Friday, June 29, 2012

Times, they are a-changin'

I don't really know what got me thinking about it last night as I drove home from our end of year staff party but I was thinking about how kids these days call adults by their first names.

When I was a youngster we called every adult we knew Mr., Mrs., or Miss. Not just teachers. We called our friends parents by their surname, our coaches, even our paper route boss. When we were introduced to an adult they were introduced by surname, never by first name.

In fact, I know who the first adult I called by first name was. It was the woman around the corner whose kids I babysat. Only when we met, I was too young to babysit her kids, my Mom babysat them, I just liked walking their dog. And it always felt strange to me to call her and her husband by their first names.

When I started working in childcare the children were taught to address us as Miss and then our first I was Miss Jean. (and later when I got married they started calling me Mrs. Jean.) Another centre I worked in and now in school I am Mrs. Donahue. Always. I'll bet some of my kinders don't even know I have a first name.

When Emily was about 2 months old my childhood best friend came for a visit with her husband and two children. Her daughter is about a year or so older than Emily. I can remember distinctly she introduced me to her kids as Mrs. Donahue and it was the first time out of the classroom that I'd been introduced to a child that way. And yet, it wasn't weird - children should be addressing kids with that respect.

And yet, my kids friends all call me Jean. And my kids call all their friends parents by name. I've tried introducing them or referring to them by surname but it never stuck. I can remember then first time Mary went to her bff's house to play. I told her to listen to Mr. and Mrs. XXXX.  and when I picked her up Mary said goodbye to first name.
I introduced my coworker to Connor by last name and she referred to herself by first name to him. So that's who she is now. (And again, I'll bet her students think her first name is Mrs.!)

I'm fighting a losing battle I think.

Years ago I'd written a letter to my Great Uncle that I'd sent along with some pictures of Emily. He wrote me a letter back thanking me and also telling me that I was no longer to call them Aunt and Uncle, that I was an adult and could/should refer to them by name only. And yet, that feels strange. I've been taught that part of respecting your elders is by refering to them with a title: Mr., Mrs., Aunt, Uncle, etc.

I don't know if this is a sign that children today don't respect authority as much as they used to. People say that kids are less respectful than they were before - I can't attest to that but I if the name thing is any indication than I think 'they' might be right.

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