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Friday, August 16, 2013

Miss Questioning

When my husband was a child, he was required to call every adult Mr. or Mrs. and their surname. His mother still expects this of him even though he is now in his 30s. When I was a child, this wasn't addressed at all and I called adults by their first names with the exception of aunts and uncles who I always called (and still call) Aunt or Uncle and their first name and grandparents/parents. When we found out we were pregnant, we decided that our children would be required to meet somewhere in the middle, by calling all adults Miss or Mister and their first name. This seemed like a wonderful compromise between the too-strict and the too-lax. It's been working out quite nicely.

A few days ago, I began to question this decision. I have yet to talk to my husband about my thoughts, as I've not fully fleshed them out in my own head. Here's the thing: I am beginning to feel that this goes against all things I believe. Why should Zen Son have to refer to adults in a way that I do not? The only thing I can come up with is that he is below me on the social scale. That's not OK with me. That's not cohesive with the rest of my belief system.

Zen Son should be forced to be no more respectful than I am. That is to say, I am not 'forced' to be respectful at all. I choose to be, because I choose to treat others as I wish to be treated. This does not mean, however, that I call people by their formal title and last name. So why should he? Because he is a mere child? Because he is lesser than? Because he is lower on the totem pole? Because he needs to be kept in his place?

This is not something to which I put any thought when we came up with our brilliant compromise. We just kind of acted without much deep thought beyond what was outlined above. Never did I consider the deeper meaning of what I would be requiring of our child and why. And for nearly three years, I've gone on happily surface-level in my thinking on the matter. La-dee-da...

One of the things I like about me is that I'm always open to questioning my beliefs and I'm usually the one to provoke said questioning. As such, I questioned why I was doing what I was doing in this regard. Turns out, I was doing it not because it was what I thought was right, but because it's what society told me was right. I never do that! And it bugged me. I've put my son on unequal footing with the entire over 18 population simply because he is small. That's ludicrous!

So, I guess I actually have fleshed out my ideas. Putting them down here has helped me flesh them out and shown me quite clearly what I believe, not what I was taught to believe and blindly followed. I believe children are people. I believe we are all equal (or should be, damn it!). And I will no longer put him below so many others because of some arbitrary social constraint.

Now it's time to share these thoughts and talk them through with my little family of three. It's time to rectify my wrong. It's time to treat my son with the respect I so often claim I do. Lesson learned. (Now on to new lessons...)


  1. It's wonderful that you question yourself and apply your beliefs to everything. I have only ever introduced my daughter to people by their first names apart from doctors I think and I find it works well. She has respect for others and they have respect for her (if they don't then they can stay away). Long may it continue. I am sure your husband will agree with you on this issue and your son will take to the change very easily :)

  2. In Hawaii everyone older is considered Uncle or Auntie. They are Kapuna (elders) and should be given some respect, but it's endearing as the monikers make everyone family. I'm referred to as Auntie when people don't know my name (or people forget my name).
    I'm teaching Aoife to do the same and even I use Auntie and Uncle when I'm talking with someone who is older than me.
    I grew up calling people Mr and Miss/Ms with the first name. When I worked as a supervisor at the Home Depot, I called one of my employees Mr Bill (yes, his name). Everyone in the store did.
    I think by doing myself, Aoife notices that it's not something she's forced to do since she's young.

  3. I really enjoyed your perspective on this matter. I was raised by two southern parents where we kids were taught to address friends of the family as Mr or Ms. (because assuming marital status was rude) was said with the person's first name. We were told to address strangers by Mr/Ms. and last name. It is considered disrespectful to do otherwise. My mother actually gets offended by one of her neighbors who is 8 and calls her "Sandi."

    My husband is Indian and therefore saying an older relative's first name would be highly inappropriate. Similar to what Stacey said, elders should be called Aunt and Uncle. They also carry hierarchical systems that can drive a westerner bonkers. Why should your birth order dictate order and respect?

    If it wasn't for your post I would have never considered how I was taught to address my elders! How interesting of a concept. I agree that children are our equals in self worth. I feel that the title is given out of respect or out of respect for their additional knowledge regarding the world. From that perspective the title doesn't bother me- but it is a fine line between saying something to show respect and valuing the person differently because of age or position.

    1. That you're questioning and thinking is the point of the post. If you come out on the same side as you were before, cool - at least then you know what you really believe and why. :)