Mrs. Turtlehead

This is an issue that comes up fairly often with our kids, and I’m sure I’ve blogged about it before, but it’s on my mind today, so let’s have another discussion, shall we?

The issue is this: what do your kids’ friends call you?

A history:

When I was growing up, some very close family friends were called “Aunt Lady” and “Uncle Gentleman,” but for the most part, we referred to our parents’ friends as “Mr. and Mrs. Lastname.”

Sir Monkeypants grew up in an Indian household where using “Auntie” and “Uncle” for adults is sort of the accepted norm, so he mostly used those terms, with or without an associated first name, for his parents’ friends. But definitely this was a title of respect – neither of us would have dreamed of just casually calling an adult by their first name.

When we were in university, we got to know some parents of our close friends very well, and calling them Mr. and Mrs. always seemed too distant, so we often referred to them as “Mom Lastname” and “Dad Lastname”, which I feel many of them found charming, but I have to say I’m not exactly sure.

When our kids were very small, we had to decide what we wanted for them. We both agreed that we wanted them to call our friends “Mr. and Mrs. Lastname” and so they have, with very few exceptions. It’s how we introduce new adults to them and what we expect them to use.

But we found most of our friends introduced us to their children by our first names, so other kids would just call us Lynn and Sir Monkeypants, while our kids were calling them Mr. and Mrs. Whatever.

It was kind of weird, and often our friends would ask us if we would prefer to be known as Mr. and Mrs. Turtlehead.

And here I have to say: I wanted to seem cool and chill and modern and hip, so I always told them I didn’t care and it was no big deal and that it was an individual parenting decision.

But the truth is, when a kid calls me “Lynn,” I find it odd and a little bit grating. So I guess in my heart of hearts I DO prefer to be known as Mrs. Turtlehead, even though that also has its issues as it sounds so old-fashioned and doddy and pearl-clutching.

All this has come up again because I met a lovely friend of the Captain yesterday, and he was a very nice young man, but one thing he did was ask me my name, directly, as in, “Nice to meet you, what’s your name?” So I hesitantly told him it was Lynn, and now I guess that’s what he will call me? And that’s okay?

I mean, it felt weird and possibly off-putting to say that my name was “Mrs. Turtlehead.”

But it also felt like I was inviting him to call me Lynn, which we have already established I don’t really like very much.

But also, I am not a million years old and living in the Deep South, and he is an almost-grown person of age 16, so…are we on a first name basis now with young men of that generation?

Is it time to accept that teenage friends of the Captain have achieved first-name calling rights?

I don’t know what to make of the whole thing. Most of his other friends avoid this whole subject by not ever calling me anything, and just sort of looming into my field of vision when they need my attention, or randomly calling out “Thanks” when I drop them off and hoping I understand that was meant for me.

I am thinking maybe what I need is a cool nickname that I can hand around as a sort of in-between. Like how hip and fun grandmother characters in books are always like, “Oh, everyone just calls me Bubie!” or “You can just call me Aunt Kit Kat like everyone else does!” and that will work.

So, currently taking:

  • your feedback on what you like to be called
  • your feedback on what you expect your kids to call other adults
  • your ideas for hip and cool grandma-type nicknames
  • And side discussion: do you call your in-laws Mom and Dad, or by their first names? Would you want your daughters and sons-in-law to call you Mom, Mrs. Turtlehead, or Lynn?

Fire away!

17 thoughts on “Mrs. Turtlehead

  1. Commenting on my own post to say that I suppose in a work environment, I would expect to be called by my first name by anyone, regardless of age, and would expect my kids to call everyone by their first names, even their bosses and more senior team members.

    But I’d still expect them to call my personal friends Mr. and Mrs. Whatever – I don’t forsee a time when they will “flip over” to calling them by their first names. I still refer to my mother’s friends, who I have known forever, as Mr. and Mrs. Lastname, and would not DREAM of calling them by their first names. But on the other hand, if I were to meet someone today that my mother had just befriended recently, then I’d probably just call them by their first name.


  2. Shyla

    I recall we also had trouble calling our high school teachers by their first name. Just to add to the confusion. But I would say times have changed and there is less respect all around.

    1. Yes! Teachers are 100% FOREVER a Mr/Mrs situation. If I ran into any of them on the street I would NEVER be able to call them by their first name. And I even have trouble calling my *kids’* teachers by their first name!

  3. It IS confusing.

    I interact quite a bit with my kids’ friends / schoolmates because I volunteer at their schools, and coach a high school team, and manage a basketball team.

    I mostly get called “Tudor” by the kids themselves, which is fine with me. Teachers usually introduce me as “Mrs. Robins”. Ever since I’ve become involved in basketball I’ve discovered the wonderful world of being called “Coach.” Of course, I don’t get called “Coach” but any of the people who coach / assistant coach / step-in-to-coach my son can be called “Coach” and it’s understood to be a term of respect. Occasionally there will be two coaches standing side-by-side and then they have to be “Coach Kevin” and “Coach Steve” (or whatever). The thing I find interesting about this one is that some coaches are “Coach Firstname” and some are “Coach Lastname” and I don’t know how that gets established, but once begun, it sticks.

    However, the “Coach” thing seems only to hold in certain traditional team sports. I never get called “Coach” by my curling team. In fact, I was called, “Ms.” the entire year by one of the boys.

    There is literally no point to this rambling reply, other than to say, you are not alone. My friend, who is a teacher, was ready to return to teaching after her mat leave. She wanted to teach in our neighbourhood, but not at our kids’ school. There is a lovely, alternative school very close by (walking distance) and someone she liked and respected was principal there, and she could have had the job, but she went in for a day to supply teach and all the students called her by her first name and she was like “I just don’t think I’m OK with that.” She now teaches at another lovely nearby school where she is a “Mrs.”

    1. True! I was “Guider Lynn” at Girl Guides which is what all the guide leaders go by, and that was okay with me. So maybe I need a title like that. Maybe to my kids’ friends I could just be “Guider Lynn” now and forever? I feel like that isn’t going to fly :).

      And TOTALLY on referring to teachers always by their Mr/Mrs name, or Coach name. Even when I have to email a teacher I can’t bring myself to use their first name, I always start it with “Dear Ms. Lastname,” especially if I have only met them a handful of times. I’m just too heavily ingrained in classic school structure to do anything else!

      1. Marianne Tilton

        “Guider Lynn” is how you’re referred to you in our household now, with our daughters. I did wonder recently what would happen as the girls are moving out of Guides and have to adapt. You may very well be Guider Lynn to that group of girls in perpetuity.

  4. Oh, and one more thing. I don’t call other adults in authority by their first names in kid settings. So, as the basketball team manager, I tell the kids, “You need to ask Coach Steve about that,” and at school I tell the curling kids, “You need to give your cheque to Mr. Athletic Director,” and also, when I’m just in the school with kids around, I don’t say, “Hey, Wayne, how are you?” I say, “Hi Mr. Athletic Director, how are you today?” I. Just. Can’t. Call. Him. Wayne.

  5. I went to a very casual high school where, even as teens in the 80s, we called a lot of our science teachers by their first names – Tom, Jane, etc. Suzi was an English teacher (Tom’s partner, actually) and most of the other teachers were Mr or Mrs Lastname, except for French teachers who all seemed to be “Madame” without any last names to distinguish them. It was a little odd for me, as my Dad taught there, and I knew a bunch of the teachers since I was 3…

    All that said, I have another complication in my family life in that I kept my maiden name, so while my husband is Mr F (or Dr F or Professor F), my last name is S. My boys also don’t really have friends, but neighbourhood kids call me by my first name (and my kids call their parents by their first name) and I guess that’s ok? High school teachers, as far as I can tell, are called Mr or Ms Lastname by my kids.

    I would find it awkward to have a teen calling me Ms S but I have no good alternatives, and I avoid calling my in-laws anything because I don’t like calling them Mr and Mrs F because that sounds way too formal, and first names don’t sit right with me for the older generation (the parents of all my friends are still Mr or Mrs Lastname) and “Mom” and “Dad” is just plain wrong. That’s not how I roll. So I have no suggestions there either. Really, I’m not sure why I’m even commenting here – I’m just adding to the confusion. Basically, call me whatever respectful name you want, just don’t call me late for dinner….

  6. nicoleboyhouse

    My kids’ friends call me Nicole, which I like, and my kids call my friends (or their friends’ parents) by their first names as well. Our octogenarian next door neighbour, and the elderly couple down the street are always known as Mr/ Mrs Lastname, though. I guess my thing is AGE. If someone is a senior citizen, then my kids call them Mr or Mrs. If I’m introducing one of my senior yoga students to them, it’s Mr or Mrs. But if it’s a colleague or a friend, first name only.

    I prefer to be called Nicole, but it would also be weird as I’m not a Mrs – I never changed my last name and it’s different from my kids’ last name. So that would be odd. When my BFF’s friends were tiny, they called me Aunty Nicole, but not after about age three.

    As for my in-laws, hoo boy, first names only. I think my MIL at one point hoped I would call her Mom, but that felt really wrong as I already have a mother. I hope my future DILs call me Nicole, as I think Mom would be too weird.

    Interesting digression: I had three sets of grandparents, and all of them were called Grandma/ Grandpa Last Initial, EXCEPT for my step-grandma, who everyone referred to as Grandma Fern. I mean, everyone, every single cousin. I have no idea why but we did. My own parents are referred to as Grandma and Grandpa, and my MIL is Grandma D, but that’s probably because they see my parents much more often. When the boys need to clarify anything they do add the “M” to Grandma and Grandpa.

  7. I… I don’t know!

    Mark doesn’t bring friends home yet (phew…!) and when I meet his friends at school, he introduces me as “mommy”. Now I’m trying to think if my friends’ kids call me by my name… I think so but again, because our kids are young, it rarely comes up. And by that, I mean the kids are usually mute when mommy or daddy isn’t around 😆

    I don’t mind being “Juliette” (or “Juju” for my French friends). That said, there’s a difference in my mind between a young kid calling me “Juliette” and a teen calling me “Juliette”. But I wouldn’t want to be Mrs… gosh, no way the kids would be able to pronounce my last name and it would be weirder to use my husband’s name because I AM NOT CHINESE!

    Some of my friends’ parents insisted on using their first name. I wasn’t a big fan when I was a kid/teen. In French, we had the additional issue of tu vs vous. I would often mix it up on purpose, i.e. using their first name with the polite vous.

  8. Same here for me. It’s Mrs whatever. Except at swimming lessons, where the instructor is typically “Britney” (a Britney Spears lookalike circa Baby One More Time).

    Chinese use prefix like “little”, “elder” etc. with the first name or last name. I kind of like that.

  9. When I was growing up, we were taught to call our friends’ parents, Mr. and Mrs. Whatever, but I most definitely, without a doubt, prefer being called by my first name.
    When I met the man who would become my husband, my parents told him to call them by their first names, and he always has. No problem.
    His family was a different story. There were already three sisters-in-law in place by the time I came on the scene, and they called my husband’s parents Mom and Dad. I did it too, because it would have been weird for me to do something different at that point, but I was never comfortable with it. They weren’t my Mom and Dad. They were older and wouldn’t have approved of it if I’d called them by their first names, and Mrs. and Mrs. Smith felt too formal. Often (most of the time) when I was talking about them to other people I resorted to “his mom,” or “his dad.”
    First names would have been SO much simpler.

  10. Also grew up calling adults Mr. and Mrs., with the exception of very close friends of my parents who were Aunt/Uncle. In my day to day life, if the person is someone who I don’t know particularly well, then I would expect my kids to call them Mr./Mrs. Lastname, unless directed differently. I have developed friendships with some of my kids’ teachers over the years and they have a hard time transitioning to first names, even though they have been encouraged by those teachers to do so. Our close friends all get the first name treatment. We are a pretty tight knit group and everyone involved is comfortable with that dynamic.

    As for me, I am happy with whatever makes the person comfortable, but my personal preference is for folks to use Shannon/Shan/Shanny depending on their level of comfort. I work with a lot of younger folks through my actual job, volunteer gigs, youth leadership, and coaching and, for me, that makes me feel like the connections I am trying to make with the kids are accessible and comfortable. That is just my personal take on it.

    As for my in-laws I have always called them by their first names. They are divorced and both have re-married and for me it didn’t seem right to call one half of each couple Mom/Dad and the other by their first name as my husband does. If I was going to make that leap to Mom/Dad, why not call all four of them M/D, I mean where do you draw the line, when they aren’t your actual parents to begin with, and at the same time, my husband uses their first names, despite having this parental set up for the majority of his life. Thank goodness for children though, because more often than not not I call them Grandma/Poppa, with only a sprinkling of first names and Mike calls my Mom, Granny exclusively.

    One other wrinkle, our oldest has been doing her co-op in a kindergarten class and the kids, very adorably call her Miss Abby. Also for camp she had to come up with a cool camp name for the campers to use, so she became Violet (because she had purple streaks in her hair at the time). You could totally come up with a cool Mom nickname. Ask your kids or their friends, you might love what they come up with.

  11. Lily

    Oh, this is one I’m struggling with myself. My daughter is in daycare and I have NO idea how to answer when a 3-year-old asks what he or she should call me. I know that I am uncomfortable with having such a little kid call me by only my first name. I’m struggling with whether I should steer them towards Mrs/Ms Lastname or Mrs/Ms Firstname. Neither feels natural. I would do what the other moms in this area do, except I don’t know what they’re doing!

  12. smothermother

    First name for me. I don’t know if it’s a French Canadian comfort level thing. Some of my cousins even call their parents by their first name. As a kid we called my parents really close friends by their first names, so it only made sense for me to have my kid’s friends call me Julie. For me Mrs (which wouldn’t be right because I didn’t take hubby’s name) or Ms is too formal. And I can’t even imagine calling my in-laws Mr & Mrs. To me that just seems so cold. It’s first names. NOT Mom and Dad, that just didn’t seem right.

    Teachers have always been Mr or Mrs. Sometimes with last names, some times with first names. It all depends on how they introduce themselves to the kids.

    It’s interesting to see all the different stances and ways to approach this. It’s not something I ever really thought about.

  13. Carly

    I love this topic!

    I always assume that my children should refer to the adults they meet by Mr. and Mrs. unless that adult gives them leave to call them by their first names.

    Growing up my, my best friends parents were ALWAYS Mr. and Mrs. Lastname, but another couple in my parent’s circle of friends insisted on being called by their first names. So it’s easy for me to switch back and forth as I did it a lot as a child. This helps me a lot when volunteering at the kid’s schools as I am comfortable using the teacher’s first names in private and switching to Mr. and Mrs. in front of the kids.

    Now, as a grown woman of ah-hem, 45, I STILL can’t call my best friend’s parents by their first names – for 39 years they’ve been Mr. & Mrs. Lastname to me even though they’ve long since insisted on being called by their first names. The closest I’ve managed is Mr. & Mrs. L.

    As far as what my kid’s friends call me – it totally depends on the child, to be honest. Is it horrible to say that if I’m not fond of the kid, or feel like they’re just a little too casual with their overall manners and politeness, I always introduce myself as Mrs. Lastname. If I like them, and they’re polite and respectful, then I use my first name. LOL!

  14. Marianne Tilton

    I expected that I would go by Mrs. lastname when I married and had children. But along the way things changed and most of my children’s friends call me either by my first name, or “Maya/Chloe’s mom.” Partly this is giving in to what seems to be the predominant trend of calling adults by their first names. It also reflects the close relationship we have with some of my children’s friends and their families. But also, because I am a teacher and go by Mrs. Tilton at work it offers a distinction between my work life and private life.
    I like the honourific “Auntie” and “Uncle,” but my husband feels very strongly that those titles should be only for actual aunts and uncles … that they denote a specific relationship. We do have some friends children who call us by those titles and we are fine with that, because that is their family’s tradition but we don’t do it ourselves.
    One friend of mine taught her children to address adults of friends as Mr. or Miss. firstname. So I am Miss Marianne to her children and my kids call her Miss Firstname.
    Whatever names are used, it matters most that the address is respectful and/or kind.

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