That’s Missus to You, Missy

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I know this is controversial, and that many of you roll your eyes whenever I bring this up. And I get your side – really.

You want to be accessible to our children, cultivating an open forum for free dialogue as a proactive disciplining measure – if we’re “pals” with our kids, we may glean some secret information about kissing boys or smoking cigs. So you ask your kids’ friends to call you by your first name, and you encourage your kids to call me by mine.

But, quite frankly, I’ve got enough friends my own age. And if you’re fearful your kids will smoke cigs, tail them, read their email, track their cell phones – do what any good parent should do.

Frankly, your daughter ain’t my homey, and she ain’t dishing nothin’ to me.

Respect is a huge issue for me, in case you haven’t noticed. In fact, I view it as currency. The stronger the handshake, the stronger the value.

Or, for the younger ones, the sweeter the “Missus,” the sweeter the cookie.

I use this analogy because manners always seem to break down in the kitchen at my house. Just the other day, one of my 7-year-old son’s friends – head-deep in my fridge’s produce bin – yelled, “Hey, Cynthia, whereya keep the treats?!”

“Look, pal,” I told him. “If you move aside and ask me by my married name, I’ll make you a banana split.”

My kitchen, my rules.

And the same goes for my closet.

We were watching a neighbor’s daughter one afternoon, who waltzed into my walk-in and strapped on a pair of my prized Pradas. This, of course, was after she’d belted a swimsuit with a string of pearls she’d found deep in a jewelry box.

Now, this has all happened in the time it took me to go to the bathroom, where, by the way, she waltzed right in for my private fashion show.

“Don’t I look just like you, Cynthia?” she beamed.

I was, amid the awkwardness of pulling my undies up as inconspicuously as possible, appalled. Not even my husband’s allowed in my closet.

So here’s my new initiative, backed by the age-old tradition of respect: As our parents and those before them addressed their elders, the same goes in my house.

My name is Mrs. Jenkins.

The handful of kids for whom I have “auntie” status, know who they are – and it’s earned by HISTORY with their moms … years of stalking boyfriends, alcohol and cigarettes …  not simply by going to the same hairdresser.

While we’re at it, snack time is at 10-ish and 3-ish every day. I promise to feed your kids, wipe their hands and faces – and, when asked politely, addressed by my married name, I’ve been known to give kids my old, ratty swimsuits.

Look, one of my sons will probably steal your car one day. Or, worse, your daughter’s heart. Now wouldn’t it sting a lot less if he looked you in the eye, shook your hand and addressed you as he would his parole officer?

It’s the p’s and q’s that today’s generation of kids is missing, in my opinion – which, I’ve recently learned, stands for pints and quarts, not pleases and thank-yous. But, no matter … where would any of us be without a little hops and circumstance anyway?

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