Life Advice

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Health & Spirit

Child's nightmare reveals daytime anxieties

By Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Amy: My children's spouses do not call my husband and me "Dad" and "Mom." They call us by our first names.

I have gone along with their preference. I've also noticed that my children do not call their spouses' parents "Mom" and "Dad," either.

When I was growing up in the '60s, my parents called each other's parents, "Ma" and "Pa" (Italian), and "Dad" (the non-Italian parent).

When I married, I immediately addressed my in-laws as "Mom" and "Dad." I felt that I was honoring them by addressing them in this way. I felt that I was giving them the honor that I gave my own parents. I also felt that it would be an honor for my husband to call my folks "Mom" and "Dad."

What is your opinion about this? Why do people no longer call their in-laws, "Mom" and "Dad"? What changed in society?

-- Wondering

Dear Wondering: The language changes, along with the culture. Many aspects of Western culture have changed since the '60s. Because many families are geographically scattered, the relationship to in-laws is often less parental, and more based in friendship.

When I asked my own mother about this, she confessed that she called her mother-in-law "Mrs. Dickinson," through the first years of her marriage (in the '50s). After that, she spent many years basically strategizing ways to not use any particular address for her mother-in-law, because my mother was too shy to bring it up, and her mother-in-law too formidable to relieve the discomfort.

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When I got married, I immediately asked my mother-in-law how she would like to be addressed. She claimed not to care, and I believed her, and so I addressed her by her first name, which always felt right to me.

Importantly, you seem quite sad about this. I hope you will bring up your preference to your in-laws: "How would you feel about calling us 'Mom' and 'Dad'?" They might be happy to oblige.

Dear Amy: I'm reacting to the letter by "Burdened," the elderly man who is holding a secret: he fathered a child when he was a teenager. Thank you for telling him to be honest with his family. I'd like to encourage him to search. He might be my dad!

-- Adopted and Looking

Dear Adopted: DNA testing is creating many opportunities for families to find each other.

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(You can contact Amy Dickinson via email: askamy@amydickinson.com. Readers may send postal mail to Amy Dickinson, c/o Tribune Content Agency, 16650 Westgrove Drive, Suite 175, Addison, Texas, 75001. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or "like" her on Facebook.)


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