I take our kids to the dentist. During the week, Stacy leaves for work early in the morning. My schedule is more flexible. Their Mama does not have good feelings about the dentist and does not want to pass those bad vibes on to La-la and Bubs. So, I take our kids to the dentist.
Last fall, it was time to update their forms. I am the most not-best person to update the kids’ forms. I do not have legal custody of the children. I do not possess their insurance cards. I do not know their social security numbers by heart, or otherwise.
I filled out the forms to the best of my ability, thanks to a few text messages with both custodial parents. What did we do before we could text? I’m old enough to remember those days, but I’ve put them way out of my brain like the memories of a bad break-up.
I walked up to the receptionist’s desk to turn in the forms. The receptionist, Sierra, is literally one of the nicest people I have ever met.
“I don’t have all of the information the forms ask for, so there are some blanks. None of the information is different from last year, so if you still have those records, it’s all the same.”
“Ok,” Sierra said, sweetly, “we just really need updated copies of their insurance cards.”
“I don’t have their insurance cards, but they are the same as last year. They haven’t gotten new ones.”
“You don’t have their insurance cards,” she asked, as a gurgly feeling began to brew deep in my stomach. I had a four-year-old and a six-year-old, alternately sitting, hypnotized by the cartoon movie playing in the waiting area, and milling about my feet with that very specific type of child anxiety — you know, the kind that’s displayed nearly exclusively in public — the type that is overflowing with energy that has nowhere to go, except all over everyone it touches.
“No. I don’t have their insurance cards. I’m not a custodial parent. ”
“But you’re an adoptive parent?”
“No. The kids are adopted, but I’m not one of the adopters.”
“But you’re married to one of the adoptive, custodial parents.”
And then Sierra and I looked at each other in silence for a moment, while she contemplated how to ask the next natural question and I contemplated how I was going to answer her… how I was going to define myself.
“Then what is your relationship to these children?”
At this point, I’m starting to feel like I imagine Alice felt during her interview with the caterpillar.
I took a deep breath and said, “I’m their father’s girlfriend. I’m one of four co-parents of these kids. I’m the one who has a flexible schedule. I’m the one who’s not afraid of the dentist. I’m the one who’s here.”
“Ok, so, then, step-parent?”
“That would be fine.”
Are you a step-parent or non-custodial parent? If so, how do you navigate situations like these?