Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

When Did Kids and Grown-Ups Get on a First-Name Basis?

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

When Did Kids and Grown-Ups Get on a First-Name Basis?

Article excerpt

Every woman of a certain age remembers that first horrifying time a kid called her "Ma'am." A close second to that is the first "Mrs." Suddenly, you're June Cleaver being greeted by Eddie Haskell. Suddenly, you're the older generation, and there's no turning back.

"I'm 42, but in my head I'm still young. So I don't think of myself as Mrs.," said Cindy Santos, who has 6-year-old triplets in kindergarten. The Paramus triplets are just starting to tread into the world of interaction their friends' parents, team coaches and Girl Scout leaders.

"Before this, it's only been close family and friends," said Santos, whose children call those longtime friends by their first names. "The name thing is definitely a funny game."

So what should Santos' kids call these new adults who are entering their lives?

"When we meet somebody new, I always say, 'This is Mrs. So-and- so,' " said Santos. If the new acquaintance says to just have the kids call her by her first name, that's OK with Santos.

She is no longer a minority. Decades ago, people might have been horrified by what they perceived as sign of disrespect when a child called adults by their first names, but these days it is not uncommon. Many search for something in between the most formal Mr. and Mrs. with a last name and the too friendly, for-some, first name.

Family friends can be "Aunt" or "Uncle," but that can get unwieldy with large groups. There is always Mr. or Miss followed by a first name. Things can get particularly complicated as couples are divorced or when addressing a married woman who didn't change her name and does not want use her husband's last name.

Ironically, as more and more children are calling adults by their first names, their parents -- many from generations that grew up in a more formal world -- still often call their own parents' peers Mr. …

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