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What Do Other People's Kids Call You?

Erin Zammett Ruddy

I’m not really a fan being called Mrs. Ruddy by anyone, but it feels particularly strange when my friends have their kids call me that. Is this my own I-still-think-I’m-23 immaturity issue or something else? And do I even get a say?

When the kids’ teachers or doctors call me Mrs. Ruddy, I always say, “you can call me Erin.” They don’t, of course, but I at least offer. It’s not that Mrs. Ruddy makes me feel like my mother-in-law (I’ve never known her as anything but Debbie), and it’s not that it’s not Zammett, it’s just that it feels…formal. And as you guys know I’m kind of the opposite of formal.

I have one friend who has her kids call me Mrs. Ruddy. I have another friend who has her kids call me Ms. Erin. I always say they should just call me Erin, but I’m beginning to realize that it’s not really my call, it’s theirs. I feel like it’s a respect thing, right? And it’s about the other moms teaching their kids respect, so in a way it has very little to do with me. Except now I feel like I need to reciprocate and have my kids call them Mrs. so and so. Which, again, feels a little formal for such close friends.

When the kids get into school (next year—ack!) and meet kids whose moms I don’t know, I think Mrs. Ruddy makes sense. If only to prevent creating a habit I can’t break. I don’t want some pimple-faced pre-teen bounding through my front door saying, “Yo, Erin, what’s up?” Or do I? I don’t know, I feel like this is one of the many parenthood issues that I just don’t feel that strongly about yet. But maybe I will as the kids get older.

When I was growing up, there was only one friend of mine whose mother had us call her by her first name. Incidentally she was pretty much the nicest, coolest, warmest mom around. I still remember her sitting with me in the kitchen at a sleepover and talking me through a scary movie when all the other kids were in the living room glued to the screen. Thanks, Tracy! Everyone else's mom was Mrs. so and so. They still are! But, and here’s the distinction, we also had a bunch of family friends—my parents’ friends’ kids who we grew up hanging out with and taking vacations with—and we called all of them by their first names. Linda, Paige, Phyllis, Susan, Dari, Steve, Bob, etc.

Right now, most of my kids’ friends are pretty much my friends’ kids. And I know we’re all going to be close for life. So it’s hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that suddenly the friend I was doing keg stands with on prom weekend is now Mrs. ________ (protecting identity, here!). It’s just feels so formal. And I definitely don’t need my close friends’ kids calling me Mrs. Ruddy. But again, I’m immature about this stuff. And I completely want to respect my friends' wishes.  I just don’t know the protocol here. What do you guys do? Do you respect your friends who want their kids to call you something that you’re not necessarily in favor of? Do you have your kids call them that too? Do you think there’s a distinction between school friends and family friends? Do any of you want to be called exclusively by your first names only?