Monday, June 28, 2010

What’s in a Name?--by Jamie

When I was in the second grade, new neighbors moved into the house next door to mine, and my parents befriended them. From the start, the woman, who had a son my age and a daughter who was a bit younger than us, insisted that I call her and her husband by their first names. This was a novel concept for me—but I liked it. It felt pretty cool to address two grown ups by something other than Mr. and Mrs. (which is what I called all my friends’ parents—as well as the rest of my parents’ friends), and I pretty easily fell into the habit.

This couple still lives next door to my parents, and my three-year-old daughter, Jayda, now calls them by their first names, too. While Jayda does childishly address some of her friends’ mothers as “so-and-so’s mommy,” she generally calls all of my friends (many of whom are her friends’ parents) by their first names, as well. And, even at Jayda’s nursery school, the teachers are addressed by their first names. For awhile, I politely put “Miss” before Jayda’s teachers’ names whenever I was discussing them, but my daughter dropped the honorifics pretty quickly, and just calls these women by their first names alone—even to their faces.

We had a discussion the other day in my Child Development class about children calling grown ups by their first names—and my professor seemed dead-set against it. She said she didn’t want her son’s 10-year-old friends calling her “Pam,” and that it lacked respect. Then, because she knows I’m also a mom—and her contemporary—she looked directly at me and asked, “Don’t you agree?” The fact is, I don’t. Or at least I’m pretty sure I don’t.

After a bit of self-reflection, I confessed to my professor that I’d rather Jayda’s friends called me “Jamie” than the erroneous “Mrs. Levine.” I’m not a “Mrs.”—and I’ve never been one. And while I do plan to be open with Jayda about her background, I don’t want to have to correct every little kid who comes into my house, or explain to each one of them that I’m not married and that Jayda doesn’t have a father. It’s easier to just ask everyone to call me “Jamie.” But does that lack respect? Does it make me seem less authoritative? I haven’t really even thought about it until now. Jayda’s three- and four-year-old friends certainly look up to me—no matter what they’re calling me. But will that change when they’re ten or twelve or sixteen? Will my name really affect the way in which they perceive me?

I don’t intend to be the “cool” mom who drinks and smokes with her kids, and lets them have parties every weekend; but on the other hand, I do hope Jayda and her friends can confide in me and trust me when they’re older. Isn’t that what every mother wants? As a child, I never thought my informal next-door-neighbors were anything less than responsible grown ups despite what they asked me to call them. And I’d like to think my attitude—and my parenting skills—will mean more to Jayda and her friends than the name which they attach to me. I suppose only time will tell…


Blogger chillybot said...

No Comments Yet. What! Well let me be first. Hi luv. Your old friend from Oz here, checking in on your blog. Great read by the way.

It's a great topic and one that comes up quite a bit with the 'olds' and our generation. Of course we all feel too young to be called 'Mrs' - that is our mum, until the day we die. And don't we notice with a bit of a shock, when anyone does call us Miss... or Mrs... Why? Because it is not our name nor a title we actually asked for.

Personally I don't mind if one of my kids little friends call me Mrs Hill, but I do get a smirk on my face, and just think, wow he/she has been trained! Then I will say, 'you can call me Chris'.

I was always instructed to use Mr & Mrs as well as Aunty and Uncle to all 'adults'. All my parents friends were always an Aunt or an Uncle as well as my real Aunts and Uncles; although I didn't know that for some time. Very confusing. Then you get older and learn about relatives and that Uncle Len is really my godfather and dad's best friend, not my Uncle at all. Aunt Elly who always worked in my dads shop, is not even an aunt. Weird!

I did grow up around a large number of adults working in my dads business and called all by their first name (except Aunt Elly). I was taught that respect is not in a 'title' but in behavour and good manners. You should always address the person you are talking to before talking. Getting their attention, - not a "hey you"... but using their name in a polite and friendly manner.

Teachers of course were always Mr & Mrs or Miss, which I agree is a respectful title; but also one which is rapidly changing. Lots of schools now use first name with teachers and I don't think it is a bad thing.

I like to think all kids can feel on an equal footing with everyone they encounter and not feel intimidated. Always being respectful, always well mannered, in an environment where they can learn and flourish. The title of the teacher certainly has nothing to do with that. The quality of the teacher is in how they interact with the kids, of any age.

My mother in law would not agree (yes, I do have one), but she is a good example of someone expecting respect via a title, other than showing respect to others via behaviour. She will start talking to you in a room full of people and wonder why you don't answer. "oh, were you talking to me, sorry I didn't realise." This is something I notice in people all the time and think it very bad manners.

Lets be conscious of using peoples names, making them feel good that you actually know their name, and they will never care if you said Mr or Mrs. Their name is what is important to them, not their title.

Thanks Jamie. I didn't know you could inspire me so much... my first correspondance in a blog.

4:31 AM  
Blogger carolb said...

Times have changed, and our ways of showing respect have changed, too. Instead of relying on titles, I believe we teach our children to show respect by calling others what they choose to be called. It's not as easy as calling everyone Miss, Mrs., or Mr. So-and-So, but it's a much more personal kind of respect that shows we pay attention to the individual.

9:55 AM  

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