Mother of the Bride Spot

Random thoughts on being a Mother of the Bride...although since we are now past The Wedding, perhaps this would be better titled Random Thoughts On Life In General...

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Musing about Names

There was a letter to "Ask Amy" in the Chicago Tribune this morning about what children should call adults who are not related to them -- what are the expectations? I've thought a lot about this over the past few years -- given my age, I've had a lot of years to think about this....

I will say I'm very uncomfortable with small children calling me by my first name. Perhaps since I'm in my 5th decade I can be allowed this discomfort, though I have a lot of the moms I counsel introduce me to their 3 and 4 year olds as Jan. I call myself "Auntie Jan" to the babies -- but I'm not on a close enough basis for their older siblings to call me Auntie anything. I wish that up here in the north we'd use the southern "Miss Jan and Mr Bob". I think that is being respectful to ones' elders, but not as distant as Mr & Mrs Picklehammerschnitzelbub would be. In our particular circle of church friends, we are all Mr & Mrs ------------ until the children graduate from college - and in some cases, we remain Mr & Mrs ------------. I do hope by the time they have babies and I may be the lactation consultant that I can move to being Jan....

I remember when my mother was in the hospital, and a VERY young resident called her by her first name. Mother was appalled that a 20-something would refer to her as Helen, and she said VERY firmly, "I am Mrs. M ----". He rudely said something about Helen being her name -- so I looked at his name tag, and said, "Mother, this is Andy." At which point, she suddenly became "Mrs. M ----."

We've become such a nation of casual first name users that even non-profit telemarketers will call asking for Bob as though they are the best of friends. I think that next time I'll simply say that there is no one available to them by that name.

In her column, Amy said she preferred to be called Amy, that Miss Amy made her feel like something out of Gone with the Wind. Well, maybe -- but I happen to like Gone with the Wind! My southern sister is "Nurse Rosie" at all her schools, and "Miss Rosie" outside of school.
I do like that.

But then there is another quandry. What to call the in-laws? Yesterday Matt and Jen got married on the most beautiful October day you can imagine. It was in an apple orchard with 5 ring bearers (the youngest was 11 months -- you've not seen cute until you've seen Jonah and TJ in their little tuxes) and 4 flower girls, plus 8 adult attendants each. I don't know when I've seen a happier bride -- Jennifer literally bounced! She and Matt met in elementary school and started dating 10 years ago when they were sophomores in high school. As Debbie (MOG) put it, the ceremony was pure Jen & Matt. It was wonderful. But Debbie told me that all these years, Jen has called her Mrs. V-----. Debbie finally asked her last week when she was going to call her Mom -- and Jen said, "Next week!" Yesterday, right after they were married, Jen called her "mom" for the first time.

I wish there was a special name for in-laws. Some are quite comfortable being called by their first names, and while I was initially uncomfortable with that, I've decided it's probably just fine. If you call your own parents Mom & Dad, I think it is tough to call your spouse's parents Mom & Dad. Maybe us in-laws should all be Milly & Phil -- (MIL & FIL).

Do we have the right to be called Mom & Dad just because we are the inlaws -- or should we earn that right? Our SIL Derrick didn't really call us anything but "Jill's mom" or "Jill's dad" until after Deven was born. At that point, we got the sweetest card from him in which he called us Mom & Dad for the first time. It was truly the nicest gift we could have received from him. I think that whole process takes time - in some cases it comes faster than others. For the MIL & FIL too, it can take time for the SIL/DIL to really become a son or a daughter -- and not just an 'in law."

The entire relationship issue is an interesting one. My two brothers in law -- Rosie & Lyn's husbands -- are just like brothers to me. Susan is quickly becoming a sister. Derrick is our son, and Chris is too -- well, almost -- only two months and one day to go. But I know families in which the inlaws are never anything but people reluctantly related by marriage....

But I'm incredibly fortunate -- though I grew up with two sisters and one brother, and birthed three children, I currently have three sisters, three brothers, two daughters and three sons.

I am rich beyond measure.

And if you have not yet graduated from college, feel free to call me "Miss Jan."


At 10:38 AM, Blogger CityWords said...

I have to agree with you on the name issue. I am in the South so some of our preschool teachers and close friends have been Miss Firstname. However, I was raised in the Midwest when calling an adult by the first name was the same punishment as having a sassy mouth. My children are being taught Mrs. LastName for the most part, and I have found that adults really appreciate the good manners. This is a plus when we are having a "behavior learning curve" at the same time.


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