Friday, May 20, 2005

Moms' Names

by Marjorie
In the spirit of the playgroup, I'm looking for a bit of enlightenment here.

How should your child's friends address you (or your friends' children, for that matter) ? I'm for the formality of Mrs. X. I can understand the informality of first names, but I can't help but feel its inappropriate. Granted, when I was a kid, I thought it was super-cool when a neighbor, friend's parent, or substitute teacher said, "call me Thelma."

When I was a new mom, my friend Anne was a seasoned mom -- I always liked the way she used Mrs. Smith when she was talking to her kids referring to me. Another friend in playgroup, used to refer to us to her child as "Miss Marjorie" and "Miss Anne." I was okay with that, too, but I think it was beginning to veer towards only the name as the child got older. Our neighbors' elementary school-aged kids call both me and my husband by our first names and it drives us a bit batty. Having a munchkin, or a not so munchkin, call me Marjorie is grating to me -- most especially if I had not been asked if it was okay.

But its not okay -- I had a friend over yesterday and she was telling her son that if he wanted something or other, that he should ask me. She paused before finishing this directive, turned to me and asked if it was okay if he called me Marjorie. I felt like a total heel, but I stuck to my guns and said "I'd prefer he use Mrs. Smith." She smiled and it was all fine, but I did feel like a fuddy-duddy. I would have prefered if the default had been Mrs. Smith; that would still allow me to lessen formality if I wanted by saying "no, please, call me Marjorie."

I definitely see the point of children using first names as a way of showing a greater friendliness, but in those cases I have a real need for a title, like "Miss Marjorie" or "Aunt Marjorie" even if we're not blood-related. Its not that I'm a big authoritarian, to me its more of an issue of respect.


Blogger Anne Zelenka said...

I prefer the more formal "Mrs. X" as you know, even though before having kids I was never a Mrs. anything. It shows some respect and reminds kids that adults are in charge.

Here on Maui it is much more casual than in Virginia. The kids even call their teachers by their first names. I still talk about their friends' parents using Mr. and Mrs. but it's an uphill battle.

9:27 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

I think you're fighting a losing battle, at least in the circles I move in. We've taught D to introduce himself, so he'll come up and say "Hi, my name is D----, what's your name?" and 99% of the time, adults tell him their first names.

In a lot of cases, I don't even know the other adult's last

D is also young enough that he often refers to other adults as "so and so's Mommy," which is sort of cute.

10:38 AM  
Blogger purple_kangaroo said...

I try to always ask other adults what they want my kids to call them in an open-ended question: "What would you like my kids to call you?" If I do default, I go with Mr./Mrs. for exactly the reasons you mentioned--it's less awkward to take a step down in formality than a step up.

Some people insist that their kids call everyone Mr/Mrs. But my feeling is that for someone who doesn't wish to be referred to that way, it's just as rude as calling them by their first name when they've asked not to be called that. So generally I just have my kids call people by the name they prefer, whatever that is.

I don't think it's too confusing for the kids, and we're teaching them that if they aren't sure what to call someone, then default to Mr./Mrs. or Sir/Ma'am.

8:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My kids and all their friends use the construction "X's mom." They even use it when directly addressing the mother: "Benedict's Mom, can Benedict come spend the night?" Yes, it defines me in my role as mother, but to a kid, that's who I am, someone's mother. I would not like to be called Mrs. anything--it doesn't feel natural to me.


10:58 PM  
Blogger Marjorie said...

Good points, all of them, thanks.

I do get "Suzanne's mommy" a lot and I like it more than Mrs. Smith because it is warmer and it doesn't bother me to be identified as that, since its a large part of my identity (not all of it, but a really, really big part!). And in all honesty, I must point out that my mother-in-law is a formal lady and has never invited me to call her by her first name, which caused me much irritation for years. Now, I'm fine with it, I realize its not a lack of affection she feels for me, she really is more comfortable with that title than with her first name.

I completely agree that it is inconsiderate to use a last name if you've been invited to call someone by their first name. I have much more of a problem with kids assuming they will use my first name. I'll be honest, I have a much harder time with it IF I don't like the kid.

5:47 AM  
Blogger liz said...

I'm either Miss (my name) or (Muffin Man's name)'s Mom. All of the teachers at our day care are Miss or Mr. (insert first name here)

10:56 AM  

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