What do your kids call you?

Guest post by Mrs. Graves

My little architect
Photo by Vida La Vida Photography
I tend to not let society or scientific findings sway my mothering instincts too much. I, of course, accept certain social norms, only to make it easier on Abbi growing up, but I rely mostly on my own judgment and sense of right and wrong. Ultimately, I, NOT SOCIETY, am responsible for the human being I am raising in my home. She has never been any less than a developing adult human…one that needs me to love, accept, set an example for and teach her.

So when preparing to write this I decided to google “children calling parents by first name”. What came up were several opinion based articles and blogs…most of which were very hard on the idea of a child calling their parent by their first name. I skimmed through a few but most of the arguments were ones that I find close-minded and foolish so I decided not to waste too much time with it.

Here’s the thing, lovies. Abbi calls me by my first name, “Tamara”. Only it sounds more like, “Gambra” when she says it. It started out as a cutsie little thing she did because she CONSTANTLY heard her exceptionally needy father CONSTANTLY calling out for “Gambra’s” assistance. We chuckled at it and moved along. Thinking nothing of it. And then, she continued calling me Gambra. She started doing this at about a year old, and I didn’t feel that a 1 year old would be able to understand me if I said, “No, call me Mommy…my name’s mommy…Daddy calls me Tamara…but you can’t.” Abbi can’t even sit through 15 minutes of Spongebob let alone that kind of one-sided conversation.

So…I’ve let it be. And you know what? I like it. I like it A LOT actually. It adds something to our relationship…more for me than her of course because she doesn’t know the difference. And I’ve decided that if Abbi so chooses, she may remain calling me Gambra for as long as she likes. She also calls me “Momma” when the mood strikes so it’s not like she doesn’t know who I am and my role in her life.

A lot of the “arguments” I hear are from parents who abhor the idea of their children calling them by their first name because their child will lose respect for them. I heartily disagree with this line of thinking. My word is bond. Abbi knows this. I am a slow burning fuse, but she knows that once I’m burn out…she better run. I even jokingly say, “Hey honey…you better chill out…Mommy’s the queen of this household so you better get used to it.” I’m blessed that despite our problems Joseph and I have ALWAYS been a team when it comes to Abbi. He doesn’t mind the first name thing either. In a way, I think he’s jealous she doesn’t call him by his.

Abbi respects us. Why? Because we’ve purposefully taught her cause and effect, i.e. “you disobey Mommy or Daddy, you get a pop on the hand” or “you throw a fit, you get put down for a nap early.” Cause….effect. Each time we’ve done so with firm, but loving correction. Even now, when I have to punish her for ill behavior, I always tell her that the only reason I make rules are to protect her — that Mommy and Daddy love her so much we will do all we can to keep her safe. She won’t always agree or always like it, but as long as she lives in our house, this is the way it MUST be.

Now, considering all I’ve told you (and if you ever met Abbi you’d think she was the most well-behaved, friendliest child in the world), do you REALLY think her calling me by my first name ALONE is going to rewrite all the other work we’ve done and will continue to do?

I think not. Some will disagree, but I just don’t feel that a title makes a man or woman. The character inside defines them. What are your thoughts? Do you (or would you) allow your child to call you by your first name?

Comments on What do your kids call you?

  1. I grew up in a house hold that made it clear that if you called your parents by their first name, then you were being disrespectful. We would all our parents mom/mommy, dad/daddy… until I was about 12ish [my brother would have been about 10 then] and I started calling my dad “pops” and my brother started to call him “father” or “Dee” [which was his nickname since he was a child]. We still called our mom, “mom” because we knew that anything else would have bothered her.

    To be honest I think I would be a little hurt if my little one called me by my first name but knowing that he is hearing everyone else calling me that, I wouldn’t blame, nor would I push him to call me mom or any variation of that. No matter what your kids now that you are there parents, your mom and dad, dad and dad or mom and mom… whatever the case may be. As long as they aren’t calling you anything disrespectful I don’t think it matters too much what they call you.

    • Thanks for your input! I think (as most things go) it really should be up to the parent and the child! What works in some families may not work in all! For now, this really works in our family but I can totally understand how it wouldn’t work in yours!

    • WOW! Thanks for using my picture! It turned my monday right around seeing my little guy playing with his “Bocks”(what he calls blocks lol)

      I’m with Kaloof. My parents were old fashioned Mexican-Spaniards so to call them by their first name was a sign of disrespect to them. To them, calling my parents by their first names was considered sarcastic and smart. So obviously we didnt do it. We can do it now that were older lol.

      As a parent now, I am proud at the fact that I am a mom and am more than happy that my son calls me mommy.

      Being that I am a step mother also, my stepson calls me Jessica. So i got the best of both worlds I guess. LOL

  2. I always called my mother by her name, “Shirley.” It’s what I heard others call her, and so that’s what I picked up. I was rarely corrected for it, except by my peers in high school. I also call my step-father “Albert” and again no one makes a big deal out of it. (I also call him “Darling Daddy”, but it’s jokingly – or when I want something!)

    In our family, the “title” doesn’t add to or take away from the role, or the respect. My grandmother (step-grandmother? well, Albert’s mother) is called “MaDear” (yes, we are African-American, it’s a common name for your mother or grandmother), “Grammama”, “Ms. L”, or “Lillian” (her first name), by all generations. It’s not a big deal at all, and she DEFINITELY gets respect.

  3. My single mother never had a partner around to reinforce calling her “mom” or the like, just friends who called her by her first name, Ruth. My brother and I both used Ruth, and my brother kept doing that his whole life. The only reason I switched was because when I was little I admired a girl who was older than I who caller her mother “mommy” all the time. When my mom tells the story she usually implies that the girl whined when she did it too. Well, I started calling her mommy at that point, although I still call her by her first name just as often now. She never minded either. Since I did not grow up with my dad I also did not have it reinforced to use dad, so I also switch between his name and dad as seems appropriate.

    I find the “respect” argument silly because you develop respect with your child at an early age and it has nothing to do with using your “title” as parent. I actually think it shows respect for you as a person beyond just being that child’s parent. The only reason it seems like a disrespect is when adolescents use it when they know it bothers their parent(s). But if you demonstrate that you are cool with it early on it is not likely going to develop into a disrespectful thing later.

  4. Apparently I called my parents by their first names, until I was about 3, when my father’s mother told him that it was weird.

    “Only one person can ever call you DAD,” she told him (remember, I’m an only child). “And you’re going to have that one person call you David?”

    I guess it was a compelling argument, because at that point they started having me call them Daddy and Mommy.

  5. My little guy has always called me Mama and his father Papa, and the flip side of that is that now we call each other Mama and Papa, which I think is a little weird. I figure as he gets older and gets the hang of pronouns we’ll stop doing it, but it might require a little effort to get back into the habit of using our names.

    • My daughter is too young to pick up on names yet, but we do find ourselves saying things like “here dad, you take her” or such, as well as comforting her with “mama’s got you” or the like, so I know we are reinforcing the titles, even though I would not object to her using my first name. I suspect she will learn her father’s name before she learns mine anyway. In addition to my name being much more difficult for a young child to say (I have have several young cousins and kid’s friends be challenged learning it) I think I all out to my husband to lend a hand more than he uses my name around her.

      • Yeah, this is what I was thinking. If you want your kids to call you Mommy and Daddy then you end up having to call each other Mommy and Daddy (at least when talking to them) to reinforce it and so you don’t feel like you’re confusing them as to who you’re talking about.

        And it can be odd. Especially in a “blended” family like ours. I think it’s perfectly cute for a father to refer to his wife as Momma or Mommy when talking around the kids, but when you step outside that relationship it can feel weird. When me and my boyfriend are taking care of his kids I may call out “Hey Daddy, think you can grab me a diaper – quickly.” I am invoking him in his capacity as the father of the child I am tending. But he is not the father of my children and so … oddness, even though it is my natural response.

        Sorry, this was largely tangential, but I was just thinking about it yesterday.

        • Back when I worked in retail I remember this one older couple, probably in their sixties, referring to each other as “Mother” and “Father”. It really stuck with me, just because it was said with so much affection and love.

          Myself? I probably wouldn’t be comfortable with it. But I think it’s all relationship dependent. When you’re thinking of “Father” or “Daddy” as “father of my children” it’s not actually so bad. It’s all personal though.

  6. I’m not a mom yet but I do enjoy reading this blog.

    My husband and I have decided to have our future children address us by our first names.
    Why?
    Because we feel that just because we happen to be the parents of our children does not mean that we must be called a certain label for the rest of our lives. Just because I will be a mom doesn’t mean I should be known only as “Mom”. I am an individual! I have a name!

    Even though we will be parents, we are still individuals, just as our children will be individuals. I wouldn’t exclusively call my little girl, “Daughter”. I would address her by her first name, respecting her individuality.

    This doesn’t mean that my husband and I will be in any way ashamed of being parents or will be bothered if our kids address us by the traditional label. We just feel that being a parent is not the end-all be-all of life.

    As far as discipline goes… I believe it doesn’t matter what name or title children address their parents by, as long as the children are raised and disciplined the right way. I know plenty of examples of disrespectful children who call their parents “Mom” and “Dad”.

    • This is a slight deviation from the post, but along the lines of your comment. Jasper calls me “mama” and calls Sean “dad” right now, but we’re also fine with him calling us by our names if he wants to. Something that always bugs me is when the couple calls each other Mom and Dad (or Mom & Mom, Dad & Dad, whatever)instead of their first names–it’s like you’re stripping away any other identity they had.

      • Abbi wasn’t much older than Jasper when she developed this desire to call us by our first names.It came really natural for us and I think that’s why it works for us. I think Parenting should be organic and natural and not easy but not as tumultuous as some people make it. And I love your POV about losing your identity at a person because you’ve tacked a new medal onto your jacket (ie. becoming a wife or mommy). I LOVE being Abbi’s mommy and Joseph’s wife, but I still love being Tamara and I will always be Tamara.

    • I found it so peculiar growing up that my cousins always called me and my sister “cousin” instead of by our names where as we always called the by their first names. It felt so impersonal and offputting to me as a child even though they were with in a few years age difference. Your comment about not calling her exclusively “daughter” made me think of it.

  7. Growing up, we called our parents “mama” and “daddy,” but we were all big on nicknames, so we added a lot of variations. My brother calls my dad “sport” and at various times we all call each other “bobie.” I don’t have any idea why.

    All that means that we don’t worry too much about names with the Kid. We call her a lot of silly nicknames and variations on her name and she does the same to us. Just like I did, though, she always seems to come back to “mama” and “daddy.” I am an individual, and I hope she knows me, but I’m also her mom. I don’t always call her “daughter,” but I do call her my girl, mi hija, chiquita, my little bear, my baby, my sugar plum fairy…

    • I feel like “mama” and “daddy” (or whatever variations) are more like pet names than titles of respect. You can say “mom” disrespectfully, and just as easily you can use a first name respectfully. But I think it’s sweet for family members to have names that they only use for each other.

  8. This post really interests me because right now even though my daughter is 3 she doesnt call us anything in particular. She is blind and doesnt speak independently, she echos whatever others say right after they say them. She knows that I am mommmy and that Daddy is Daddy but she repeats our first names all the time to. I cant wait to see what she says when she asks for me on her own!

  9. Can’t comment from a parental side (as I’m not a parent but just pop over here from offbeat bride every now and then for a quick read)
    but i’m a teacher who works in a school where all the students call the adults (teachers, support staff, head teacher) by their first names. It gives a lovely welcoming friendly atmosphere in the school and by no means do the students have less respect or definition of authority because of it, Its works wonderfully in that situation

    • This is a neat perspective for me to read! We’re teaching Abbi to refer to other adults she meets by Mrs. or Mr. (insert name) first, and then by whatever they prefer later on. It’s so nice to hear about someone in your position with first hand experience in the first name debacle coming out with positive outcomes and relationships!

      • We also refer to non-family members as Mr. or Mrs. or Miss First name. We did this because my son’s pre-school did this and it made it easier for my son to remember. But we also did it because we have friends that are apart of our family and we refer to them as Aunt/Uncle. It helps the kids understand the difference between family and acquaintances with respect

    • That’s so funny–I was reading this, thinking: when I was teaching in the Montessouri system, teachers all went by first names, since we believed that respect is earned, not assigned. It ALWAYS worked, being called ‘wendy’ instead of “Miss –” didn’t take away from how the kids looked up to her one iota!

  10. My cousin grew up with me and my sister…he would always hear us call our parents “mommy” and “daddy,” so he did the same. And he would hear us call his mom “Mima” (her nickname) so he did the same. To this day (he’s in college) he calls his mom by her nickname. And he’ll refer to my parents as mommy and daddy (though he also calls them by their first names). My aunt doesn’t seem to mind and he definitely loves and respects her.

  11. I’m called Mommy by my son, and I’ll admit right now that I love it. It feels special to me to have a name no one else on earth uses for me. My daughter is still a wee baby, but I imagine she’ll call me Mommy as well when she can talk – it’s how I refer to myself when I’m comforting her (“It’s okay, Mommy’s here”, etc). I call them “my dudes” collectively and “Baby Boy” and “The Bean” individually, and I see them using Mommy as along those lines – a term of endearment among family members.

    My son has a younger sister who has a different mother and we came up with a special nickname for her to call me. Her mother is my son’s step-mom, but there’s no name for what I am to her and “brother’s mom” seemed so impersonal. So, we made up our own name that’s just for her to use and I absolutely adore it.

    • I’ve read a lot of comments by moms who love being called “Mommy” because of how important and significant that name is, and I get that! Right now, Abbi is our only child and may be our only child in the long run, and being her “Mommy” is an honor above all else. So I definitely understand your POV!

    • Can I ask what the name is or at least your process in coming up with it? I would like to have something more personal than “Ms. Anie” for my boyfriend’s kids, but don’t know what wouldn’t be stepping on their mom’s toes or claiming a title that isn’t mine (because I am NOT a stepmom)

      • She calls me Kay-Kay (my name is Karen). The kids’ dad came up with it – he used to just call me Kay way back in the day when we were together and this was sort of an expansion of that. It seemed a bit cutesy to me at first, but it really grew on me!

        My son has always called my husband by just his first name, and they both really like it that way. I think it just depends what works for your family in whatever form “family” takes for you.

  12. My son will be two in a couple of weeks and I’ve never heard him properly call me Mam, Mummy, Mama or Mum yet (which are all the names I use for my own mother.) He’s very vocal but just doesn’t seem to have picked it up yet. My husband is definitely ‘Dadda’, or ‘Da’ when Gene is tired though. More often than not, my son will refer to me as Ruby (although he pronounces it Weeby) or Me! I don’t mind so much either way. As long as he’s polite about it, he can call me what he wants!

    My brother (who is the eldest) would always refer to my parents by their first names until he was around 4. My mam said she didn’t mind and it was quite nice but she maintains that her favourite word in the world is “Mum”.

  13. My lil girl, 2 1/2 years old, has decided she likes calling me by my first name because “its pretty”. It is hard for me to hear it because I love the way she says momma. So I explained to her that my mommy and daddy named me Lacey but I also go by Mommy. I tied this to the fact her name is Mackenzie but she goes by Bug (or Buggy).

    Once I did that I have noticed she uses a name that ties to the moment. Example is when we were sitting on the floor and we were exchanging kisses (butterfly kisses, Eskimo kisses, etc), she said ‘I love you Lacey”. But when we were eating dinner and she wanted more green beans, she said “Mommy more geen beans peaze”.

    It is something I am learning to live with . I melt when my kids call me Mommy with affection but I have found I melt the same way when they call me by my name.

  14. I can only imagine what my 8 month old is going to think we are all named! Her dad and I started calling each other “pookie” as a joke, but now we use it constantly (even our friends call us pookie sometimes!) To each other we refer to the baby as “pooklet” or “this girl” or “baby head”. I also call her a bunch of other stuff but lately I’ve been trying to call her by her name so she’ll have some idea of it! I’m not that interested in what she calls me, other than knowing that it’s me she’s talking to.
    I’m also interested in how children transfer from using daddy/mommy to dad/mom.

    • It was also fascinating to me as a teacher how students (even older ones!) would accidentally call me “mom” occasionally.

  15. My bun’s not quite halfway done baking yet and my wife and I have already decided who will be mommy and who will be mama. We’ve used these names indiscriminately when speaking with the cat for several years but are now trying to be consistent so that we can give our child something to call us. Whatever s/he ends up calling us is just fine with us but we thought we’d help her/him, and ourselves, out by picking out the first names we’d like to be called. As for the cat, I don’t think she gives a darn.

    • I wondered how this might be handled in a same sex relationship! Kids are forever yelling “MOM!!” or whatever, and it would be helpful to know who they’re hollering for.

    • lesbian couples I know with children often use Mama and Mommy to differentiate, as do some gay dads I know use Daddy and papa.

    • Haahaa, that is what my partner and I do with our (army) of cats and our pup. She’s Mama and I’m Mommy. We figure that by the time we get around to having children at least the animals will know who we are.

  16. when my nephew first started talking he called ,I should say screamed, my sisters name Kayee (Katy) because that is what he heard her referred to as. Kaaayyyeeee didn’t like that so we all had to start calling her Mommy when he was around. (I also may have accidentally taught him mommy is a b*tch but thats another topic)We grew up with you call mom mom uncle uncle Grandma Gert grandma gert Mr. and Mrs. Even now with people I have known almost my whole life I would feel uncomfortable calling them by their first name, in fact my mother in law insists I call her Mama G. For my family(etc) the title is a family thing there we people we called by their first names but they weren’t parental figures to us. Even now I guess we are continuing the tradition I am auntie to one blood nephew and 5 non’s but we can all be old school, in some ways and I like this one. PS I tried called my mom Vicki once (I was 20) and she told me she’d smack me next time I tried it. lol

  17. It’s funny how grandparents’ names seem more flexible than parents’.

    My nephews (7 & 2) have taken to calling my mom (their grandmother) Suz, short for Suzanne. My mom thinks it’s funny. Their other grandmother is called Gradma Firstname.

    I have two completely different names for my grandmas. And my husband’s grandmothers are variations on Nan/Nanny (which I can’t stand!).

  18. My mother also told us it was disrespectful. She felt she had “earned” the title of mommy simply by reproducing. I don’t think I would have had a problem with this if she had fulfilled her responsiblities as a mother, but that’s entirely another issue.

    Our little girl calls the hubby by his real name about 90% of the time. She calls me by my real name about 50% of the time and sometimes by the nickname my husband gave me.

    It doesn’t bother me in the least. As long as she knows that we are her parents and she respects us, I don’t see any problem. A rose by any other name smells just as sweet, right?

  19. One set of my cousins do the same thing. I think the oldest cousin was about four or five, and one of his younger brothers was around three. The younger brother referred to their parents as mom and dad, and the older brother threw a hissy fit and said, “Their names are Tom and Linda!” So from then on, they were Tom and Linda, and not mom and dad.

    Another set of cousins always referred to their parents as Mother and Father, and never anything else. My cousin’s children now not only refer to her as Mother, but they refer to each other as Brother and Sister more often than my their names.

    My mother and I sometimes call my grandma Mildred. Normally she’s Grandma Galvin (even my mom calls her that now), but we’ll call her on the phone and say “Milllllllllllllllllllwed!” in sort of a cute voice.

    Moral of the story: everyone’s different.

  20. I never called my parents by their first names. My mom was always Momma, even as a teenager when “Momma” is too cutesy for most kids. Sometime in the mix (I was at least 15) my mom started calling me “Dotta” to mirror “Momma,” which I always loved.

    I have a friend whose 4-year-old calls her “Mize.” She has no idea where he picked that up. I love when kids choose what they will call parents!

  21. Well, I don’t have kids yet, but one of the kids I taught Sunday School to calls his moms by their first name. They tried the Mom and Mama thing, but they’d both answer to both so when their son was 3 he just started calling them by their first names. It works for them, and now (at 15) when he talks about them to other people he still calls them his moms.

  22. Well, my son is autistic, so he has difficulty with names — how can his cousin be Ethan and his friend be Ethan when they’re two different people? and things like that are just about impossible for him to understand right now, so we come up with variations for a lot of people’s names that are easier for him to say/remember. He has taken to calling me Mom-Mom, which is just fine with me.

  23. I always called my parents Mommy & Daddy, and then later Mom & Dad. I had a very rocky relationship with my father for a number of years, and when I was angry with him I would call him by his first name, and refuse to call him Dad (how deliciously cliche-teenage-rebellious of me, hmm?). I was raised in a home where calling parents by their first names was disrespectful, so this stung a little at my Dad.

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