Monday, July 30, 2007

Here's a question—

We had some friends over this weekend — friends we hadn't seen in nearly three years — and we ran into a question that I had thought a little about but hadn't settled. The Boy is four years old now, as is our friends' older girl, and they're old enough to engage adults in a proper way. The four of us (the adults, that is), got to wondering to each exactly what the proper way is these days.

All this was clear when I was The Boy's age. Even close friends of my parents that we saw often were to be called Mr. or Mrs. So-And-So, with a Dr. thrown in when appropriate. Perhaps this stems from many of my parents' friends also providing many of the major services in town, which meant that I always tended to think of them in terms of the principal, the optometrist, the fire chief. No doubt my brother and would have addressed them formally anyway; it was just how things were done.

Now, though, when we talk with Q and The Boy about their friends and their friends' families, we tend to use the first of the adults, and Q and The Boy know them by those names. Our friends this weekend, though, more or less asked us how their kids should address us. And frankly I'm not quite sure. It's not that I'm that uncomfortable with formality — my students tend to call me "professor" or "doctor." I also believe that respect isn't a function of title but instead must be earned (ideally through competence and expertise). Still, having my kids speak formally to adults does sound attractive to me. Etiquette has a lot to do with respecting people as people, which is why my wife and I have worked hard to have our kids be relatively controlled at the meal table, whether in our house or in the house of others.

So I'm torn, then, about how they should ask. Any suggestions? Thoughts?

2 comments:

Nadine said...

That's funny, I thought about that a while ago too (though Tim is too young now). I'd say the formal way. Nothing wrong with good old etiquette :)

Nancy said...

Children need to learn respect. The best way is by showing this to people that they know and like. It is easiest to learn when they can put it into practice in a positive way.