‘Mama’? ‘Daphne’? ‘Hey you!’?

A friend was dismayed when her three-year-old recently called her by her first name rather than ‘Mummy’ as he had been taught.

When I asked my great-niece to call me Aunty Daphne rather than Yi Poh, my sister (her grandmother) was not pleased.

I would like my children to call me ‘Daphne’, but they insist on sticking to ‘Mama’ or ‘Ma’. Damn, I should have referred to myself as ‘Daphne’ from the time they were babies.

Daphne is, after all, my name. Why would I object to my children to using my name?

It’s rude and disrespectful

How could ‘Daphne’ be rude? It’s not ‘Stupid’ or ‘Slutface’, it’s my name. And anyway, you can call someone ‘Madame’ or ‘Mum’, ‘Sir’ or ‘Dad’ and still despise and disrespect them, so I would not automatically consider calling a parent, teacher, other authority figure by their first name rude.

It’s flying in the face of tradition

Remember when not binding a baby girl’s feet was considered flying in the face of tradition? OK, I know it’s not as extreme as that, but ‘it’s tradition’ has never struck me as a good enough reason to keep doing things.

I don’t actually mind my children calling me ‘Mama’ or ‘Ma’, but I would prefer Daphne because Daphne is who I am, first and foremost. We all wear different hats and have different roles in life, and my role as a mother is one I identify least with. Although I am my children’s mother, I am also their friend, confidante, counselor and teacher. All those roles are parts of the whole that is who I am: Daphne. Of course, I do understand that, from their point of view, ‘mother’ is my predominant role and that’s why they feel most comfortable sticking with ‘Mama’.

However, I do think that in most cases, an individual should be addressed according to what they prefer. This is why my children call their Great-Aunt Evelyne ‘Yi poh’ but their Great-Aunt Rachel ‘Aunty’.

I prefer Great-Aunt Daphne to Yi Poh. My sister says Rae will be confused if some aunts are referred to using the Chinese forms of address and others the Western, but that’s bullshit. We grew up calling some aunts Ah Yi and Yi Poh, and others Aunt and we weren’t puzzled out of our minds. Children just roll with it, and if they’ve been encouraged to ask questions, they will ask you what they need/want to know.



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