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’ve always called my dad “Daddio” and he calls me “Lizzo.” It has a nice ring to it when we greet each other with “Hi Daddio/Lizzo!” I think it started because my mom and I are both named Liz, so he had to differentiate. I like having names that nobody else would ever call either of us, it makes it special when I do here him call my name or read it in an email from him.

  2. Our kids call us Mum and Dad, but also often refer to us with our first names. ‘Dad’ will normally get his name used when he neglects to hear the first 15 dads, then they give a sharp ‘Toby’ which gets his attention (learnt from the master). My grandparents had titles, Nana and Grandad. Aunts / uncles on both sides have always been first name basis, by all the children in the family, but we were all well aware of who was who. This has carried through for us with our kids too.
    Gotta admit, I have a cringe factor for people outside the family being called uncle or aunty so and so. Doesn’t seem right to me.
    Small disclosure: My old boy calls me Mo’. I call him Fo’. Yes, we are 12, but it gives us a laugh. Our 3 year old today was waiting for us to come outside to the car and loudly yelled out for all neighbours to hear ‘Come on MoFo’. Hmmm.

    • My best friend of 20 years had a little boy 6 years ago. The baby’s father was not in the picture. Shortly after, her mother passed away. Even thoght I’m not a blood relative I was her only “family.” She didn’t drive so I bought a carseat and would drive her and him to dr’s appts and take them grocery shopping. I started a savings acct for him, I bought clothes, and diapers. I’ve helped with bills. I babysat alot and spent lots of quality time with my “nephew” I love them both like family, and have played an important role in his life, and still do, so I feel I’ve earned the title “Aunt”

  3. I call my mom and dad mommy and daddy still, but we are a family of nicknames. My uncle use to call me Wompass Cat because I’m all catty-wompass, and most of my family call me TT or some variation on that. My niece calls me Tia, which I love because it means both Aunt and my name.
    My daughter calls me momma most often, but she also refers to me as babe, darlin’, and Tia. She calls my husband Daddy and Uncle Ry-dad.
    I think a lot of people want to be called a variation of mom or dad because it’s special, but I happen to love the nicknames and pet names that come naturally.

    • See, that’s what I think–it all comes naturally. Whatever they call you, they call you. I don’t take it as a sign of disrespect when an adult calls me Amy, so why would I take it that way from a kid? Do I really think adults are superior to children in that way? No, I don’t.

      Naming is important, and it’s fun how it keeps going. I like seeing the little ones claiming their names, naming themselves.

      My daughter was 4 years old when my niece was born and we started right in with the cute baby names for the new kid. My daughter didn’t show any jealousy, until I called the baby “sugar plum,” one of many little pet names I call my girl. She looked at me with these big eyes and said, “That’s what you call me.” I’ve never called anyone but her “sugar plum” since.

      • My grandmother had individual nicknames for each of her eight grandchildren. I was her “treasure.” I know my littlest cousin was “sweet boy,” but I don’t know what she called any of my other cousins or my brothers. I just know that she made a point of choosing different terms of endearment for each of us, and it meant SO MUCH to me, especially as a kid, to know that she had no one else who was her treasure.

        Similarly, my dad calls me “sweetheart” and my mom “honey.” Took me years to realize that he uses those terms more than our names.

      • i was crushed the day i overheard my grandfather call my aunt’s niece (no relation to him or me) “chickadee” because that was his name for ME. i never told him i heard it but it was never the same after that.

  4. This makes me think of when Prince changed his name to a symbol. He was a guest on Oprah around that time and I remember her asking him, “If you don’t have a name, how should I address you?” His response was really sweet. He smiled and said, “I hope that you would call me Friend.”

    In the end, names are a way for us to get each other’s attention. I like the idea of parents choosing a name for their child and the child choosing a name for his/her parents. It’s sweet.

    • Ahhhhh What a great reference!! I’m a HUGE prince fan (rose symbol from the beautiful experience tattooed on my back) and I loved that interview!! Then Mayte just said she calls him “Hey you!”m LOL

  5. Our kids call us mom and dad and our daughter has tried to call us by our first names and we quickly corrected her.

    hmmm… how to explain this in words without tone? We do feel it is a respect thing – right now, our kids are not our equals, they are kids, they shouldnt have to be…. we are totally raising them to be independent and think for themselves and even now, we can see that they dont fall for peer pressure often (which makes us proud)… but its not the fear type of respect, its more of the love type of respect, so in that “mom” and “dad” are more terms of endearment than anything else.

    We will always be their parents and love them with a love that no one else can have for them – ok, at least we like to believe that. Same with our adopted son – we want him to call us mom and dad b/c thats what we are (yes, we plan to tell him about his birthparents).

    I think the term “respect” gets misrepresented… I could never imagine calling my grandmother by her first name. Why? Because I could never consider myself her equal – she is so much wiser and “learned” than I ever could be right now.

    Hope all that makes sense… I mean no dis- “respect” (ha!) – this is just what works for us… just my 2 cents

  6. i mean this with all due respect, adn i feel like it was menionted by you so i am not really trully butting in and ocmmenting on how you raise your child, but i am not sure i agree with what you call “cause – effect”.
    getting put down early for a nap is not the effect of being naughty. you warn your daughter that you will punish her in a specific way if she continues with a given behaviour. you are warning her of your punishment and then carrying out said punishment. you are consistent. that is not a consequence of her actions. the effect of an action is the natural event that derives from that initial action. i push (cause) a chair, it falls (effect). if you push the chair then you get no cookie is not a natural cause-effect.
    i’m not arguing semantics here, i m just saying that you are indeed punishing yoru child. aletha solter, in the aware baby, does a good job explaining about cause-effect adn how kids need to deal with this.
    all this ebing said, i find it a teeny bit disconcerting that you bop your kid’s hand when she disobeys. i am not a big fan of physical aggression, especially towards children. on the one hand, it hurts. on the other, it’s humiliating. adn bottom line, and this might be exactly your point, you are showing her that above all, you rule over her, you can hurt her if you like.
    explaining why a kid cannot do somethign goes a lot further not only in enlisting their cooperation, but also in not reducing them to beings who get bopped on the hand.
    i’m just saying. and, of course, maybe i can go raise my own monsters and leave you to raise your little girl any way you like. but you did open the door…

  7. My sisters and I call my mother Mom, so my daughter makes the distinction of calling me “Mommy Zahra”.

  8. Awesome! I called my dad “Uncle Doug” for the longest time. It was what I heard all cousins call him, so that was his name. I did later shorten it to “Doug” when my cousins all moved away. I didn’t have any speaking siblings (only a baby brother) and that’s what my mom and everyone else called him. He still has pictures I drew for him with “DOUG” written in my messy little girl handwriting.

  9. I think that as long as the parents are fine with the being called by their 1st names or nicknames that is what will work for that family.
    I am expecting our second in Feb. and have a 2 yr old son; he calls us Mommy and Daddy. He has called my b/f by his 1st name a few times; we think it’s funny only because our 2 year old is doing so to mimic me when I call my boyfriend from across the house. I end up yelling JUsssstiiiin from the top of the stairs and then my son right behind me say “dusssssttteeennn”! So yeah funny right!

    I have a very young sister being that I am 28 and she is 9, and she calls my Dad Poohpa and has since she could speak, I have heard friends of my Dad say ohh you need to correct that, but we all think it’s cute.

    Whatever works for one family may not work for others and that should be OK 🙂

  10. I love names and nicknames, so I believe my husband and I will be inclined to let our children call us whatever they wish. We have both always called our parents a variation of Mom/Dad, but I’m all for whatever happens organically. My sister is 10, and she consistently calls me Linny, which I love. My parents became foster parents last year and they have had 3 brothers for almost 1 1/2 years, and the boys alternate between calling my parents Mom/Dad and their first names. They almost exclusively call me Big Sister, though. 🙂

  11. I grew up with titles for family. Gramma, Grampa, Oma, Opa, Mom, Dad, Aunt this or Uncle that. When I was a preteen, my bs filters as we like to call them, kicked in pretty hard, and I retained the titles for those I respected only. This left me with Gramma, Grampa, Mom and Da. I couldn’t get away with calling my father by his first name, so I changed it. When I had my own child, I realized I believe in the title system to a point. I think it helps reinforce a certain amount of respect, and that it helps differentiate between the family bond, and the friend/acquaintance/stranger association. My son is only two and a half, and he struggles with this, so titles help him quite a bit. Especially since his family is pretty large, and he shares his name with his father and his grandfather. But of course, it isn’t all Mommy and Daddy. We have that, but there’s often an odd little twist.

    When my husband and I were younger, we decided we’d never call each other ‘Mother’ or ‘Father’ like we saw some other couples do. No ‘My old lady’ or ‘My old man’ or anything along those lines. We didn’t like it, thought it was a little creepy. So then we have Chewi. (a nickname his uncle gave him because he’s a fourth) Of course we’re referring to mommy and daddy for each other all the time, and I see the inevitability that it’s going to degenerate to us calling each other that. So what did I do?

    I started using them like names of objects. It became ‘The Mommy’ and ‘The Daddy’ and ‘The Baby’ when coming from us a good portion of the time. And it worked for a while! It was teaching him who we were, while not making those titles our names. The truly weird part was when he started calling me ‘The Momma’.

    At first it threw me. I thought, aw crap, I’m going to have to fix that. Then… I didn’t fix it. It became kind of hilarious.

    “The Momma?”
    “Yes The Baby?”
    “I have to go potty.”
    “Right on! Go potty!”

    And the best part, is that he’s such a smart little guy, it’s not an all the time thing, more a novelty. I get a little stink-eye from people, but ultimately I don’t care. I am The Mama. He is entirely correct in that statement.

  12. My daughter and I went thru a phase when she was 7 where we called each other by our last names (they’re different) We would crack up as we’d say, ‘Listen McGee – that’s not right!’ or, ‘C’mon, Todd – it’s time for snacks!’ I should start that up again…

  13. Quick story…one day when my little sister was about a year or so old, she overheard my grandfather call my grandmother “honey” when he asked her for something. Lil sis called her honey from that day forward. Then like a snowball effect, we ALL started calling her Honey. Now instead of people calling her by her first name or anything, they call her Honey. If you say, nice to meet you Mrs. Winter, her reply is, call me Honey. I think it’s adorable. My Honey by any other name would be just as sweet (or however the saying goes)

  14. When I was very small, I took to calling my parents by their first names. Except for when Dad came home from work… then I got so excited that it came out as, “DADDYJAMIEDADDYJAMIEDADDYDADDYJAMIE!”

    Eventually I went back to calling my parents Mom and Dad, though!

  15. I’m not a parent, but I have parents, so I just wanted to chime in quickly. When I was little, my mother was always Mom or Mama, but her initials are TLC, so when I was about 13 I started using that to address her. It’s cute and affectionate, and no one else did it at the time. (Now that I’m an adult, some of my close friends have caught on and address my mother as TLC, rather than using her first name. She thinks it’s charming.)
    My father was not around when I was a child, and I didn’t meet him until I was 21. He and I are really close now, but I always address him by his name. He’s my father, not my dad.

  16. I wonder if your child calling you by your first name helps them register (as they get older) that you are an individual beyond just your role as their parent. It seems nice to be called something than encompasses all the roles in your life and not just one (“mom”). Imagine if everyone addressed you solely by the role you play in their life: “Colleague”, “Daughter,” “Girlfriend”, etc. Totally weird.

    Thanks for bringing this up- It’s something that I hadn’t thought about.

  17. When my son was younger, he called me Mom-mom and his Dad, Mom-Dad.

    He went through a time when he was calling us by our names, and that was okay with us. Now he is back to Mom/Mommy, Dad/Daddy. Except when he’s upset, then I think it becomes one name for both of us … “Mommydaddy, mommydaddy, mommydaddy.”

  18. My siblings and I call our parents by their first names and always have. My mom always said it was because she never said things like “Oh look, daddy is coming home,” but always used his first name. I think that it does make it easier maybe now that we are all adults to treat each other as adults and be real friends. That said, I am not sure if I would do the same with my own children. I guess I will see how it turns out.

  19. You know I never thought about why Mom wants me to call her Mom.
    Not to leave Dad out of it, he lets me call him Paul when mom is not around.

    I don’t think it is a respect thing for her. I have a hunch that she really likes being a Mom, and loves being called Mommy. Your post has inspired me to ask her someday why she made that choice.

  20. My 2 years old daughter calls me with pretty much all the variations you can think about of the word “Mama”. I live in Germany (my boyfriend’s german), I am French-Canadian and we speak together in English… so it makes lots of names in three languages! Mama, maman, mommy, mami, mamichen…
    Recently she also started calling me by the name that everybody uses to talk to/about me, and at first I thought I’d find it weird… but I have to admit that when SHE says it, nobody has ever said my name in a cutest way EVER.

    Now, I have a name for every mood, every situation and really, I love it.

  21. First off, after having to read it twice for classes, I played Jean Louise Finch in a stage adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird in high school, and basically all I can think of is Atticus Finch and why he let HIS children call him Atticus.

    I can’t call my parents by their first names, because that’s simply not who they are to me. Their identities as people with first names are the ones that they use for OTHER people. Only my brother and I have the privilege of relating to them in their identities as parents. Yeah? It’s never been a “respect” thing for me — I think if the best way to gain my respect is to not allow me to call you by your name, then there are much larger problems at hand than nominatives — but a matter of how I think of them. Their NAMES aren’t them, their roles in my life are them. I can definitely understand if as a parent one would want to avoid that, considering it a surrender of individuality, but I think many parents are still able to see themselves as individuals while enjoying the special status of Mommy or Daddy to their children. After all, just because another kid calls someone else what your kid calls you doesn’t mean either child would confuse the relationship. Your kids know you’re the parent, regardless of what they call you.
    My father has unilaterally been Dad since I was about seven, and Daddy when I need money (as the family joke goes). My mother, however, is Mom for every day, Ma when she’s being unreasonable or needs a reality check, Mama or Mum when I have a question for her, Mommy when I’m crying, Anya (Hungarian for Mom) or Maman (French) when I answer the phone or we need to speak in code, Mutti (German) when we cook or I’m saying goodbye, her first name when I’m being ironic or taking her to task, Mudda or Comrade Mummy when I’m trying to make her laugh, etc. She once jokingly referred to me by initials, and I in turn replied with hers — which are the same as mine. We’ve been using it semiregularly ever since. I do like having a nickname for her beyond her name as Mom.

    I think it would still weird me out if my kid called me by my first name. I don’t call anyone close to me by their real name, so I guess I consider a pet name a sign of a bond. However, if my kids chose to do it on their own, I probably wouldn’t stop them. I’d continue to refer to myself as Mommy (like I do with my dogs), and they’d likely pick up on that.

  22. I’ve always called my folks mom and pop. Our kids generally refer to us as mom and dad. Every so often my daughter will call me by my first name, but it’s usually in a setting with a lot of other people and calling out mom either gets her no response or too many responses (think Girl Scout activities with a lot of leaders.) One of my kids did ask me once why everyone used my first name when they thought my name was momma. I told them they were special and got to call me mom while everyone else had to use my first name. If they had asked, we would have tried out the first name thing, but they were content with momma.
    The only time I think there is any disrespect with using first names instead of mom and dad is when a teenager decides to start calling parents by their first name without discussion about it, and even then it’s usually the tone of voice when the names are said more than what name/title is said. I’ve had friends that started calling their parents by their first names just to get them riled up about it because they knew it bugged them, and others whose parents didn’t care one way or the other so they called them by their first name when they started to support themselves with after school jobs.
    Of course if your child starts out calling you by your first name, that part of it isn’t an issue. It’s not disrespectful at all since that is all they have known.
    Ya gotta do what works for your family.

  23. I love it when my little Yula calls me mommy. I didn’t think I’d ever even be a parent, so to hear that is music to my ears. We’re very unconventional parents, but my boyfriend and I call each other “Mommy” and “Daddy” all the time. I feel like it’s silly that people think taking a name away takes your identity away. Why confine yourself to a name or a label or anything? What’s wrong with being a mother? It’s empowering and beautiful. And to be called it shouldn’t be looked down upon as dull or conventional. But that’s just my boring mommy opinion. 😉

  24. My Husband and I have spoken about the titles we would like to use when our “bean” is born at the end of october.

    We are a blended family as my 8 year old daughter from my first marriage lives with us in the week ( but she spends weekends with her Dad and his new family )
    Because my daughter already has a “Dad” we felt that it would be wrong for her to call my husband Dad, even though he has been a part of her life since she was 3. Therefore it was decided that if she wanted to call my husband something special as a mark of respect or even just so that she could explain who he was to her friends at school then she could do so and so she has oppted to call him “Papa”, this works well for us as she now has a Dad and a Mum as well as a Mama and a Papa. I think we will continue to use Mama and Papa with “Bean” too :o)

  25. I’m not an Offbeat Mama, just a curious Offbeat Bride, so I feel a little cheeky commenting. It’s just that this post reminded me of a terrible incident that happened to my best friend when she was at primary school. She has always called her parents by their first names from the minute she could talk (her parents felt they were disrespecting her in a way by expecting her to refer to them as something different to the rest of the world). Unfortunately, she didn’t grow up in the most progressive area and was once given a row at school, at the age of 6, for discussing the matter with her friends. She was then informed by her teacher that the only reason she called her mum Cathy anyway was because she was adopted!! Understandably upset at such a bombshell, my friend was inconsolable by the end of the day, and ran out of school screaming that her mum had lied to her and betrayed her. Apparantly it took the best part of two days for my friend’s parents to convince their daughter that she was indeed biologically theirs and she was absolutely not adopted. When my friends mother confronted this “educator” she refused to apologise and told them it was their fault. and they should expect confusion!! She even mumbled something about my friend not really looking like them anyway so it was a logical conclusion to come to!! Anyway, the point of my long winded story is that people are morons. Starting a family is a magic thing to do, and the silly minor details of day to day life should be of little concern to anyone (especially those not even in the bloomin family) when weighed against the joy of growing and developing a little life. Don’t let any narrow minded fool taint that, just do what feels natural and enjoy!! Rant over.

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