What do your kids’ friends call you? What do you have your kids call other adults?
Growing up I clearly remember calling my friends’ parents Mr. and Mrs. Friends’ Parents. I didn’t call them Bill or Jane. The thought of it makes me laugh even now because it’s so ridiculous to me. Even my aunts and uncles were Aunt Carla or Uncle Jeff, not just Carla or Jeff. There was a respect we were expected to show the adults around us that was symbolized by the names we called them.
It was a memorable rite of passage when I graduated from High School and one by one the adults in my life started inviting me to call them by their first names. I was almost an adult and the new name calling was my secret entrance code into that world, an exciting transition.
Now that I’m the grownup and I’m introducing myself to the kids in the neighborhood, it feels a bit strange to say, “Hi. I’m Mrs. Thompson, Laylee’s mom.” My whole life I’ve been Kathryn or Katie. Mrs. Thompson is my mother-in-law. So I find myself hemming and hawing, choosing the middle ground of “Miss Kathryn” or telling the kids they can choose what to call me.
It seems that more and more everyone just calls everyone by first names, like we’re all chums, BFFs, equals. As much as I choke on the “Mrs. Thompson” moniker, I like what it stands for. It means I’m an adult with life experience and authority. It means I’m responsible to protect and care for the little ones in my life because I’m not a peer, I’m a mother. That’s why although I have trouble keeping a straight face when I introduce myself as Mrs., I encourage my kids to use titles when addressing adults.
I do not like the sound of my 4 or 7-year-old addressing another grown man or woman as Becky or Andy, just as I wouldn’t want my kids calling me Kathryn. It makes me cringe just a little. “Show some respect!” I want to snap. Unless the friend is so close that we’re practically family, I’m pretty firm on the Mr. and Mrs. policy. Then we get into the whole problem of teaching kids to respect adults without teaching them to obey all adults unquestioningly because sadly sometimes grownups ask or even command children to do things they shouldn’t.
Of course I only command my children to do things they absolutely should do so they must both respect and obey me at all times. It is the law.
I’m not a stuffy snooty mom, clomping around the house in heels and pearls, running my home like a well-oiled Fortune 500 company, barking commands and carrying a clipboard. Neither am I the mom who drives Laylee and her gaggle of first-grade gal pals to the mall so we can all get mani-pedis together and talk about how hot we think Zac Efron is. I’m a firm believer in being a mom/authority figure first and a friend second. My mom was this way and I pretty much worship the parental ground she walks on.
My friends all respected her and she didn’t take any crap from them but if they had a real problem, they’d come to her first. They knew she’d listen and care about what they had to say. I cringe when I think about some of the frank discussions we had, things I told her I’d done because I knew I would find firmness, love and direction, rather than harsh judgment. I always knew that she was my friend and that she loved me but that she was strong enough to be a real parent.
She was a mom to me and a Mrs. to my friends, not a first name to little kiddos. I suppose if I’m following her example and encouraging my kids to do the same, I should probably embrace my inner Mrs. Thompson and let Kathryn come out when I’m hanging with my grownup friends.
Everyone deserves respect, whether young or old and I know that you can respect or disrespect someone regardless of what you call them but I think names are powerful. All language is powerful and we’re teaching it to our children every time we use it.