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Tuesday, June 12. 2007
I was stumped today by a question about how a 9 year-old and an 11 year-old should address their divorced dad's new wife.
"Mom"? No way.
"Peggy"? No. Children should never address adults by their first names.
"Aunt Peggy"? Hmmm. Not sure.
"Mrs. H." Seems strange.
Maybe some invented nickname, the way some grandparents like to be called? Like Muffie or Buffy? (So they don't have to be called "Granny." Many modern women hate to be called Granny: it seems to detract from their sex appeal.)
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I think choice #5 is the best way to go, but I have never thought about it before.
I would go with "Peggy." As children, we were not allowed to refer to an adult by their first name UNLESS the adult gave permission to do so. So in private we were permitted to call Irene, Edna or Lucie by their first names, but in a more formal setting, say an introduction to a friend, we would say, Mrs. So and So this is my friend Kathy. Kathy this is Mrs. So and So. I would say that Peggy would be fine but in a formal introduction it would be, "I would like to introduce my step-mother, Mrs. XXX.
Well for me it was divorced Mom's new husband, at eleven year's age. I don't remember a satisfactory solution. Though 'Hey you' 'icehole' comes too mind :-)
It is an important question though. Extremely important really. And I have no answers. If someone comes up with one, it should be patented :-)
I'll vote for Aunt Peggie. Families often have honorary aunts and uncles anyway. The honorific eliminates the over-familiarity problem.
No matter what, she will never be 'family', so 'Aunt' or 'MomII' would never work. The best thing is for the kids to ask her what she'd like to be called. Something formal is likely to keep her more standoffish than she'd like to be, and she will be their friend if things work out well.
I have to stop... all kinds of names are coming to me... 'Tart'
I'll add that any name that requires explanation should be dumped. The kids shouldn't have to say, "Well, she's my step-mother, not really my aunt." Too awkward and a pain in the neck.
Well, to go Jeff Goldstein for a moment. Words matter. Honorific is just that. Not enough. Asking preference is not enough. All the great minds here should be able to come up with better. Now that it's mentioned, it is important. It would have helped me, had I known.
Just wave a dollar bill at her, like all the other guys do.
Below the Mason-Dixon, it would be automatic, "Miss Peggy".
Damn Buddy, I hate to be a smuck. It ain't that simple, and never has been. I was serious about it being a problem for me at eleven. And dollars too hell. It ain't that simple either.
It is important for those that ask, out of the mouths of babes and all that. We adults should be able to come up with something better.
What? I'd feel as if I had to come runnin' with a platter 'o corn pone an chitlins.
This is too complex for one right name. If the kids real mother is dead, 'Mom' might work if the kids are little. If she is alive, that would never do. There is no right answer. It's for the strumpet and her new charges to decide. From my experience teaching, I'd say 95% of the kids called a step-parent by their first name unless the kids were babies when they gained a step-parent and the other biological parent was not around.
Luther - I can't believe your step-dad didn't tell you what to call him. No wonder this question drives you. How awkward. Names definitely are important: Worse - not having a name to 'identify' someone with. That keeps them alienated. Sad situation.
Never mind, there are, obviously, no adult answers. Just degenerate bullshit which should be deleted. There are occasions when I extremely dislike anonymity.
Phoenix, above comment aimed toward 'nutdoggy', whatever the hell that is.
You are right, awkward would be the least of it. Good advice otherwise.
Anyhoo, Luther, I wasn't recommending your calling your stepdad "Miss Peggy", but if his name was say, "John", then, silly as it may sound elsewhere, I swear to mercy that, in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, as well as feathering out into east Texas and I magine up into Georgia and nawthwuds, you'd a calt 'im "Mister John" (if you wuz a child) at least up through the nineteen and sebbenties.
Okay, I'll drop the Swannee River spellin'. Phoenix tickled me plumb pink with that "Lawww...."
Dynamite will do for the stump. What to call your fathers new wife beats me, I always found it awkward. And what about your new siblings? Stepsisters? The whole step* setup always struck me as implying my mother was dead. We need new terms. I'm suspect some of the tribal societies with their interest in relatives and genealogy might have some.
The Suwannee is a beautiful river, evocative of memorable songs :-)
Yeah, Buddy, you're probably right, but I was already too old for that, even in 1959. And it was never presented as an option, least as memory serves. Cloudy as it is nowadays. Anyway, I don't think that is an answer for nowadays.
And, yes, that Phoenix can tickle :-)
Saw you in preview Chuck, you are right about the 'step' moniker. Older societies as well.
I hate to say it, but stepfamilies have got as tough a row to hoe as there is in the domestic world.
If there is a fairly remote non-English ethnic connection, e.g. madre or moeter for "mother" might work. Or for "aunt." And don't so readily dismiss the "Miss" or "Ms." Unlike the corn-pone historic usage, genial peer-to-peer acquaintances from TX and VA have spontaneously taken to calling me "Ms. D." It's respectful and affectionate.
Did she have a nickname as a child? Did she always want one? What would make her feel good to hear in good times and bad?
And yes! (I'm a personal coach and communications consultant), ASK! everyone involved. Maybe with a list of possibilities for the children, and an immediate good-humored practice to get past the embarrassment with what is tentatively decided. And with a subtle appreciation of the specifics of the feelings that may be involved by the various "steps."
Words do matter. Let us know. Good luck and blessings. It can work, with humility, backbone, and self-honesty.
I HAVE TO SAY YOU MAKE GOOD SENSE DILYS, BUT WITH MY DAUGHTER, SHE WAS ASKED TO CALL HER STEP-MOM ''VERONICA'', HER NAME. IT WAS NOT 'TOO FAMILIAR OR DISRESPECTFUL', MY GIRLS (ALSO A FOSTER DAUGHTER)WERE ALSO AROUND 11 AT THE TIME THE DAD RE-MARRIED, AND BESIDES THAT, SEVERAL OF MY DAUGHTER'S FRIENDS HAD HER FOR A TEACHER AT A NEARBY SCHOOL, AND THEY ALL CALLED HER VERONICA, AFTER THEY WERE MARRIED. MY DAUGHTER AND FOSTER DAUGHTER HAVE NEVER HAD ANY PROBLEMS WITH THAT, NEITHER HAS VERONICA. SHE IS A GOOD NATURED LADY AND WE ARE ALSO FRIENDS, HER KIDS CALL ME BY MY FIRST NAME ALSO. ~ COURT ~
Why shouldn't kids call adults by their first name? Don't be so stuck up.
...because then the kids are denied their right of passage to first-name basis, as they meet the requirements of growing up.
"...because then the kids are denied their right of passage to first-name basis, as they meet the requirements of growing up."
True, but this is an exception to the rule because she is now family. She should tell the children to call her Peggy while other non-adults should all call her Mrs. H.
And if her stepchildren ever forget, slip, and call her "Mom," she should just smile to herself and feel honored.
I agree that the step mom should speak to the kids and decide if there is a special name they could call her and when they introduce her, she is Mrs. so and so or this is my dad's wife until they feel comfortable introducing her another way. I also agree that kids should call adults by their last name until they are asked to call them by their first name ---don't think I started calling my friend's parents by their first name until I was in my forties unless they told me to do otherwise. It is a way of showing respect and definitely a passage. nothing wrong with it , perhaps that is what is wrong with so many young people today not enough passages anymore.
Agree. The emblems of familiarity have been judged important throughpout human history.
Now suddenly we have this "children are just small adults" notion, which is supposedly a liberalization, a freeing, from adult oppression--but which is actually precisely the opposite of what it says it is (as is usual with the left).
Hmm. My stepson called me "Steve" but introduced me as "my father" or "stepfather" (depending on how much he wanted to explain) "Mr. B.".
His father died when he was 3 and I came into his life when he was about 12-- younger, the "Steve" might have been more awkward.
Lot's of ideas. No solutions. An important question, I say again. I do not have an answer, but encourage the submission of possibilities. I guess I'm taking it personal. It would surely have helped me at the time. My guess is that it would help millions now and most likely millions even back then.
Let's let me make a fool of myself. Let's break it down into its component parts. A greeting that allows and respects the giver and the receiver. A greeting that acknowledges the not blood bond, but the message that life contains unexpected changes. A greeting that shows respect. Though, that is not axiomatic. And therein lies the nub. I think. Both parties deserving of respect, but usually only one side is granted those societal norms. I say this from a very conflicted and confused ten year old viewpoint. From which 49 years later I still wonder upon. As it came up on an earlier thread, I suppose I should just 'get over it'. That's tough in the end. The Greek's already done that shit, but when do we ever listen.
Luther, you're not making a fool. You seem to have a real stake in this, so it behooves all of us to note your intensity as it is real.
I broke it down to what I would do if I became a step-mother to a couple of kids around age ten. The first thing that came to me is that I'd surely know the kids well before I married their dad, so they would have already been calling me something. I agree 100% with Buddy on the prediliction of parents to encourage the use of first names. The little darlings shouldn't have that 'right'. Even now, one of my son's girlfriends calls me by my first name and it strikes me that she started doing it straightaway. My daughter's boyfriend calls me Mrs. _. (I kept my married name.) That's fine with me as he's comfortable with it.
But if it seemed necessary, upon becoming a step-mother, to get a new name, I would tell the kids to make up a name they like and I will choose. I would tell them to pick five names and I would insist on 'Beulah' even though I'm sure it wouldn't be on the list. Beulah has a nice sound to it, I think. Unlike that stupid "Miss Peggy".
I am almost certain that I would make it funny as the dickens and that we'd settle on something perfect. In my mind, I am seeing lots of silliness and laughing over 'naming' me - the step-mother. Whatever came about, it would evoke a time of laughing and choosing together and that would be a good thing.
'Your Majesty' rings true at the moment. :} I expect the little nublets would surely laugh to death over that. So would their bio-mom, no doubt. ha ha.....
How about this:
Hi--my name is "apple pie", or "miss piggy", or "Marie", or "whatever". My job title is stepmother. My job description is to make your life as miserable as possible--please do not interfere with my duties!
Your friendly step mother--?????__
Maybe that is the best solution Phoenix. Making the exercise fun for all. I got a little serious cause I know it's a big deal for a lotta kids out there. Though I think AP has just slapped me upside the head and reminded me how it really is :-)
I don't know, Luther. Seems to me your step-dad did you wrong by not helping you. An eleven-year-old boy? It was his job to step up, and it is no small matter to think of how you must have felt. Ten - eleven year old kids think the world is perfect. Or should be. They are not equipped to figure out adult things, nor do they want to. It flaws their sweet world. Sad stuff.
Humor helps everything, I think. Okay. Maybe not hot, spontaneous sex; but for sure, it is the panacea to all awkward events and misunderstandings.
I'm going with 'Beulah' if I ever get married and inherit some young'uns. I don't know what in the H. I'm saying. I wouldn't marry a guy with young'uns. I've done my time.
I had a very dysfunctional family Phoenix. I was handling way more that a ten yr. old should by that time. I hold no anger over it. Just an unrealistic wish that others don't have to go through the experiences I did.
Agree wholeheartedly re humor. Tis the lube that keeps this rough world going.
I like Beulah... :-)
Was 'lube' a Freudian slip on the butt of my hot, spontaneous sex remark?
hahahaha... Too funny!
I'm with you in the dysfunctional family thing. You never get right - if there is such a thing - but you mitigate the bad effects by making a commitment to your own babies. No need to pass on any legacies of the hurtful kind. My brother and sister did the same. It's what awareness does for you.
When my job ended, it took me a long time to get over it, and I got some help. I had immense anger at the 'system', but I got over that pretty fast. Besides, they all (4) got their asses kicked so badly I had some small satisfaction. I did have a relentless sadness that crippled me, and finally, with help, I came to realize what it was. I was able to make my teenagers feel good, and I think I mentioned earlier how many abused or kind-of-abused kids there are in any school. I was able to love them up and make them feel good and it was losing that 'job' that was killing me. Not many adults get the chance to love up a whole pile of kids at once and get paid for it.
Your wish that others don't have to go through what you did is what I'm referencing. I know the feeling in a different context.
I think Beulah is going to write a personal ad for a forty-something step-son.
HA, was there a slippery on the slip re lube. Hell, maybe. I did have the thought. Though tried to write it differently. Not well I guess. We men are such obvious brutes. Maybe Freud was a smart SOB after all :-)
Too much brandy for a coherent remark. One could say a direct result of upbringing, the alcoholism that effected all in my family. A cheap excuse I think. As there have been many who have made a difference, word wise, and otherwise, who have had similar or worse afflictions. There is so much that puts a fence between what I want to say, and what I do. I am afraid of nothing, other than words. what does that say? Ah, I'm just a whiny shit. No import here. I mean that. I'm just a bullshitting bastard. Better ignored. Really.
Though I still like Beulah :-)
No one ever comes down this far into old comments, do they?
82. LUTHER, SOME THINGS PEOPLE NEVER "GET OVER" IN THIS LIFETIME, AT LEAST NOT TOTALLY.
I HAVE NEVER POSTED ON THIS BOARD/FORMAT TILL TODAY, BUT I READ A LOT HERE. REMEMBER THIS; WHEN YOU SUFFER INTENSE TRAUMA OF ANY KIND AS YOUNG/VERY YOUNG CHILDREN, IT FORMS WHAT IS CALLED "NEURO-PATHWAYS" IN ONE'S BRAIN, AND SOME ISSUES CAN BE CARRIED THROUGH OUT WHOLE LIFE, ESPECIALLY ABUSES OF VARIOUS SORTS.
DIVORCE ALWAYS CARRIES VICTIMS, NO MATTER HOW WELL THINGS WORK OUT, AND THE YOUNGER THE KIDS, THE MORE DEEPLY SET IN THE MIND & EMOTIONS THE REACTIONS & WOUNDS ARE, SOMETIMES LITERALLY 'CARVED' INTO THE NEUROLOGICAL AREAS OF OUR BRAIN, CAUSING DIFFERENT LEVELS OF REACTION AND REJECTION PROBLEMS FOR THE LIFETIME OF THE CHILD. IN MOST CASES A PERSON MAY NEVER GET OVER REALLY EXTREME FAMILY TRAUMAS... SO WHATEVER THE ISSUE, DON'T BE HARD ON YOURSELF WHEN SOMETHING STIRS UP OLD MEMORIES, BROKEN HEARTS, ETC. IGNORING AND SHUTTING OUT PAIN AND NEGATIVE MEMORIES SOMETIMES ONLY MAKES THEM WORSE.
YOU'VE DOUBTLESS HEARD THE PHRASE "FEEL" OR "GRIEVE" YOUR PAIN OR LOSSES" - TO JUST 'ESCAPE' REALITY OR TRY AND NUMB ONESELF, NEVER MAKES IT BETTER OR BRINGS REAL HEALING, BEING REAL ABOUT THE MISTAKES AND SCARS, HAVING SOMEONE TO SHARE THEM WITH SOMETIMES, CAN DO WONDERS FOR SPIRITUAL AND EMOTIONAL "SCAR TISSUE". AND REMEMBER, ADDING SHAME TO THE EQUATION ONLY INTENSIFIES OLD BRUISES.