Names and Titles
Quite randomly, this past week a recently separated friend and her three year old daughter temporarily moved into an extra bedroom in my house while they transition to a more permanent situation. They will be here at least a month and maybe through the summer. It is quite different for me to have a young child as a housemate but so far it is going pretty well. However, in telling someone about how she always sweetly greets me by name, notable for the effort for her to say my name and in contrast to just the “hi” I may get from other housemates, I was a bit taken back by the serious response of “she doesn’t call you Ms.?”
The comment prodded me to think, for the first time, about what the children I know have called me or currently call me. I have lots of friends with kids. However, I don’t necessarily interact with them by name since many are babies and toddlers who can’t converse, now live in other parts of the country, or who only see me rarely since I often visiting after bedtime. If I say “hi” and their name, they usually just say “hi” shyly back and we have a short two minute kid conversation about whatever it is they are doing – except for with the gregarious ones who ask me to read a book to them or do something else before I can even say “hi”. For those that I have gotten to know better, it has just seemed natural for them to call me by my first name like my friends do.
Although a few of my friends’ children from church have called me “Sister” outside of church, and I found the fact that one boy called me “teacher” for a year after subbing for sunbeams one time endearing, I shy away from the formality of the titles at church. I think I don’t like using them given that I was required to call everyone Sister, Brother, Bishop, or President at church long past primary and I can still hear the condescending tone of certain men calling me Sister. I like the fact that for the most part the adults in my current ward call each other by their first names. However, I do think it is important for primary kids to call their teacher’s Sister or Brother or even just teacher. Since being called to the nursery last month, I have gotten use to being called “Sister K” again.
I wonder if my acceptance of Miss. or Ms. would be broader if more of my social networks with children were outside the church. I have never been called Miss or Ms. or even mistakenly Mrs. by any of my friend’s children. I find the titles appropriate for teachers and in professional settings. Or when a stranger taps you on the shoulder and asks “Hey Miss, Can I ask you for directions?
But thanks to my friend’s inquiry, I wonder if I should be more formal as an adult interacting with children. I realize that technically I do have a title with the children that I am closest to.
My nieces and nephew call me “Tia”. Recently, on occasion, they call me Tia, followed by my first name. But mostly they just call me Tia given that my first name, phonetically suh-rye-uh, [obviously my real not my penname] is so difficult for a young child to say.
When my sister asked me what I wanted to be called when she was first expecting, I chose Tia because I didn’t like the sound of “Aunt” or “Auntie.” I also liked that it distinguished me from my brother-in-law’s sisters, that it was easy to say, and that it embraced my Spanish heritage. Although I am genetically about as plain white American as you can be, my abuela or grandmother, my mom’s step-mom, is from Argentina and I was a missionary in Chile.
However, I have never really thought of “Tia” as a title per say until now. It has just seemed the appropriate name for me with my sister’s children who are now 6, 4, and 1. But I can’t imagine them simply calling me by my first name.
So as I realize I am likely going to get to know my new housemate, much better than the children of other friends, I do think it is maybe too informal for her to call me by just my first name. I did have one close friend in college who had her daughter refer to me as Auntie before we moved away from each other but that seems presumptuous to ask in my current situation. And Sister or Ms. still seems to formal. I kind of wish I was in Chile where Tia is also more broadly used within the community.
For now, I just think it is great that my friend’s mother is teaching her daughter my name.
What do your friend’s children call you? Are you comfortable with your children calling your friend’s by their first name? What settings do you think warrant formal titles? How do you feel about compromises – Miss Julia vs. Miss Jones for example? What do you think of church titles? Do they affect your view of all titles in general?
[Note 1: Thanks for bearing with this train of thought post]
[Note 2: Since we are talking about names, and the question will likely arise from the reference in my post, I use a pen-name online for the purpose of avoiding google search engines given that my actual first name is so uncommon. However, my anonymity has faded as I have met bloggers in real life and many (won’t claim all – as I am simply not that popular 😉 ) people in my ward know that I blog here].