What I learned by hanging out with my family for a week...
Like so many of you, I just finished hanging out with my family for the holiday. Our tribe spent time in Palm Springs, California. Not only was it the annual feast of all things turkey, it was also my mom's 70th birthday, and the real reason for our family celebration.
It took my two younger brothers and myself a year to find a week we could all agree on, it took my mom almost as long to decide on the perfect destination, but we worked together and compromised to make her wish come to life.
One of the many things I enjoyed during our trip was a number of interesting conversations revolving around how my brothers and I (raised by the same mom and dad) are now choosing to raise our kids.
One such back and forth was between my brother Paul any myself with regard to how we expect our kids to address other adults (like our friends). For example, my brother and his wife Therese (who is, coincidentally, also my husband's sister...) expect their three children to greet all of the adults in their lives with a proper title, such as Mr. or Mrs. and their last name.
I know I have several friends who expect and practice the same thing.
Tom and I, on the other hand, don't. Our kids generally call our friends (or other adults), by their first name, or occasionally by Mr. or Ms. and then a first name. Like, Ms. Jeannette, who is the mother of my daughter's friend Sydney.
Or Mr. Fred, our older neighbor, who graciously collected in our newspaper while we were away.
Now, we (as in my two brothers and myself) were definitely raised to address all adults by the title of Mr or Mrs and their last name. In fact, for Paul and myself it was super weird when we got married to our spouses, going from calling our parents' best friends Mr. and Mrs. Muench for so many years, to calling them Skip and Loretta. Twenty-three years later it actually still feels a little strange to me...oddly disrespectful on some level I guess, based on how I was raised.
(Yes, I just told you not only is my brother married to my husband's sister, but our parents were best friends for many, many years...in fact, we all lived together in the same townhouse at one point, but that's a different story).
Yet, Tom and I have never really asked our kids to attach a proper formal title, followed by last name, to any adult.
Why is this?
And, neither Tom nor I ever subscribed our kids follow the whole southern tradition of "Yes ma'am, Yes sir", which seems way too uptight to me.
Maybe it is because when someone calls me Mrs Muench I will immediately say, "Please call me Kim or Ms. Kim if you like, when you call me Mrs. Muench it makes me feel old."
Because it does. And even though everyday I am getting closer to old, I don't necessarily want to be reminded of it.
Paul finds the practice of a formal Mr. and Mrs. a much needed sign of respect. To me, a first name keeps us all on a more level playing field.
Another difference between Paul, and both Rob (my youngest brother) and myself is the fact that even though all three of us attended private, Catholic school from 1-12th grade (as did Tom and Therese), Paul and Therese are the only couple carrying on this tradition.
One night during our vacation we got to talking about the differences in the high schools our kids attend. Paul's son goes to an all-boys private school of about 1,100 students. My son Brigham attends the local public school of about 4,500 students. Jake has 3+ hours of homework to struggle through each night, and a 30 minute commute to and from his school. Brigham drives five minutes (if he's lucky) and only as a senior am I really seeing him have to spend time on school work. And honestly, as much as I love him, I'd be hard pressed to tell you exactly what Brig's classes are right now...except tennis, that I know he plays fourth period everyday of his 90-minute block schedule. Conversely, Paul attended the same high school his son is currently enrolled in, knows his son's coursework well, and may even still see a lot of the same teachers walking the hallways.
So, what's my point here?
The point is this...the three of us were raised by the same two parents, experienced similar (but for gender of high school) education/religious instruction/social circles and yet we are parenting our kids, in many ways, differently.
No one way is better, or right as opposed to wrong, we simply take a variety of approaches to the task. Any why would we assume we would parent exactly the same way? After all, even though we had the same parents and home life, each one of us experienced them from our own unique perspective.
The important thing, as we roll into another season of family get-togethers, is we appreciate what each brings to the table and we understand parenting is a tough job in which we're all doing the best we can with what we know.
And the most beautiful thing...our kids (nine of ten grandkids made the trip), who don't see one another more than about once a year, and don't talk in between, are able to pick up where they left off without skipping a beat. Ranging in age from 3 to 22, they all had a great time playing games, swimming, hiking, talking and hanging out with one another.
And so did the adults.
Here's to looking past the little differences and cooperating for the greater good!