There is a problem in our society with limited, bilateral thinking. People assume that children have a mom, a dad, and…nope, that’s it. There is no room for another kind of family.
So I took Max to the dentist yesterday. His dentist is pretty cool; there are plastic animals and a fish tank and video games. We get there, he wanders off to go play in the waiting area, and I go up to the counter to check him in. The very first thing I hear is…
“Are you Ms. Samantha?” (Not her real name)
Me: Um, no. I’m the stepmom. (I don’t know why I always phrase it like that, but I do. Like my reputation is supposed to precede me. I should capitalize that ‘S’!)
What always gets me about these interactions is that the person I’m talking to always gets all flustered, and immediately has to figure out what to do since I’m not in the system and there’s not actually a blank space anywhere to put other relatives’ information. She figured out how to get my name in, because apparently they keep a record of who brings them to appointments, but then when I went up to the kiosk to complete Max’s check-in (I really do like this dentist, they’re so high-tech) I had to confirm all of his information. THIS is where I started to get ticked off. Max has literally moved since the last time he had an appointment, and ALL of the contact info should be different. Not only that, but his dad’s information isn’t even in the system at all. In fact, under “Dad” all of the information is Max’s stepdad’s. (I’ll address why that in particular made me angry in a separate post.) I could change the address; nothing else was editable. So I completed the check-in as best I could, then went back up to the counter.
Me: Um, excuse me. Max has moved into his dad’s house since the last time he was here, and we need to make sure this contact info is correct. There’s a phone number under ‘Dad’ but it’s not his dad’s number – I think it’s probably his stepdad’s. Can you help me to get that fixed, please?
Receptionist: Oh, no, I’m sorry, there’s not a way to change that. If his custody has changed, you’ll have to bring in a copy of the custody agreement.
Me:……………We can’t add his biological father’s phone number?
Now, my husband (I’m going to refer to him as Chris from now on, because he does have an identity outside of being ‘my husband’) had a pretty great attorney for his divorce and all the custody mess, and her advice was to keep a copy of the new agreement on my person pretty much everywhere I go, ever, until the end of time. I’m fairly decent about following directions; so I immediately went out and grabbed the copy I keep in my car. I got a call a couple of hours after the appointment from the dentist’s accounts person – apparently it was SO impossible for them to add Chris’s number that they had to create an entirely new account with the new contact information for Max and just transfer his records over. I still don’t actually know what they did; I guess I’ll find out the next time I take Max in.
So this problem is something that I encounter on a regular basis: WHY are there not systems in place for those providers who handle child services in whatever way (schools, doctors, dentists, you name it) to handle blended family situations? My stepson’s school does this awesome thing where any emails get blasted to everybody who might possibly need to know, but his mom and I initially had to scribble all of our information down on a piece of cardstock no bigger than a postcard that just didn’t have all the necessary blanks. (In fact, one of us had to scribble so much that the teacher couldn’t read her email address and had to grab me the next time she saw me to figure out what was wrong.)
I guess my point is that I want everyone to stop thinking in such restricting terms. Let’s not assume that children don’t have people in their lives other than those whose genes they inherited. Let’s not assume that there’s only one way to have a family . Let’s assume instead that children have the parenting network that they have, whatever that may be – stepparents, single parents, grandparents, guardians, aunts, uncles, two parents of the same sex, probably others that I’m not even thinking of – because if blended families are struggling with this then I know that families in other situations are.
Let’s add some blanks.