What do your kids call adults? I’m always surprised…
When we were growing up in Michigan, my mom’s best friend was Barb Olmstead. They’d chat forever on the porch; we’d go to dinner at her house and play with her kids. But forever and always, no matter how much time we spent together, we called her “Mrs. Olmstead.” To call her “Barb” would have been bizarre — even at age 38, I cringe with awkwardness just imagining it!
But here in Brooklyn, the children around us address adults much less formally. Our boys call adults (friends, neighbors, crossing guards) by their first names, pretty much exclusively. They’ll ask when Rob and Kath are coming over, or if we can meet Raj and Kaori for lunch. Our friends encourage it.
Is it because we all hang out together, more than we ever did with my parents’ friends? Is it because many couples have different last names? (Same with Alex and me.) Is it because the culture overall is becoming more laid-back? Is it because we adults still want to feel young, and being called “Dr,” “Mrs,” “Ms,” etc. reminds us of our own parents?
Of course, expectations vary in different places and cultures. In many countries (including Australia, China and Germany), teachers typically go by their last names. But in Finland, “it’s first names or even nicknames with teachers,” Rita Rosenback told Expatica. “The whole society is very informal. I don’t think that even the president would flinch if someone called him by his first name.”
And what about aunts and uncles? “Our whole lives, we’ve called my mom’s brother simply ‘Uncle,’ and nothing more,” laughs Cup of Jo editor Megan. “So, if I’m talking to my mom, I’ll say, ‘I’m going to have lunch with Uncle.'” But these days Megan’s nieces have made up pet names for everyone. “I’m Magel, which rhymes with bagel,” she says, “and my boyfriend Mac is ‘Mac n’ Cheese.’ ”
I’m so curious: What do your kids call adults? What did you call adults when growing up? Where do you live, and what do you prefer?