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Lately I’ve been struggling with how my son’s friends address me and how he addresses his friends’ parents or my friends. I grew up calling all grown-ups by their first names, with the exception of teachers, of course. My parents’ friends were always Bob and Susan, Karen and Rich, Sam and Michelle. My friends’ parents were always Michael and Sarah, Carol and Fred, and George and Harriet. My husband grew up calling everyone Mr. and Mrs. He hardly ever called any adults by their first names.
Now I am finding myself in uncomfortable situations where I am addressing friends by their first names, but they are addressing themselves to my children as Mr. and Mrs. I am also dealing with the issue of how to ask children to address me. While I would prefer to be called Heather, rather than Mrs. Martin, I don’t want to undermine my friends’ desires to have their children address adults with Mr. and Mrs.
It got me thinking – is this difference due to general upbringing or religion? I grew up in South Florida and my husband grew up in New England, so could it be geography? I grew up Jewish, he grew up Roman Catholic, so could it be religion? In my circle of Jewish friends, there was never really a question about how people are addressed–everyone used first names. Today I also move in circles of friends where most are not Jewish and their preferences are more mixed between Mr. and Mrs. and first names.
As a person navigating an interfaith relationship for a relatively short period of time (we’ve been married seven years and together nine) and the mother of young children (2 and 5), I seem to happen onto these things more and more as we embark on each new phase of life. While some of it has nothing to do with religious upbringing, I cannot rule out the role of Jewish religion or culture as a possible reason for our differences. As I mentioned in my last blog post Learning from the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, being aware of the differences in upbringing between partners of different faiths can help the Jewish community be more welcoming.
The solution to my issue is, to me, pretty straight forward. I ask parents and friends what they would like my children to call them. I also let them know that I am fine with having their children refer to me by my first name. The answer to whether or not religion is the reason behind these differences, I may never fully figure out.
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