She Says… Mrs. So-and-So

Owen has been completely obsessed with names recently. When we received Christmas cards over the holidays we put them all up on the wall and his favorite thing was to point to each one and ask (read: demand), “Dat?”. After I said each name he would repeat it (to the best of his ability). And then giggle. And then ask me again. Lather, rinse, repeat. Often I would turn the question back on him and ask him who the people were, and he almost always said the right name! Go figure, Mr. Social is totally enamored with learning names.

He also knows the names of people on food packages when he plays in the pantry cabinet. Oh yes, he and Bob (of Bob’s Red Mill) and Uncle Ben (of Uncle Ben’s Rice) are on a first name basis. And if there are any people on cereal boxes, Owen calls them all “guy”. The kid sees a face and wants a name!

In public, he will point to people and say, “Dat!” as if I know everyone’s name. It’s getting a little awkward to have to say (out loud, usually within earshot), “Ummm, I don’t know that person’s name, buddy…”. And even more awkward to say, “That’s a man/woman/girl/boy/kid” and realize that I’ve guessed wrong. Ooops. The other day Owen learned the word people (pee-boh), so at least I’ve got that one as an easy out.

He talks about our friends constantly, even when they are not there. He constantly “finds” his cousins and aunts and uncle and grandparents (most of whom he hasn’t seen in months) in books and on the street. When we sing songs he will shout out their names and I will work them into the song. He comes home from school with new words every day and finally I’ve come to realize that many of them are names of his new little buddies. Have I told you he’s obsessed? Obsessed.

At school he is supposed to call his teachers Mrs. and Ms. So-and-So. This strikes me as kind of funny, since he is only a toddler, but I guess it is good practice in formality for later in life. In any case, it feels a little strange to refer to his teachers as Ms. So-and-So when most of them are clearly my age or younger. But what is even weirder is thinking of having Owen call my friends Mr. and Mrs. So-and-So. I can remember several of my parents’ friends who I called Mr. or Mrs., and definitely when I met my friend’s parents, they were Mr. and Mrs..

Does that mean that Owen should be calling my college friends by their formal title when he learns their names? REALLY?! Not going to happen, folks. But then will it be weird when he is 10 and going over to friend’s houses and calling their mothers by their first names?

Maybe it’s generational. Maybe Owen’s generation WILL call their friend’s moms by their first names. And maybe it won’t seem weird then.

What do your kids call your friends? Their teachers? Do you feel weird introducing people as Mr. or Mrs.?

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18 responses to “She Says… Mrs. So-and-So

  1. This isn’t even something I’d thought about yet. My anti social little diva could care less what other people’s names are. :)

  2. So far, most of the non-related adults that my kids know are my mom friends. We’ve always done first names there. And yet, once we get into the kids having their own school friends, I would expect them to call their friends’ parents Mr. or Mrs.. But even in their preschool, the teachers simply go by first names. I don’t know, the boundaries are pretty fuzzy, but I do feel like it would be weird if they were 10 or 12 and calling their friends’ parents by first names.

    Much of the time, we just cop out and my kids will very often just call someone “Abigail’s Mommy” or “Owen’s Daddy.” Good enough for now.

  3. How cute! What a smart little guy you have. A lot of kids in the south (where I did not grow up but live now) call adults Miss/Mr. First Name (so I’m Miss Sara and my husband is Mr. Andy). It reminds me of going to dance school growing up, where all the teachers were Miss Patti or Miss Janet. I like that it still shows respect for their elders, but it’s just a little less formal than Mrs. As much as I truly love old-fashioned formality, I’ll probably encourage our baby to do the Miss/Mr. First Name thing.

  4. I’ll echo Sara – we go with Miss/Mr. “First Name.” – a sign of respect, but not quite as formal. And adorable, coming from a toddler’s mouth!

  5. When I worked at an after school program (kids kindergarten through 6th grade) we went by Ms./Mr. ‘First Name’ it seemed like having the title before our named helped ensure a little bit of respect without being excessively formal.

  6. I’ve thought about this too. But when I was growing up, I called my parents’ really close friends (like their high school friends for example) by their first names, but my friends’ parents were Mr. and Mrs. And my parents were actually pretty strict about this–I remember I had a neighbor whose mom wanted to be called Maureen instead of Mrs. So-and-so and my mom was horrified. Weird! I have a feeling our generation is going to be a little more informal about this, but I think it’ll just work itself out.

  7. My friends growing up always called my parents by their first names. The couple of friends who’s houses I did go to – I remember trying to avoid calling their parents anything because I was never sure. With most other adults at church, etc… it was always Mr. or Miss and their first name. That is probably what we will do for our/his friends once Simon starts talking and is what they do at daycare.

  8. That is so cute! He loves names. Growing up it was always split, most of my friends parents insisted on us calling them by their first names and I know my parents made all of my friends call them by their first names. So I’m having our daughter call my friends by their first names. I’m curious when we send her to a 2s program next year what they’ll have her call them! Hadn’t even thought of that.

  9. I think it probably works itself out.

    I grew up in the South and so tried to get A to call her daycare teachers Miss So-and-so. But then the teachers themselves actually just had the kids calling them by their first names, so I gave up.

    Similarly, I think teachers who want to be called Mr. So-and-so or Miss Such-and-such will introduce themselves that way and the kids will call them that. The teachers who don’t, won’t, and the kids will call them by whatever they do introduce themselves as. Same thing with other kids’ parents and so forth.

    In particular with other kids’ parents, I think that often takes care of itself because kids won’t necessarily introduce their parents or won’t introduce them by first name and so kids will fall back on Mr./Mrs./Miss/whatever.

  10. Miss/Mrs/Ms first name feels very southern to me (and reminds me of growing up in NC). I find it kind of funny that it seems to have caught on so much in the last few years. When I was a kid it was only popular in the African American community. My friends used to call my parents Mr/Mrs Eckstein by default, although they always asked the kids to call them by their first names. My favorite is when the little ones call you by your relation to their friend – my Dad is often addressed as “Grayson’s papa” at her school.

  11. I always called friend’s parents by their first names, b/c where I grew up, that’s how parents introduced themselves, but maybe that is a midwestern thing? I don’t know but I can’t imagine my daughter’s friends eventually calling me Mrs. because that just makes me feel like I’m at work. I’m an elementary school teacher and actually, in the school I work at, most parents introduce themselves with their first name, and insist on us calling them by their first name. I also tend to introduce myself to parents with my first and last name, and sign e-mails and such with my first name, depending on the relationship I have with the parent. But obviously, the students always call us Mrs/Ms/Mr etc.

  12. I live in VA and the convention for close adult friends seems to be Mr./Ms. First Name. I never really heard that until I moved here. At preschool, it’s the more traditional Mr./Mrs./Ms. Last Name. I’m fine with the first names if it’s an adult my kids know as their “own” friend, rather than my friends whom they know as their friends’ parents. Does that make sense?

  13. This is such a great discussion! Thanks for sharing what you do.

    I like the idea of “Mrs. First Name”, but it still feels a little phony with *my* friends. We’ll let this one run its course and presumably it will work itself out. Or Owen will be the only kid calling adults by their first names. One or the other :)

  14. I would imagine this whole issue will unfold as Owen grows up and it will probably become more obvious what to do based on what other kids in your area do and how people introduce themselves. I personally could NEVER be a Mrs. So and So to anyone. My friends growing up always called my parents by their first names, and to the best of my memory I usually called their parents by first names too–with the rare exception of those friends and parents that I wasn’t particularly close with. Growing up in Cambridge/Somerville we even called our teachers by their first names (hippie dippie private school:). But when we moved out to the suburbs and to public school that of course changed and I remember it being a real adjustment. Currently Esme’s preschool teachers use their first names but I’m sure that will change when she enters Elementary School. But it does bring up the embarrassing thought that as I have been meeting parents of her preschool friends it hasn’t even occurred to me to have her call them Mrs. So and So and I’ve referred to them by their first name. Yikes! I hope none of them have minded, as it’s probably a bit too late…interesting discussion Kate!

  15. We always have our kids call anyone who is out of high school by Ms. or Mr. (or Dr.) First Name. If they are a generation older than us, they are Ms. or Mr. Last Name. I want our kids to be respectful and I feel that is a good way to help them remember that older people should be related to in a different way.

  16. Interesting discussion. Ethan calls my close friends by their first names, and his preschool teachers go by their first names. The thing about the last name issue is that there is always the risk of a mistake — after all, many women (like me!) have chosen not to change their last names. I am often referred to as Mrs. Husband’s Last Name; it doesn’t bother me, but I always notice it as an interesting assumption. As a high school teacher, I try to be careful when addressing my students’ parents. Like I said, it doesn’t bother me when people make the mistake with my name, but I know some who would be very bothered!

  17. I haven’t got kids yet (looking for them really hard;-)), but I’m a teacher and I can tell you that, in high school and college, students have a hard time calling their teachers Mr. or Mrs. (even the first time they meet them). Maybe an early start with formality is a good thing.
    Actually, I have to admit that sometimes I’m a bit flattered when they use my first name because I can’t help thinking they do it because they think I’m young ;-))))

  18. Oh boy! great post! I have always said that I couldn’t even imagine myself as Mrs (last name) That’s my MIL! So I wanted to play like they do in the south and go with Miss Jen! Who knows if that will work. Our close group of friends is really close and my husband wants to go with calling them Aunt and Uncle even though they aren’t. We have a while to go so we’ll see…but I think that kids have to learn to call Mr and Mrs. It’s just a part of life i think!

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