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.
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?