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. my son called me by my first name for the first three years of his life. he called his father “daddy” though. we just didn’t pressure him to call us anything, so he called us whatever he heard the most (and he saw his grandparents a lot and they always called me by my first name). he now calls me mommy, but that’s something he picked up on his own. i didn’t pressure him to do so.

  2. My daughter calls me Mama Soybean. (she is obviously my baby soybean) This stemmed from our love of, well, soybeans, and it just stuck. I even have it tattooed on my wrist, in HER writing from when she could first write it at 4 years old. It’s something special between us. I think a lot of mothers may be hurt by the lack of “specialness” in a their child calling them by their first name, since it’s a very special thing to be called “mom” or “mommy” however, your daughter calling you Gambra is epic! NO ONE has called you that before and that will always be hers. What could be more special than that?! I say way ta’ go not forcing her to call you what society has dubbed as special. I hope she (and you) have the pleasure of her calling you Gambra for EVAR!

  3. You know, until I read this, I hadn’t really considered it. I was raised in a very conservative household, where calling my parents by their first names was not encouraged. the only time we were allowed to, was if calling out “mom” hadn’t worked several times (usually due to many many other children ALSO calling out mom)

    Here’s the thing, I am a step-mom-to-be, My Husband and I are getting married in the summer of 2011, and in effect, I will be a mother instantly. Yes yes, I know, he won’t really ever be mine. pfft. whatever. I love him. therefore, he’s mine. He’s an amazing little five year old with a zest for life I had forgotten. Brian and I are moving at the end of the month, into an apartment that is much more affordable (we live separately at the moment) and when that happens, I will be seeing a LOT more of Isaiah. My Husband (because although we’re not married yet, that’s what he is to me, really) works nights, and I work days- So, in effect, when Daddy isn’t home, Emmy (which is what he’s calling me currently) will be.

    How does this have bearing on what my birth children will call me when I have them? Well, I remember when I was younger (vaguely) and one thing I keep remembering is wanting to be EXACTLY like the big kids. (kinda funny considering how offbeat I am now) It was sooooo confusing when I couldn’t be, and really I don’t want to mess with my kids heads more than I already will. 🙂 so, chances are good, they’ll end up calling me whatever Isaiah does. and who knows? maybe he’ll call me mommy2, or some meshing of Mom and my name, or maybe, I’ll just be “Emily” and if I am, then great. 🙂 it’s up to him. and eventually, up to them.

  4. I don’t have kids yet, but as a child I called my mother many things… none of which were any variant on ‘mom’. She was sometimes ‘Margy’ (her name is Margot…it was like the ‘Gambra’ thing) but mostly Kitty, Cat, or Kitten. It just worked! I’m in my 20s now, and she’s still Kitten to me!

  5. My parents have always been Mama and Daddy, I only use their first names when they aren’t paying attention. I am the oldest grandchild on my mom’s side, and as a toddler we lived in my grandparent’s basement apartment for almost a year. I couldn’t say the letter p, so my grandparents were Grandma and Grandma Jim. It switched to Grandpa eventually, but all the grandkids call him Grandpa Jim, and I love that I’m the one who named him that! We want our little one (coming soon!) to call us Mama and Daddy, but I can’t wait to hear what s/he comes up with for our parents.

  6. My brother used to call our grandparents that raised us by the names they called each other (June and Jim), and our grandmother HATED it!! I always thought it was funny.

    My cousin’s kid used to call me Aly Lynn.

  7. There is something magical about hearing your baby call out “Mama” or “Daddy” and mean YOU. I love being Mama – but I deliberately chose a different version of the mother name than what I use with my own mother. I needed a little distance to help me establish my own identity as a mother and language is a helpful tool for me. I like the idea of having parent names – and auntie, uncle and grandparent names – that are special to the relationship. For me, language is extremely important, and I place a lot of significance on words. However, I think the actual essential part is that your child feels a special, personal bond with you – one that is different than any other connection you will ever have with anyone else. It’s easily accomplished by using parent names, but if the bond is there, I don’t see how using a parent’s first name could possibly effect your relationship. By the time the child is old enough to understand the significance, respectful or otherwise, of using your first name, they will have already incorporated what they call you into their perception of your identity. I just happen to like being “Mama.”

  8. My parents were “mom and dad” then step parents on both sides came along and they were called by their proper names. When I got older my mom became “Jan” but my dad always stayed “dad” unless he wasn’t listening *i.e. watching football* and he became “Paul!!” Now I call my mom “MA, Jan-o, and Mother”, and she calls me “Ali, Al, and Daughter.” I’m okay with all of it. The moral of the story is, don’t sweat it- it’ll change anyway!

  9. our son comes from a complex family, led by a same-sex couple. kaleo calls me (and always has called me) “mama”. it seems so weird if he calls me any other version of the mother word. he calls my wife, “mama panda” (her name is amanda … his name for her evolved from aunty manda, to panda and eventually mama panda). he calls his father “dad” and his stepmom (dad’s wife) is “smom”. we all have our roles and endearments and i love it! i hope he never gets tired of calling me mama. also, in hawai’i, it is disrespectful to call any adult by their first name – even at 37, i still use “aunty” or “uncle” when speaking to an elder, even if they are not related to me. kaleo is being raised in the same tradition.

  10. Heh! Apparently I called my mom and dad Amy and Peter for a few years when very small, despite several talks about how I was the only person in the world who could call them Mommy & Daddy. It wore off eventually, and I’m with the writer: it seems unlikely that it could undo every other teaching about respect.

  11. My 2 year old has been calling me “Daddy” for a year now. She picked it up in her first daycare: “Daddy” = parent.

    My parents keep trying to correct her (and pressure me to correct her) to calling me “Mommy”, but I actually like being called Daddy.

    In a room full of moms and kids, hearing a kid cry “Daddy” lets me know immediately that it’s MY kid doing the yelling.

    And also because I’m challenging gender stereotypes and trying to expose her to queer culture, I LOVE being called Daddy! Especially because I am a single mom, who is BOTH mom and dad to her, it makes sense to me that I answer to both/either.

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