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Call Me Mr. Archbold!

BY Matthew Archbold

| Posted 1/14/10 at 10:30 AM

 

Doesn’t anyone want to be a grown-up anymore?

When I was a child I wanted to grow up to be an adult. But now it seems so many of the adults I meet seemingly want to be children.

I met an old friend recently and had my five kids in tow. I introduced him as Mr. So-and-so. And right away he interrupts me and says to my kids, “Oh, just call me Ed. Mr. So-and-so was my father.”

So my children look nervously between me and “Ed,” and they opt for quick hellos and avert their eyes.

What is it with people?

I know he meant it as a way to connect with my children, but isn’t it really an obstacle in that it confuses the relationship? My mother has friends who I wouldn’t dream of calling by their first name. In fact, I don’t even know their first names now that I think about it.

The irony is that in speaking with “Ed” he tells me that “The problem with kids nowadays is that they don’t respect adults.” Well?! When adults introduce themselves to children as peers, they should expect to get their blocks taken from them once in a while.

“When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: But when I became a man, I put away childish things” (1 Corinthians 13:11).

Let me ask it plainly — Do you really want the punk who takes out your daughter calling you by your first name or calling you “Mr.” or “Sir?”

The thing about children is that they don’t know a whole lot. And I know this may shock some, but a child’s opinion should not be valued as much as an objective fact or an adult’s educated guess. Children haven’t thought things through. Adults are supposed to be very different from children. But so many adults have punted on their responsibility as teachers. Too many of us have this inexplicable desperate desire to be the cool parent and not talk down to children.

But in the end these children will simply learn to continue being children, as they have no other example. They will see childhood as a destination rather than a phase.

As a child I feared and didn’t like the old man down the street who told us kids to get off his lawn. But he at least taught me something. He helped to teach me respect for other people’s property. The lady down the street who allowed the neighborhood teenagers to party in the basement unchecked never taught me a thing.

The odd thing I’ve noticed about respect is that it’s contagious. If you ask children to call you “Mr.” other parents notice, and they sometimes start following the same practice. They begin feeling a little silly being called by their first name by someone who has his shoes on the wrong feet.

And they should. This childish behavior of adults puzzles me. You?