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The Name Game


I love driving the kids home from school. One of these days, I’m going to get a chauffeur’s cap and go to the school and hold out a sign with their names on it.

I have to admit that I don’t love it so much those times when the kids have a friend coming home from school with them. Then I get the pleasure of being completely ignored, except for requests for seatbelt assistance.  I get to be privy to maddeningly idiotic, high-decibel arguments about who would ‘win’ in a to-the-death showdown between pirates and zombies (for the record, my two cents that zombies are actually already dead, rendering this conversation even more asinine, was completely ignored by the roundtable in the back seat).

And I get to be denigrated.

Okay, maybe that’s overdramatic. But I was driving my 1st grader, Z, and his friend T home the other day (along with kindergartener R), and suddenly, out of nowhere, they remembered I was there.

Z: T, have you met my mom before?

Me: Hon, that’s nice. I’ve met T a bunch of times. But thanks.

Z (to T): I call her ‘Mom’ (editor’s note: as if, tough guy!) or ‘Mommy,’ but you can call her ‘Jordana.’

Then I stomped on the brakes and chewed them out.

No, not really. I let it slide, since it was just a brief hiatus in the discussion I was meant to overhear about how SAD it is that my son doesn’t have a DS and he’s the ONLY kid in school, if not on the PLANET, who doesn’t have one, and how the whole first grade is taking up a charitable fundraiser to buy him one out of nothing but pity. That may have been an exaggeration.

But I digress. The point is: no, random seven-year-old. You can’t call me “Jordana.”

I know I’m going against the grain on this one. First names for parents seem to be de rigeur. “Robyn, can I have some more apple juice, please?”  “Thanks for the ride, Meg.” “This cake is great, Cheryl.”

No, you can’t use my first name, Junior. We’re not colleagues on a business trip. We’re not meeting at some open house. Here’s the real point: we’re not equals or peers. I am your elder. You are the proletariat. I am the ruling class, the one who rules with an iron, no-DS-purchasing fist (hardly!). But seriously, the first name thing just freaks me out.

I remember once telling my mother that I really wanted to be her friend. And you know what she told me? “I’m always going to love you more than you can understand. But I’m not your friend.”  I didn’t get it at the time (and was pretty hurt by it too – first rejection by the popular clique because I didn’t wear a bra, and now this?), but now I do.



Parents and kids are not friends. We’re in a different, better relationship with one another, but it’s one that, in order to work, has respect as a cornerstone. I realize respect is earned rather than proclaimed, but I feel that the first name thing sets up a paradigm of informality that undercuts my punch line of authority.  (Go ahead, tell me I have a stick up my ass. Just tell me in a polite and formal way.)

Now admittedly, it’s confusing – I have two different last names, one for professional and one for personal use, and neither of them are my children’s last name. And plus,  I always thought “Mrs.” was kind of lame, and prefer “Ms.” (Yes, I’m one of the delusional freaks who gets mad when she’s called ‘ma’am’ in the supermarket instead of ‘miss,’ despite having 2 kids and one more on the way. Whatever, dude.  I ask you: does Angelina Jolie get ‘ma’amed’?)

So here’s the best idea of all, kid: don’t call me anything. I’ll know who you’re talking to.

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