When we vicared out on the East Coast, yea those many years ago, my husband was Vicar Lastname, and I was Mrs. Lastname. At the time, this felt a little funny to me, because I felt very young, and also because I was still fairly new at being Mrs. Lastname. But it also felt appropriate, because I did some substitute teaching at the church’s school.
Fast forward to my husband’s first Call. We arrived with a six-week-old, so the question of how our kid(s) would address people was initially moot, but I noticed that kids tended to Firstname adults, even those old enough to be their grandparents. My husband was Pastor Lastname, and I was Firstname. There weren’t zillions of “youth” running around, and I didn’t have much interaction with them, and I still felt young and quite inexperienced at pastoral wifery, so I didn’t think much of being Firstnamed.
Then our kids started getting old enough to talk. (This took quite some time, as our firstborn was a conscientious speech dissenter for nearly three years, and it was nearly another two years after that before he’d condescend to speak to people in public.) We decided to establish a policy of using “titles of respect,” as the good ol’ grammar books call them. While there are a few people who so persistently Firstnamed themselves that we just let our kids Firstname them, our kids address most adults as Mr.-, Mrs.-, Pastor-, Dr.-, etc., -Lastname.
Fast forward to my husband’s present call. There are lots of “youth” running around, and I have more interaction with them. My husband is still Pastor Lastname, and I am again Firstname, as are most other adults. Even in Little League, our kid was the only one to Coach Lastname his coach; the other kids called him by his first name. I dunno; this just isn’t how I was brought up (see how old and matronly I’m getting?!). I would never have dreamed of Firstnaming my Sunday School teachers, or even the “cool” youth director at the church we attended when I was in middle school. I still think of my high school friends’ parents as Mr. and Mrs. Lastname.
I stand firmly by our decision to make our kids the “weird” ones who don’t Firstname everybody; and many people (older folks at church especially) seem to appreciate it.* It’s kind of funny when my third-grader Mrs. Lastnames someone in the same interaction that her preschooler Firstnames me. Generally speaking, I have enough things in life to fret about without being annoyed by a knee-high rugrat presuming upon the use of my first name, but there are times when I do feel that Firstnaming does convey, even facilitate, a certain lack of respect (see? Old and matronly again).
For instance, a certain neighborhood waif often drifts over to play with our kids. It’s fairly apparent that the poor child has received little guidance from her parents in many regards, and I find myself in the unasked-for and frankly undesirable position of having to be quite firm with her regarding the rules while she is on our grounds and the times at which she must depart said grounds. In such a case, I do find it quite annoying to be Firstnamed by someone who has yet to attain a decade of life, and I wonder whether this reluctant job of mine might be easier, were we not assumed to be on a Firstname basis. (My husband corrects her when he hears her Firstname me, but how can you fight a town-wide trend? All the other kids Firstname me, and to insist otherwise, when people older and wiser are Firstnamed, would seem pretty snobbish.)
Anyway. Just wondering if this is a small-town phenomenon or if the whole dang culture of our country has gone this way.