So Nancy R’s post about manners on the New York City Moms Blog brought up something that’s been in the back of my mind for a while. How should I teach my girls to address adults? Which terms are de rigueur these days? Living in Silicon Valley, you get used to the relatively casual lifestyle in and out of work and I sometimes wonder if what we do here is common around other parts of the country.
As everyone knows, the common business attire in Silicon Valley corporate offices may include khakis and button-down shirts for men and pants and a simple top for women (though women, like myself, love to mix it up with skirts and the occasional dress). A suit jacket may be close at hand hanging on the back of the door for any unplanned occasions that might require a little nicer look. Terms of address also follow suit – everyone is usually on a first name basis, including the executives.
But outside of the corporate world, things are more flexible. So flexible that I wonder what parents are teaching their children to use these days – Mrs. Smith? Mrs. Sara? Miss Jones? Miss Barbara? Mr. Bill? Do you even teach your children to use the adult’s last name at all? What about complete strangers? What about those adults that may not be relatives but you would like for them to show some level of familiarity. Do you use “aunt” or “uncle” or “grandma” before their first or last name? What if they’re not that close? I once heard myself referred to as “Mama Linda.” Never heard that one before. Thought it was kinda cute…and smart. It showed respect as well as familiarity without being too close (like “aunt”) as I don’t get to see my friend’s kids that often. It offers another level of distinction between acquaintances and relatives. But it’s so new and different, I don’t feel natural teaching that to my kids.
For the record, my girls use “aunt” and “uncle” for our closest friends (and relatives, of course). For other adults, they use Mrs./Miss/Mr. first name or last name (if a complete stranger) unless corrected by the adult. Oh yea, I do try to ask first (i.e., how would you like my girls to address you?) before I tell my girls what to say. Anyway, I’d like to know what you are teaching your kids to say. The rules of etiquette have certainly changed since I was a kid and I’d like to know if I’m on the same page as everyone else.