The girls and I stopped at a neighborhood convenience store the other day to pick up an after-school snack as we hurried to some after-school activity. We've been in a few times, but not all that often. The clerk always looks puzzled when she looks at us, and often asks something-or-other about our family -- which is pretty much why we don't go in all that often! This time she asked if Zoe and Maya were sisters. I said yes, though I'm pretty sure she was asking if they were biologically related.
Then she asked, "Do you take care of them?" Well, the short answer to that one, too, would be yes. Like mothers do, I take care of my daughters. But I'm not just the baby-sitter, I'm more than a nanny. And that's really what she was asking me, right? Are you the baby-sitter?
I have to admit, there have been times when I've felt like the baby-sitter. I didn't feel like a mother until I had been parenting Zoe for about six months. So I had a bit of a problem with simply answering, "Yes, I take care of them." I wanted to claim them as my family; anything else seemed like a rejection. So I answered, "No, I'm their mother." And out the door we go, a mismatched family of three.
Zoe and Maya were tickled that the lady thought I was their baby-sitter. They've so rarely had a non-family-member baby-sitter that the novelty of it was quite intriguing. After giggling over it for a while, Zoe said, "Well, at least she didn't think you were our grandmother!" Despite my quite youthful looks (!) and my obviously-prematurely-gray hair, we frequently get the "grandmother" question. Sigh.