Mr.? Mrs.? Miss? I have no idea how my kids should address adults.

When I taught high school a few years ago, we all still went by last names. Ms. Hunter Lopez quickly became Ms. Hu Lo because double-barrel names are sometimes a bit much for kids. My friend Vanessa says that her son’s school has the kids use “Teacher.” “So it’s like, Teacher Maria or Teacher Val,” she says. “Now I’m toying with that too. Like, ‘Hi Neighbor Jill.’ Very Daniel Tiger, but I kind of dig it.”

My friend Bridget says her kids’ school uses first names. “The only time I cringe is when my 3-year-old addresses our elderly neighbor as ‘Beth’ with no prefix.” Age may be a compromise; if the person is older (but older than who — me?) we can use Mr. or Ms. If they’re the same age or younger, we can do first-name basis. My friend Leah used Mr. or Miss with first names growing up. “But now I only have my daughter call people Miss and Mr. if they’re older than my age. Like our neighbor on one side is an older lady who she calls Miss Marilyn.”

But Leah’s from Texas, so maybe that has something to do with it. We certainly can’t ignore regional differences. In notoriously casual California, it makes sense that we’d do away with Mr. and Miss and Mrs., but other parts of the country haven’t been so quick to give it up. Southern mama Erin says she always called people Mrs. and Mr. She’s going to have her son do the same. My pal Suzy is in New York City where they use first names for adults, but she actually can pinpoint when the name change happened in Pennsylvania. “My brother is five years younger and all of his friends’ parents just did first names. So my parents were Mr. and Mrs. to my friends but to his friends they were first name only.”

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