Talking to Adults

When my children were babies and toddlers, I was not sure how my children should address adults. I had not given it any thought. It was not until my daughter was little that the subject was discussed at all.

I called my parents “Mummy and Daddy” — I’m English. I called my teachers “Mrs. [insert last name].” My college professors — “Professor [last name].” My co-workers and supervisors — first name. But, what should my daughter call other adults in our circle of friends and relatives.

I did what I did with many parenting issues –read books and talked to other moms. I wish that there had been a resource such as when my chidlren were little!

My parents spent quite a bit of time discussing what my daughter should call them. My dad wanted to be called “Grandfather.” His request was soundly rejected as being too formal. They settled on “Grandma” and “Grandad.” My daughter was the first grandchild on both sides, so there was no precedent for names. I suppose we could have waited for my daughter to come up with a name. But, I have a feeling my mother would have become “Molly” or “Pookie.”

My inlaws started out as “Grandma” and “Papaw.” My middle daughter decided that “Grandma” was actually “Mamaw.” I think my MIL would call herself by that name. I still call my MIL “Grandma” and my children all correct me, but I am a creature of habit.

Our family is very small. Seriously our family tree on both sides could fit on two sheets of paper with room to spare. My sister became “Auntie.” When she got married, her husband was then “Uncle.” We have no great-grandparents or other relatives.

I have three children. One child’s godparents are my sister and my husband’s good friend. My daughter addresses her godfather as either “Uncle” or by his first name.

Growing up I had a very small family as well. My dad was not in contact with his side of the family. There were several couples who were close friends of my parents who became close to my sister and I as well. We addressed these couples as “Auntie” and “Uncle.” It was not until I was older that I realized that we were not related to these people. But, my auntie and uncles cared about us and that was enough.

I attended a music class with my daughter when she was 18 months old. Her teacher was Carol Rose Duane, which seemed like a mouthful for a young child. A mom in the class started addressing her as “Miss Carol” when talking to her child. We all picked up on it.

In preschool all teachers and assistants were addressed as “Miss Janie.” To this day I can remember the first, but not last names of most of the children’s teachers. We used the same term for gymnastic, ballet, music, and any other type of instructor.

By elementary school, we had to learn to call teachers by last name only: “Mrs. Smith.” It was hard to get out of the habit of calling everyone “Miss Debbie.”

I started listening to moms who would call each other “Miss Jill” and “Miss Maggie.” I had my children call the moms I knew “Miss ??” also. This way of addressing people became our policy.

I think with young children if you are consistent about what you call friends, your children will follow suit.

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