What do your kids call the adults in their lives?
When I was growing up, I was expected to address every one of my parent’s friends as Aunt This or Uncle That. Took me years to realize that I wasn’t related to everyone that came to our house but I still call all my parents friends Aunt or Uncle.
All other adults were Mrs. This or Mr. That, except in the rare occasions when they told me to call them by their first name. Then I was in a conundrum because I felt really ill at ease with the prospect. It felt wrong to call an adult by their first name, so I found ways to avoid calling them anything at all; my in-law’s were always Mr. and Mrs. Martin until the day we got engaged when they became Mom and Dad.
About 10 years ago I was visiting a girlfriend (whom I’d known since high school) and her parents came over. They were always Mrs. and Mr. Last Name to me, but you would think a married woman in her late 20’s, with a job and responsibilities would finally be comfortable calling them by their first names? Uh-Uh. I tentatively tried out Pat & Bob a few times, but went back to Mr. & Mrs. Last Name every time. Pat laughed at me and said “When are you finally going to call me by my first name?” I thought about it and replied “When I finally decide if I’m a grown up or still a teenager…”
Society has gotten informal with regards to how one is addressed and most kids seem to call adults by first name. My kids call our close friends Uncle and Auntie, a la my family, and we usually introduce adults by their last name, but more often than not they invite the kids to call them by their first name. This can lead to some awkward situations where I’ve introduced an adult as Mrs. Brown, but then she will introduce me as Voula to her child. It sends the kids a mixed message.
Frankly I don’t like it. But want to know the irony? Despite the fact that I don’t really like kids calling me Voula, I’m not totally comfortable with kids calling me Mrs. Martin either because it seems too formal and unapproachable. Weird, eh? I would never insist on being called Mrs. Martin because while I will stop your kid from throwing balls in my house, it is not my place to ‘correct’ social graces that don’t necessarily need correcting. Do you see the dilemma? I don’t think either way is wrong, they just don’t feel entirely right to me either.
Is there a compromise? I think it would be cool to instigate the charming old southern custom of Miss First Name, Mr. First Name. It would bring an element of respect for ones elders, without the formality of the surname and give us a nice transitional, middle ground. In order to make this work, we have to all be on board! It won’t work to insist that my kid calls the neighbor Miss First Name and Mr. First Name when their kids call me Voula (again with the mixed messages!). Who’s with me?
I can’t be the only one out there with this dilemma? (Oh please don’t let me be the only one with this strange hang up!) I’d love to hear about how you have addressed it!