When I was a kid, my parents had a strict rule: All adults are to be called by Mr. or Mrs. Insert Last Name. Unless, of course, they were an Aunt or Uncle.
Fast forward thirty years to the laid back coast of California rather than the more reserved Ozark Mountains and my kids call my friends by their first names. I never really thought much of it until a friend instructed his son to call me Miss Mandy.
Which instantly made me feel like a teacher.
Which wasn’t a bad thing.
Until I started giving out homework and expecting the group to work on their algebra problems on their own.
When the topic came up on my mums forum, I was curious how others handled the situation. I’d expected in our fairly laid back area where wearing jeans to work isn’t always reserved for Casual Fridays that most of the responses would be similar to mine.
I was surprised to discover how wrong I am.
Almost half have their children refer to adults as Mr. and Mrs. Last Name or Miss and Mr. First Name. I was surprised. And a little embarrassed. All this time I’d been introducing my children to everyone on a first name basis and it appears as though that’s not always okay.
It’s interesting, this rule. On the one hand, I like the informality it gives the children in my circle towards us adults. It makes us feel closer than a teacher at school. On the other, I understand that the separation and title are a sign of respect towards the adults.
I also understand that there’s not hard and fast rule anymore. Fifty years ago, it would have been Mr. and Mrs. until well into adulthood. Now, without this rule set in stone, we’re left to flounder a bit. It’s my tiny internal etiquette coach’s worst nightmare. If my children’s friends are calling me Miss Mandy, shouldn’t I reciprocate and have my children call their parents Miss Jen or Mr. Chris?
What do you do? How do you teach your children to address adults in your circle of friends? Is it different than those outside that circle?