How Should Kids Address Adults? It’s Time for Mrs. and Mr. to Make a Comeback.
When I was a kid – back when folks drank Tab and thought their Magic Eight balls were totally accurate – everyone called adults by their last names. There was no question of what to call the parents of my friends. It was Mrs. Brownson or Mrs. Biondino or Mrs. Pratt.
I could never have imagined calling these moms or any other adult by their first names.
In fact, when I was in my twenties, I ran into Mrs. Brownson one day and she suggested I start calling her Michelle. Michelle? Who the heck was Michelle? She was Mrs. Brownson! I did as she asked but it never felt quite right. She’ll always be Mrs. Brownson to me.
Then I got older and had my own children. And then these children started talking! Suddenly I, and other new moms, were faced with the issue of what should our children call other adults. At the time, it seemed ridiculous to have some 3 year old playmate call me Mrs. anything. I’m not a Mrs! It sounded stuffy, formal and well, made me feel old. So my children’s playmates called me by my first name. Most moms I knew went this direction as well.
And it seemed to work just fine. At least at first. But you know how kids keep having a knack for getting older. Well, it’s one thing to have a preschooler call me Kelcey. And quite another to have a 10 year old who is almost towering over me. There are now neighborhood kids who will waltz into my house with a laid back “Hey Kelcey!” and somehow it just feels too casual. And what happens when these kids are teenagers?
When a child calls an adult by their last name – it’s a sign of respect. Something I think I have lost by letting my kids’ friends call me by my first name. Because these children are not my friends. They are not my equals. I do have one tween who calls me “Ms. Kelcey” which seems like a nice Southern compromise. But most of them just call me “Kelcey.” And the truth is – I’ve earned the title of Mrs. or Ms. something. I’m an adult. I work hard. I take care of people. I have wrinkles that need Botox. I deserve respect.
But how to change course now?! It seems so awkward to suddenly start demanding a more formal title like I have been knighted or something.
I think I’ll have to start fresh when my kids make new friends or change schools. Until then I’m just Kelcey. For better or for worse.
Note: The names (other than my own) in this piece have been changed.Published December 29, 2014. Last updated December 29, 2014.