The Name Game for Parents
I’ve mentioned before how I cringe when little kids call me by my first name. And yet, I am not ready to be called “Mrs.” either. Perhaps it is because my Husband’s last name is different from mine, so it doesn’t sound right to be a “Mrs.” when it is followed by my own name. “Miss Kari,” is cute, but a little juvenile. Still, I like it better than just “Kari,” which when spoken with a conversational tone seems as though the child were my buddy. I suppose “Ms. Kari” would have a bit more respect attached to it, yet not quite as matronly as “Ms.” with my last name. Still, even “Ms. Kari” feels wrong. “Auntie Kari” has a nice ring, but I haven’t heard the “Auntie” and “Uncle” titles in our area.
I want to fit in with the parents, but I don’t want the kids to think they “fit in” with me as an equal peer.
We’ve all heard the phrase “dress the part.” When schools decide to have a uniform, they expect that as the students dress well they will naturally be better behaved. I know I carry myself differently when I am in sweats than when I am in a cocktail dress.
Titles have the same effect. “Mrs. Murphy” is treated differently when she is “Sarah” than when she is “Dr. Murphy.” She is perceived based on her title, but also how she chooses to use the titles. When she is in her husband’s business circles as Matt Murphy’s wife, she is “Mrs. Murphy.” When she is amongst friends she is “Sarah.” And when she is at her office, she is “Dr. Murphy.”
An acquaintance of mine requests that everyone address him as “Doctor.” While in his office this is appropriate, I must admit feeling awkward hearing his wife refer to him as “Doctor Smith” when she calls him to their home phone. I would have suspected she can have the privilege of familiarity. In public, I understand the need for titles. I call my husband’s boss by his title when we are in public, but by his first name when I see him away from official business. But the phone call to “Doctor Smith” was an in-house situation. In this case, “Doctor” is an indication of being pompous, rather than a sign of respect. (The whole use of the “Doctor” title merits thought itself, since a lawyer calling himself “Esquire” would be laughed out of town and there are certainly many laudable careers without honorifics.)Continued on the next page