By Katie Moosbrugger

The other day I answered my house phone and this tiny little voice said, “Hi Katie! How are you?” Since I am notorious for being terrible at names, faces and sometimes even voices, I paused as I frantically tried to figure out who this person was. I don’t get a lot of calls to my house phone – most people who know me personally call my cell phone (except for my own mom, of course). So was this a friend of mine? Possibly a neighbor? A mother to one of my child’s friends? A TMoM client? After what seemed like a very long awkward moment, I replied with fake enthusiasm, “I’m good! How are you?” At which point the caller replied, “I’m good. Can Emily talk?”

Holy cow! This wasn’t a call for me – this was one of my seven-year-old daughter’s friends. I barely know this girl, yet she was talking to me like we were best buds. On a first-name basis. My jaw dropped. I was floored!

If this is not a big deal to you, it was to me. I grew up in the northeast in the ‘70s and ‘80s where everyone my age called adults by either Mr. or Mrs. I remember when my parents’ good friends – Mr. and Mrs. Duffy – telling me on my wedding day (the day I turned into a “Mrs.” myself) to please start calling them Pat and Hugh. I think I did that once –giggled like a school girl – and never did it again. It just felt wrong, weird and disrespectful, even though I know it wasn’t. I’m a grown woman – for crying out loud – why was that so hard for me to do?

I’ve now lived in the south for nearly 18 years and have adjusted to the whole “Miss Katie”, “Ms. Katie”, and “Ma’am” scene. Obviously it’s not something I needed to get used to for my sake, but for my kids’ sake. I will admit, though, it wasn’t so easy for me. I kept wanting to call my child’s preschool teacher Mrs. Soandso instead of Miss This or Ms. That. But now I actually prefer using Miss First Name much more than Mrs. Last Name – it just seems more natural.

Today, whenever I meet a child I always say, “Please just call me ‘Miss Katie’.” And if that child is older (like high school or college), or someone I know well (no matter their age), I say, “Just call me Katie.” My husband and I have never enforced the use of “Ma’am” or“Sir” (not that we don’t like those titles; we’ve just rarely used them ourselves). We do try to remind our kids to use some type of ‘title’ in front of an adult’s name – especially if that adult is not someone we know particularly well – or if it’s someone in authority (like a teacher). To us, it’s just simple manners and respect.

But when I answered the phone and heard “Hi Katie” coming from a little child’s voice – a child I don’t necessarily know very well – I was completely thrown off. I’m just now warming up to the reality that the phone sometimes rings for my daughter. But when I heard the casual first-name basis used to greet me – as if this child was an adult herself – I was in disbelief. I didn’t like it.

So what do you think – am I overreacting? Or would you be taken back too? Also, how strict are you with how your child addresses an adult? Or are you more laid back? Which ‘titles’ do you teach your children to use, and why? Share with us today!