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The Name Game: Kids Addressing Adults

When I was a child, every adult around me was automatically Mr. or Mrs. Soandso. This was with the exception of Sally and Mary Ann, my mother’s two closest girl friends, and a handful of close family friends who took on the honorary title of Aunt and Uncle. There was just no ambiguity around adults. It was very easy for me to understand that every adult was to be addressed with their respected title. This is still ingrained in me 35 years later. I find that when I go back home, I continue to address the neighbors as Mr. and Mrs. Soandso. Some have let it stand while others insist that we can move on to first names now that I am a proper adult.

The Name Game

Dean and one of his favorite Kindergarten teachers

I’m not sure whether we are becoming more casual as a culture and shifting towards first names, or if I am just stuck in between being a kid who uses last names and a grown adult who is allowed to use first names. It seems strange to me to address my good lady friend as Zed, but to make my kids call her Mrs. Soandso. Considering how often our families hang out, it feels more natural for us all to address her as Zed and for her children to call me Erika.

However, other school mothers with whom I am less familiar cause some confusion for me. For example, I find myself calling other mothers by their kid’s name, such as “Connor’s Mommy.” Mrs. Soandso feels too formal and using her first name seems too casual. This really gets awkward when my son needs something and says, “Excuse me, Connor’s Mommy?” because I haven’t given the poor kid a proper way to address the woman!

One would think that teachers would also be consistently Mr. or Mrs. Soandso. They certainly were when I was growing up. But my children go to a very relaxed Montessori school where the teachers go by their first names. Even the Head of the school goes by her first name with the students! Having this relaxed atmosphere at school has only encouraged my casual attitude of allowing my children to address other adults by their first names. It’s going to be an interesting transition to public school next year for my first grader when teachers and administrators are to be addressed more formally. This becomes even more complicated when you have teacher friends who cross both worlds with your children. It sure is fun explaining that even though they have called her Nikki for several years, now she is supposed to be Mrs. Soandso in the school setting.

Does anyone else out there find themselves being inconsistent with their children when addressing adults? Certain adults are easy to address because of their given titles of respect. Doctors and religious leaders are the only ones who come to mind. Doctors of any variety are always Dr. Soandso and religious leaders are always Fr/Pastor/Rev/Elder/etc. And Santa is always Santa; no ambiguity or possible formality there. But these are the only people whom I can be 100% consistent when teaching my children how to address adults! So what do I do about the other 98% of adults floating around my children?

This post has no conclusion or fantastic revelation. It’s more so to air some grievances about my frustrations and hope that other parents can commiserate! I guess I just need to recognize that I am a proper adult who can have upfront conversations with other adults when introducing my children. It should be okay for me to ask the adult how they would like to be addressed and then proceed from there. My inclination is that we are moving toward a more casual and informal culture that allows for first names more so than it did when we were kids 30 years ago. Or I could be wrong. It wouldn’t be the first time.

How do you navigate the adult name game with your children? 



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