I tackled the kids’ passports last week (because really, what better time than the week before school to handle government paperwork?), and it turned out to be a bit…challenging.

I know, I know.  Big surprise, right?

Well, it kind of was.

US passport

You see, I had this silly idea that their passport renewal would be a pretty straightforward process.  And as long as your passport hasn’t expired the process seems pretty simple.  Fill out a form, get your passport picture taken, copy supporting documents (if your name has changed), and mail it all with a check to the Passport Processing Center.

Voilá!  Done and done.

Since T-man and Bear already had passports I figured this would be a piece of cake, so I scheduled this as a quick errand after an appointment one morning.  We ran by Walgreens and got their pictures taken (Bear looked appropriately confused when they told her not to smile) then headed over to the local passport office.  I figured I’d pick up the necessary forms, make sure I had all my bases covered, then drop our package in the mail by the end of the week.

We hit our first roadblock when we headed to the passport office only to find there was no passport office.  I called BrightSide to make sure I wasn’t having a brain-dead moment and he googled it, which is when we learned that the damn thing had moved.  And that it was by appointment only.  And that it was only open for three hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon.

Good grief.

So I waited until the office reopened that afternoon before calling, only to reach a voicemail system with the longest message I have ever heard in my life.  It gave a website and ground rules and a help number and some application guidelines and exactly what the woman does and does not do (By Appointment Only) in her office.  I was finally allowed to leave a message, and when she called me back the real fun began.

I made my first critical error when I referred to the kids’ passport process as a renewal.  Oh no, she emphatically corrected me.  Passports for minors aren’t a renewal, they’re a resubmissionApparently this is an extremely important distinction in government lingo since the topic came up several more times in our conversation.  But to boil it down for all of you, a “resubmission” is simply another way of saying “hell, no, you can’t just mail in the stuff to renew this passport we’ve already assigned to your child.”

I’ll take a moment to say that I do understand the reasoning behind all of the hoopla that follows.  I just didn’t need to be dealing with it the week before school started.  Not on top of a dentist appointment, three doctor appointments, birthday shopping, school clothes shopping, and Back-to-School Open House.

Anyway.  Passports issued to children under the age of 16 are only valid for five years.  We knew this, which was why we were renewing (resubmitting!), we just didn’t know how different the process was between kids and adults.  There’s a lot more than just mailing in some paperwork for them.

Yes, there’s a form to complete and yes, you return their old passport as proof of citizenship, but then the passport lady threw a whole bunch of curveballs at me.  First, both parents have to appear and bring along identification.  If one parent can’t come then they have to complete another form, get it notarized, and submit it with a copy of their photo identification.

Normally BrightSide’s schedule is pretty flexible for this kind of thing, but he’d been out of the office for two weeks straight so he had a lot of backlog to handle.  It was the perfect storm: I was calling on Monday, the kids and I had appointments of our own all day Tuesday, and the passport lady would be out of town on Thursday and Friday.  And since BrightSide’s Tuesday schedule was insane, there was no way he’d pull off the whole “notarized form” requirement.  That left a single day to make everything happen.

For a brief moment I thought well, if I can’t make it work then I’ll just handle it once the kids are back in school.  Then I read the form again and oops, guess who also has to appear in person at the passport office?  That’s right, the children.  So come hell or high water, Wednesday would have to work.

The government also requires certified copies of the kids’ birth certificates.  I had a brief moment of panic when I couldn’t find them in the files before I realized we’d probably put them in the safe.  Now, the ironic thing about our safe is that even I can’t seem to open it. (Which, I suppose, makes it especially safe.)  Seriously, I’ll try and try and the thing will stubbornly refuse to open, then BrightSide turns the key and boom!  It’s like magic.

There’s another whole slew of requirements if the birth certificate was issued more than a year after birth but (thankfully) we didn’t have to deal with those.

When I look at the list now it doesn’t seem unmanageable: forms, parents, birth certificates, passports, new pictures.  Oh, and the checks to pay for all of it.  I think it was the time crunch that stressed me out the most because there really was no room for error – if I screwed up even one part of those requirements it wasn’t gonna happen, and then this fun task would roll into the school year.

All’s well that ends well, I suppose, in that we all made it to the appointment, documents in hand, and managed to resubmit our request for T-man and Bear’s passports.

My saving grace in all this is at least on the next go-round, if we’re lucky, T-man will have passed that magic 16-year-old threshold into the ten-year passport.