Yes, Mrs. Grau

When did I become so old? Instead of me just being Cristina, I am surrounded by a large group of little people all referring to me as Mrs. Grau. You see, in our homeschool group, we have this policy; all adults should be referred to by their last names and I am no different.

I remember when I was a young girl, I always called my mom’s friends by their first names. I don’t even think I knew what most of their last names were! This never seemed to be a problem for them and it certainly was never a problem for me.

Previous homeschool groups never made an issue out of our names. I think I might have been referred to as Ms. Cristina, but that was about the extent of their instruction. It wasn’t until we joined our current group that this point came about.

While this confused me at first, I now see the importance of using surnames. I believe they are used as a matter of respect and to show a distinction for those who are close to us.

My children have personal friends, those children are not my friends and I am not theirs. Therefore, it would be inappropriate for them to address me as such. Likewise, my personal friends are just that; my friends. It would be unbecoming for my children to start using my friends’ first names.

Friends and "Family"Nowadays, it seems an impoliteness (stiff and formal) to use surnames. I am not sure why we have made such a switch. To me, it seems our society has become too informal. We feel free to address anyone we please with no introduction; say whatever is on our minds; and be “ourselves”, no matter how horrible that reality may be.

I wonder if we have dispensed of surnames out of fear. We are afraid of being conceived as snobs or uptight. We are afraid of being unapproachable and out of touch with the younger generations. We fear being disconnected from our children’s friends, being perceived as not “fun”.

Interestingly, there used to be a day and age where everyone was referred to by their surnames. It wasn’t just children who used them, but adults as well. We reserved first names to indicate a personal relationship, denoting a closeness involved.

Having my children’s friends use our last name to address us does not make us any less fun or enjoyable to be around. It merely establishes a level of respect and authority which should rightly be in place. We can have fun together, but that does not make me their buddy; there is a line which should not be crossed.

When, on those rare occasions, our children are allowed to use someone’s first name, there is a definite intimacy to the relationship. These are people who have been in our lives for years and will continue to do so. Often, the last name is replaced with a familial term. Instead of my girlfriend being Mrs. Sidebottom, she is Aunt Kristi. She is still being shown respect, but she is considered practically family.

Even as an adult, I am learning to be careful with how I address people. Until I know someone very well, I choose to use a more formal means of address. I find this particularly beneficial when speaking to men. Using their surname establishes a particular separation in the relationship; there is no intimacy involved, we are not personal friends.

For our children, this is just another positive step in the right direction.

How do your children’s friends address you?


18 thoughts on “Yes, Mrs. Grau

  1. I love this so much! I think you’re spot on with the informality thing in our society. Sadly, I don’t really have any close friends with kids (in a university town that we will be moving away from soon), so I can’t give any personal anecdotes. But I think what you’re doing is great. There definitely needs to be a distinction for the kids between close friends who are your peers and adults who deserve respect.


  2. :(a big ta-do over nothing. I love respect and that it goes both ways. (little people to big people, AND big people to little people). With surnames, it really comes down to actually who you are addressing because maybe it is that person’s preference how to be called. And good advice for when a women speaks to a man -and vice versa- with whom she/or he isn’t well acquainted.


  3. I have to say that I truly agree with this. Our son calls our friends Mr. & Mirs. surname and our really close friends, those who have been friends forever, aunt & uncle. I believe it is important to establish the respect. I know as a former teacher, I made sure my students used my surname and not any other name. (I say this because I have worked in some really small, casual schools where teachers were called by their first names.) In the past, if someone introduced themselves to me (or were introduced to me by someone else) using a nick name I always insisted on knowing their actual name. I feel that it helps your brain process the differences faster and allows you to feel 100% certain of whom you are calling friend.


  4. If they are much older than my husband and myself or if we don’t know them well we have the kids call the Mr. or Mrs. Surname. If they are good friends of the family (the families we see the most and kids play together frequently) we have the kids call them Miss. or Mr. First Name (Still shows some respect but also shows the degree of closeness we share. Closest friends are Auntie First Name. Mostly those are lifelong friends my husband and I have had since we were young. And that’s how we do it in our little neck of the woods. 🙂


  5. We go by the person’s personal preference. If they want to be called Mr. or Mrs. or introduce themselves as such, that’s what we’ll call them. If they express no preference, we call them by their first name. For me, a child calling me by my first name does not mean they don’t respect me, any more than me calling them by their first name means that I disrespect them! EVERYONE deserves respect, young or old.

    Also, a lot of our customs such as names come from our culture. Korea, Japan, Mexico, and Russia are just a few examples of other cultures that have different ways of addressing each other. Anyway…. I was curious about this topic too, so I posted the same question on my blog, and got a lot of interesting responses in the comment section!


    • I don’t think it is a matter of respect, as much as acknowledging authority. We respect children, but we are their authorities; therein lies the difference.

      As this is not a moral issue and merely a preference, I do no believe there is a right or wrong answer to this question. I find the cultural differences interesting and a show of respect is always a good thing.

      I find it better to err on the side of caution and respect, than to cross a line and offend.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!


  6. To my kid’s friends, I am “Miss ________”, which I am fine with, although I am “old school” and grew up in a generation where you referred to friend’s parents by their surname. (Our last name is difficult to pronounce anyway, so this may be a good thing!) It’s a generational thing, I think. My kids refer to other parents as “Miss First Name” also, which seems to be respectful enough, different from the way I grew up, but respectful all the same. Our culture has definitely shifted to a more informal way of life, where manners have become ancient relics in some circles. (like speaking loudly on cell phones in public, but I digress…)


  7. When I was growing up I called all married adults Mr. and Mrs. except for some close friends who preferred to go by their first names. My mother said one way to respect people is calling them by the name they want to be called. As a child it was nice to call people Mr. and Mrs. because it helped me remember who was married to whom and I had only one name to remember instead of two! I love it now when people address me as Mrs. I’ve been called by my first name all my life and it’s nice when people teach their kids to say Mr. and Mrs. It makes me feel grown up. Haha


  8. A few years ago, when my husband was “the top boss” at his company, his employees all referred to me as Mrs. It took them 6 months to finally start calling me by my first name (at my repeated requests). Some of them were older than I was! I finally got them to stop by telling them that I keep looking behind me for my mother-in-law everytime they called me Mrs.

    We always introduce our children to adults as Mr. and Mrs. and insist that they refer to them in that way unless they are requested to do otherwise. 🙂


  9. I think it’s a regional thing, too. I was never called Miss Laura until we moved to North Carolina. We’re in Maryland now, and it’s pretty normal for the neighborhood kids to call me Miss Laura and my husband Mr. Ryan. I don’t let my kids use adults’ first names. The odd thing is that it’s the British children in our neighborhood who drop the Miss or Mrs. in front of my name. When I was younger, we were only allowed to use first names with my parents’ close friends; these were the friends who were more like family to us though.


  10. Being called Mrs. Cates by children makes me feel old, but I rarely tell them to do otherwise, since I know their parents must have directed them to do so. Possibly even worse for me was the switch when sales people etc. stopped addressing me as “Miss” and started using “Ma’am”. Ha!

    However, after living in the south for some time, I really came to appreciate the kids (and many times adults) who would answer “Yes, ma’am” or “No, ma’am”. I wish I would have done a better job of reminding my son to use those terms. I know it can be said in an obligatory fashion, but so many times it’s said with such a sweet heart that it sounds so wonderful in the ears.

    We had the privilege of having a seasoned homeschool mom (kids are now all grown) at our most recent meeting. One thing she emphasized was how important it is to teach our kids basic manners. It’s so (sadly) rare now that it really sets our kids apart (in a good way) when they get to college, career, etc. I can see where not getting too familiar right away would give a potential employer a good impression.


    • This is an excellent point! So often (nowadays), people assume an immediate closeness of relationship upon first introduction, or shortly after. Our children need to learn how to cultivate a relationship, instead of presuming one exists.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts!


  11. This is an interesting topic. I’m not sure how I feel on it as it pertains to myself. I never had any experiences, outside of school, where I was expected to call anyone by their surnames. I also, often heard my mother say things like, “Mrs. Dailey is my mother-in-law.” I almost never give my last name when introducing myself, and truth be told, I often don’t introduce myself at all. Most of the time when I meet new people we just strike up a conversation and roll with it.

    Since my children are so little this issue has never really arisen, but it is another great thing to think on. You are so good at that 🙂 The issue of authority is pretty intriguing to me. I had never really considered that aspect. I always looked at it as a respect issue, but the idea of being in a position of authority makes even more sense. I worked with at-risk youth for many years and am now wondering if it would have been beneficial to have had the youth refer to us as Mr. or Mrs. whatever.


  12. Late here, my dear Mrs. Grau! 🙂
    You wrote: “Nowadays, it seems an impoliteness (stiff and formal) to use surnames.”
    And I’m always saying, “Doing right is the new rebellion.” So many just do not get it!
    One funny, though: When my children were still in a private school, the parents could save a lot on tuition by serving voluntarily as monitors during the school day. The children were required to call us formally, Mrs. Surname. However, it was awkward and difficult to remember and somehow just seemed wrong for my own children to call me Mrs. Trauger. Many of the families felt the same way, so the children were instructed to call their own moms “Mrs. Mom”
    After a few giggles, we all settled in to the new normal and every now and then, if I’m being a bit autoritatian (it is about authority!) my grown kids will call me Mrs. Mom, in fun, of course.
    As for calling younger people Mrs. and Mr., if they are married, it is really an amazing sign of their marriage, and acknowledgement of a sacrament, really, of another depiction of Christ and the Church, whether they are young or ancient. I realized this while reading your writing, above. Suddenly I really LIKE it!
    Oh, and there was the old preacher who could never remember my name and called me Sister Jerry (husband’s first name). Ha! I loved that!


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