I’ve been volunteering at my daughter’s school recently and I’ve come to a little conundrum: by which name should I get the kids to address me? Right now they greet me as “E1’s mom” which really isn’t sufficient. (Gotta educate them early that there is more to a person than being merely defined by her relationship to someone else.)
Having the kids call me by my first name would be pretty easy, it’s the name I’ve grown up responding to. However, there is a part of me that thinks that as a parent, I’m not here to be friends, I’m part of the community of adults helping to raise these children. With that hat on, a level of formality helps establish and maintain a level of respect, especially if I’m going to be calling them out on improper behaviour. Mrs. Toh or Ms. Toh accomplishes that.
But Jen, you say, isn’t the name “Mrs. Toh” also defining yourself via your relationship to your husband? Didn’t you just say above you didn’t want to do that? Yes fine, technically it is, but I’m complicated that way. I’m of a mind that it’s up to each person to determine how they want to be referred to. I chose willingly to adopt my husbands last name, it’s on all my ID, so Mrs. Toh it is. I do not have “E1’s mom” on my ID.
This leads me to then think: how should I teach my daughters to address other adults, as a default?
We’ve taught them that they refer to our close friends as Aunties and Uncles, as is common in Asian cultures. To use that as a general rule though is probably awkward as it’s not the Canadian culture to do that. (I wish it was though)
Our neighbours on the street right now get called by their first names because that’s how they introduce themselves and sadly, I often don’t actually know their last names. And now we’ve been here long enough that it seems really weird to now ask for people’s last names. (Or their first names as well, since I’ve also forgotten many of them too…eep. They get instead a cheery, “Hey! How are you?”)
But what of the parents of their classmates, or other adults that they will encounter through their lives? I would think it’s better to err on the more formal side, and teach them to use “Mr.” and “Ms.” and the last name of their classmate. That rule of thumb is tricky though. Many mothers do not share the last names as their children, and how are my daughters to know that?
This is what I’ve decided to do. When I meet an adult that I know my daughters will interact with, I’m going to try and explicitly ask the adult how my daughters should address him/her. And when I meet children, I will try to remember to tell them what they should call me. Hopefully through repeated exposure of this process my daughters will then learn to do this for themselves as they grow older. Yes, it will be a bit difficult to remember the different rule that goes with each different person, but that is better than being called “so-and-so’s mom”, right?
Because a rose by any other name just isn’t as sweet, it’s awkward for everyone.
Photo: 20H by Bells Design