Thursday, July 19, 2007

it's all relative

Here's my Thoughts for Thursday this week...
Do you (or would you/do you plan to) have your children call non-relatives "aunt" and "uncle"? Did you call non-family "aunts" and "uncles" when you were growing up?

Sorry if you do/did/plan to, but I just don't get it. Truth be told, it's one of those weird things that has just the slightest bit of irritation for me. Like whenever I hear someone use those titles for friends, I think to myself, "you know that's not really thier aunt/uncle, so why are you calling them that?". Isn't the definition of Aunt actually a sister of someone's mother or father? And isn't the definition of Uncle actually a brother of someone's mother or father? Why then do you refer to your friends as your child's aunt or uncle?

I understand that it must be intended as a form of respect and endearment. And I understand if it is indeed referring to a lifelong friend... one who's relationship may be as close or closer than actual siblings. It almost makes sense to me if that person is in all aspects considered part of your extended "chosen" family. I think it's more the ones who throw around the term "auntie" to use with all friends that bother me. In that case, is it just a respect thing? Like you don't just want your kids to call your friends by their first names, so you stick an "auntie" in front of it? I've heard people say that. They think Mrs. Johnson is too formal, so they use Auntie Jenny. I guess I understand that... only I have my kids use the Miss/Mrs/Mr with the first name, so it's not so formal as Mrs. LastName with friends. My kids' Aunts and Uncles are their legitimate aunts and uncles. I just don't get calling them something they're not.

What did you grow up using with your aunts and uncles? Did you call them Aunt Nancy and Uncle Mark? I wonder if what you called your relatives and also how close of relationships you had/have with relatives plays a part in determining how you bring up your children to use the terms aunt and uncle. For instance, I didn't call my aunts and uncles "aunt" and "uncle". They were just referred to and spoken to using their first names. Also, I was not close at all with any of my parent's siblings (or any of my cousins for that matter) so in that aspect, I wonder if that has anything to do with why to me, "aunt" and "uncle" are not specifically terms of endearment. I would never think to use them in that way, as I didn't even use them for my own relatives. I guess it just depends on the family... using those terms are not a universal endearment in this country. To some of us calling someone who we don't recognize as an Aunt "auntie" is not a term of endearment, it's just inappropriate.

I do however, think in terms of relatives, it should be a respect thing and that's why I tried to get in the habit from the beginning with my own kids of referring to their aunts and uncles as "Aunt Jenn" and "Uncle Gabe". Maybe it's one of those I missed out on those family bonds when I was younger and I want my kids to experience that more than I did things. Like by calling their relatives Aunt and Uncle they are recognizing and respecting that family member, and hopefully eventually it will become a term of endearment between them as they grow up.

I've known some people to be offended by the casual use of "auntie" and "uncle" for family friends. I don't know if I'd ever go so far as to say it offends me, but now that I am an Aunt myself, I do understand why some would say that. If my niece or nephews were to call all of their parents' friends "auntie" and "uncle", I could see how that might make me feel that takes away a little bit from my "title" as a legitimate Aunt. Does that make sense? If you're referring to all your friends as "auntie" with your kids, doesn't that put those "aunties" and the real aunts on the same level? Not that I think I'm better than the other "aunties"... I just think there should be a distinction between friends and family. I hope that makes sense in the right way.

So what are your thoughts? What will you/are you leading your kids to say? Is it the same as how you grew up? Give me some insight :)

***Just a reminder, we'd love to have more Thoughts for Thursdays! Give us your own thoughts... pick something and start a conversation on it!! Leave me a comment letting us know you have a thought on your own blog... it's fun to hear so many different thoughts on so many different things!
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K.M. Laughlin said...

My mom has 10 brothers and sisters (and all are married) so growing up, we used Aunt/Uncle and then their first name. It was so much easier and I loved it. With Mike's brother and his wife (and their 2 kiddos) they call us Uncle Mike and Aunt Kasey and I love it! I agree with the whole friend thing about how they shouldn't be called Aunt or Uncle b/c they're not. :) They are friends.... :) I'll have to think of a thoughts for Thurs. to post...gotta go!

LeeAnn said...

I grew up addressing them as 'Aunt Sharon' and 'Uncle Tom'. And we have also used that for Lukas as well. He will automatically address my brother as 'Uncle Ryan'. But with Tony's brother Daniel, I think my inlaws have just taught him 'Uncle'. So that is pretty much what Lukas will call him for awile, probably until he's older. We don't introduce Lukas to our friends using the Aunt/Uncle labels. We are using the same method you are with the Ms/Mr and then their first name. My friends son, Noah (you know Noah), he is very good at calling me Ms. LeeAnn and I have enjoy hearing that respect from a little boy.

Annie said...

For another perspective: We grew up really close to all our biological aunts and uncles and all our parents first cousins - we called them all, "Auntie Julie" "Uncle Paul."

My parents best college friends were also "Auntie Di" and "Uncle Scott." I loved it. I think it created a deep sense of close ties and community with those people we spent many Thanksgivings with and they were truly like family. I always thought of the terms "Aunt" and "Uncle" to be terms of endearment reserved for very special people in our lives. There's no one I'd have my kids call "aunt" and "uncle" now (outside family) I don't think...but I'm not opposed to it. In fact, I almost wish we did have some friends as close as that. I always had in my mind that to some people, if the actual aunts and uncles are more like distant relatives - not super close, then it would make sense that the terms can lose some of the special, close meaning they had in our family. I have some more thoughts, but I'm so tired my eyes are closing. Sorry if any of this doesn't make sense. It's been a long, good day - time for bed.

Jessica said...

I've always used the Aunt and Uncle endearments with my mom and dad's sisters and brothers, and I was super, super close to all of my Aunts and Uncles. Our girls have an "Uncle" who is not actually related to them...Hubby's best friend, who is considered part of our family. He's been there to see most of the major milestones in Alyssa's life, and now Hailey's as well and is as much an active participant in their childhoods as her blood-related Uncle, so with him the term Uncle came naturally.
I don't think it's a term that should be used randomly and loosely. I think it's term of endearment, respect, and love and should be used as such. I don't agree with just having them call a friend of mine Aunt and Uncle just because...that term has to be earned, IMO.

Katie said...

Growing up for me it was ONLY my parents relatives whom we called Aunt....& Uncle....

I do thinks it's a bit strange when you have your kids are calling lots of people in their lives auntie & uncle....just strange to me. But, I can also see the other side.... a close bond with a special friend whom you consider family and you want your child to know how special they are in your life....makes sense.

I think a lot of this depends on what you yourself did as a child....whom you addressed in your life as Aunt & Uncle....

Kelly said...

I have a good friend who was the maid of honor in my wedding, she was engaged to my brother, she was there for me through my pregnancy, she was there from moment 1 with my daughter so she was "Aunt" Jamie. Well, my brother and Jamie broke off their engagement but she has still always been there for my daughter. She is still "Aunt" Jamie. You just can't take that away.

MacKenzie Leigh said...

I have always called my relatives Aunt/Uncle and them only. Same with Jeff and his relatives. When I was working at the dealership, it felt so weird having to page my grandpa and my uncle as only Dean and Gary. My dad's side of the family was always around me growing up (my mom's side lives in FL) so my Aunt Darlene became Auntie, my Grandma became DeeDee, and my Grandpa became Papa. To this day I still call my grandma/grandpa DeeDee/Papa. And I will have Jocelyn do the same. Such as, my sister is Aunt Kate, my mom is Grandma Nae (Jocelyn has 7 grandma's in the area now!) and my dad is still undecided as to what he wants to be called. LOL I can understand how some people have a very close non-related person that they want to be called Aunt/Uncle but to add it to all of your friend's names...that takes away from the value of actually being an Aunt or an Uncle!

Gabe & Heidi's P.A.D. said...

I think sometimes it's also cultural. When I was living in the Philippines all the children called me Ate Heidi(Aunt Heidi). There it was a term of respect and I even referred to women older then me as Ate.
I really enjoyed having that connection with them.

Nicole said...

I'm here! Just posting a little late! :)

I grew up always calling my parents brothers/sisters "Aunt So and So" and "Uncle So and So"... even my moms uncle, I called him Uncle George (because, technically, he was my uncle). It was never really a term of endearment in my eyes, kind of a title earned by being closely related. I never called my parents friends Aunt or Uncle... weird. We never used Miss/Mr with first or last names ever... actually now that I think about it I remember when I was little wondering if I should call my friends parents "Mrs. LastName" or not, and I remember avoiding calling them anything b/c I wasn't sure what was rude/disrespectful or not... Anyway, not that I'd call them Auntie or Uncle HAHA!

As far as Porter, he calls Ry's sister/brother in law Aunt and Uncle, and my sister and brother we sometimes refer to them as just their first names, and I've noticed that my niece on my side often refers to us as "Nic" and "Ry" not Uncle Ryan or Aunt Nic... and in a way, I'm like 'HEY! I'm AUNT Nic!!" Porter also calls MY Aunts "Aunt Dawn" and "Aunt Linda" also, as, well I guess they are his aunts too.

As far as friends go, we just use first names for him to refer to them. I like the Miss/Mr FirstName titles, but it was only something I was familiar in when I worked at a daycare, so I never got accustomed to using it with friends. Once
Porter was born we just always used plain old first names. It felt weird to switch over to using a semi-formal title.

Wow, I didn't think I'd write a novel, but guess I did!

kimca01 said...

Yep, I'm in the minority but Morgan does this and we encourage it for my close girlfriends (who also refer to themselves as "Aunty ____"). That said, we differenciate by calling Morgan's real aunt just Aunt and the others are "Aunty _____".

We are a very tight knit group and maybe it's different because my sister is a part of the same group but he absolutely adores both his real aunt as well as his "aunties".

For us, it shows a closer relationship, people that have been around Morgan his whole life, help care for him, love him like real aunts/uncles. It's not for any old friend. It's a term of respect and status.

In fact, one of the aunties was over today and said "I never knew how much I could love someone else's child until you had Morgan". I thought that was really sweet.

As it looks like he won't have any cousins, I think that having extra aunties and uncles only adds to his life, rather than takes away from it.

I don't think you have to be a blood relative to be an "aunt" or "uncle" but I agree with Jess that that term should be earned.

You could have a blood aunt or uncle that couldn't care less or a someone that was a huge part of your life - to me, that is who an "aunt" or "uncle" is.

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