Friday, June 3, 2011

Equality vs. Respect

We're a society of equals, or so they say. But I have a secret. I've held on to it for years without saying anything because I'm not much for sprinkling extra awkwardness into new social situations. But, as moving to Utah was the perfect reason to change, I'm saying it out loud now:

I hate it when children call me by my first name. Loathe. Despise. Abominate. I also hate it that, for years, I let my son address most adults by their first names simply because that was what "everyone else was doing." Ick. Taking my social cues from the junior high handbook. How could I sink so low?

But, it's been irking me for too long. I'm done. Your children may call me Mrs. Overly. Or Miss Bonnie, if they simply can't hack saying "Overly". I suppose if they've come up from the womb calling me "Bonnie" then I'll try to stomach it for the next 70 years. (Not saying I'll like it, but I'll try not to let it tickle my gag reflex too much).

This isn't one of those quirky things about me that has no solid reasoning behind it, like the fact that I don't mind folding the laundry but I hate putting it away. I think the kids-and-adults-on-a-first-name-basis issue is a symptom -- even a cause -- of a bigger social problem:

Lack of respect.

Why doesn't the snotty kid at the playground listen to you when you tell him to quit throwing wood chips? Well, if he assumes he is on a first-name-basis with all adults, he believes you are on an equal playing field. And who is going to listen to a peer or a friend asking him to stop acting like a maniac? There simply can't be respect of authority when a five-year-old is addressing adults like they are his old college chums.

Children are not our equals. Oh, I know they say cute things and sometimes have heart-melting insights that remind us of all that is good in the world. But we aren't doing anyone any favors by allowing our kids to think they have the right to interrupt our adult conversations to tell us that the sky is blue or that their pinkie finger itches just so. Or that they want more dessert RIGHT NOW!

And we aren't doing anyone any favors by attending to our kids' needs immediately, regardless of whatever it is we're doing.

Particularly not when they are calling us by our first names.


Stephanie Black said...

Well said. I knew I was truly an adult when it started to bug me if children called me by my first name!

fiona said...

Oh, I so agree! It rubs me the wrong way to hear tiny tots calling grown-ups by their first names. Heck, it's hard enough for me to call people by their first name NOW if they were adults while I was a kid...

MyDonkeySix said...


Heidi said...

Wholeheartedly agree.

Cath said...

Doug read your post. Wow. You struck a chord. He harps on this often. We both do. And the playground is an extremely excellent point. Did you notice, we tried to get our kids to call you Mrs. Overly (and we didn't even know you "abominated" the alternative!) It's a big deal for us too. Loved your thoughts!

Erik and Kristen Hansen said...

How about Michael's mom and dad? I think that is what my kids would say.

We are heading to Utah this month. I hope we can connect.

S. said...

Amen, Bonnie, amen!