stop. Their name is either Saffron or Timothée Chalamet. Unvaccinated.
PROTISTS ARE…AN OPTION
Algae is essentially fish tank wallpaper. Although it is alive, it mostly dresses up the background of things, a bit of a nuisance but nothing you can’t handle. If you dream of plunking a baby in front of an iPad, posting their picture with the caption “this goober :)” and calling it a day, this is your kind of deal. As adults they’ll form start-ups and order Seamless three times a day.
These are the organisms they found in Neti Pots, right? So random. Amoebas are like the kids who giggle-scream “I LIKE CHEESE” repeatedly, eliciting tight grimaces from whoever else is in the room. But you’ll love them because they’re your amoeba…
You'll love them because they're *your* amoeba.
EUBACTERIA INSTEAD OF KIDS? ARCHAEBACTERIA?
Ew. All gross. This corner of the animal kingdom should be avoided at all costs, to be honest. But if you find yourself responsible for eubacteria (E coli, Lyme disease, and flesh-eating bacteria), think of the kid who poops in the public pool or takes the Star Wars bandaid off his finger to rub his warts on you. “I don’t understand what happened there,” people will say. “The parents are so wonderful…”
Then there’s archaebacteria. What even is this stuff? Those twisted organisms that live in extreme conditions, like insanely hot underwater thermal vents. An interesting option for spooky parents who think loving Halloween is a personality. Will outlive us all.
Simone Norman Simone Norman is an actor, comedian, and writer based in Brooklyn, NY.