Friday, June 24, 2005

regarding daddy

Odds are, I have no idea how you personally refer to your father. So, no offense. But various experiences over the years have convinced me that were a multimillion dollar large-scale national study conducted on the issue, that study would find a probabilistic* association between:

(A) Referring to one's father as "Daddy" into one's twenties, thirties, forties, or beyond.

and

(B) The tendency of some seemingly normal people to revert to surprisingly levels of immaturity when tensions or difficulties arise in their family.**

What I don't understand is exactly what the causal relationship is here. Is calling your father "daddy" itself causal? Does it have to do with the parenting style of those parents who encourage permanent Daddydom? Does it have to do with the kind of adult who perseverates indefinitely in calling her/his father Daddy? Something else? Ideas?

If only I were a freakonomist I could maybe figure out some clever way of disentangling the causal ambiguity for this issue, possibly involving sumo wrestlers.

* By "probabilistic", I mean that the relationship is nothing like "All A are B" or even necessarily "Most A are B" but just that "If A, then B is more likely than if not-A."

** I'm less convinced of the finding w/r/t those from the South, where the dynamics of the (non)desistence of "Daddy" seem different.

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

What a quandry. Dad was simply Dad in our household but the neighbors called the senior male of the household and the one that had Daddyed all the kids into this life, Pop. Sometimes they called him Pops. We had speculated briefly on what Dad's reactions would be if we called him Pops, but nothing really was decided and the debate never raged. There was a family that called Dad, of all things, Father. We suspected he was a closet Catholic Priest, but never voiced these thoughts to said kids, as they could be aggressive. Now the family we knew who called Dad Pa, well, we always thought they were backward from the start, without them ever using such a word. We often wanted to call Dad, Daddy-o, but didn't dare. He could be a stern man at times. I still call him Dad.

Rhymes With Scrabble said...

My mother is 57 years old and still calls her father "Daddy" (and her mother "Mummy," although we aren't British). She also turns into a complete raving lunatic whenever we visit them, although it's mostly fighting with my grandmother. At any rate, I think your proposed relationship holds in her case.

I don't think I've called my father "Daddy" since I was 7 or 8.

jeremy said...

See, I post a theory, and within an hour I already have stunning confirmations pouring in.

mcd said...

i would sometimes call my dad "pap...smear." he didn't like that.

A+ said...

I get the same thing when I call my mom "ma." She haaaaates that.

I have a friend who calls her dad "daddy." They are rich and he pays for her entire existence. I don't know what that means to the theory, I'm just saying.

Katy said...

My dad (also called Pa and Papa when we are being obnoxious) once said to my brother, "if I had ever twisted my father's nipple he would have killed me." I suppose I don't need to explain what my brother had just done to him.

Does this add to the theory?

Belle Reve said...

My mother called her father Daddy, and it made my skin crawl.
However, the same woman, ever annoyed with her choice in a mate, would refer to my bio-dad as your father.
And me, really really annoyed with both of them, would ask, "You mean your husband?"

Anonymous said...

I would seriously dispute that. Seriously. How kids and parents refer to each other during childhood and adulthood is really a matter of family culture.

jeremy said...

Anon 3:47: And, if that was true, you are saying that "family culture" is completely inert in terms of having any lasting other influence on individuals?

dorotha said...

i call my pops "popsicle." or i call him "dad." i went through a phase in college when i was transitioning from "daddy" to "dad" during which i called him "daddy-o." he pretty much responds to any of them. i call my mom "mom" or "momma."

dad is the only one who regularly calls me "dorrie-mouse" (or sometimes just "dorrie"). my mom calls me "bear cub" or "baby bear." my sister calls me "sister" and my brother calls me "little sister" or "sister bee."

i swear i am 100% human, despite what my family says. anyway, i think i keep it pretty together during family dramas, but we don't have too many anymore. i suspect that when my grandparents start dying, i might lose it. strangely, though i have one evil grandmother and one good grandmother, i call them both "grandmother."

Rhymes With Scrabble said...

Also, how much effect does family culture have on the continued use of terms like "Daddy"? It seems like the dominant culture drives kids to stop calling their parents "Mommy" and "Daddy," rather than the parents themselves. Most kids don't want to be "babies," after all. Which is why Jeremy pointed out that he might exclude entire areas like the South where the dominant culture might not be expected to exert such pressures.

My sisters and I actually called our mother "Mama" as small children, which seems like a Southern term (despite none of the family being from the South), but all switched to "Mom" about the same time we stopped calling our father "Daddy," I think. I guess we might have called him "Daddy" a little longer--make of that what you will.

Jeremy, having recently witnessed me in the company of the man whose paternity is certain, as you mentioned at karaoke, do I seem different?

Anonymous said...

In your family culture, daddy may appear off-putting and encouraging immaturity. In another family culture it may be completely separate. Are there families where daddy terms are tossed around and adult children behave immaturely? I would suppose that there are even more family cultures where daddy terms are not tossed around yet adult children behave terribly immaturely, so at most you can suggest that persistant usage of the term raises a flag. But I doubt even that is true. And no, I am not going to offer anecdotal evidence. But I still bet that I am correct. That was my point at 3:47.

amalia s. said...

3:47 - If Jeremy wants to get into explaining why your comments don't really make sense he can. I'm just going to take the short cut of telling you that they don't make sense. If you were my dad, I would probably avoid calling you by any familial title to avoid association with you.

jeremy said...

RWS: Hard to say. When I was interacting with your father, I was being continually distracted by (a) his uncanny resemblence to you, (b) how young he looked, and (c) how Dorotha kept kicking both him and me in the shins.

Amalia: I don't know you, so why would I do your dirty work for you?

Ann Althouse said...

Jeremy, in my family, we kids always called our father "Daddy." He was Daddy. We stopped calling our mother Mommy (switching to Mother), but Daddy was always Daddy. We never called him Dad. Not once. We disrespectfully called him "the O.M." (for "the old man") for a while -- though not to his face. My mother always referred to him to us as "your father." It's hard to convey the deep sense in which "Daddy" was just exactly what he was. No matter how mature or immature I was at any given point, it would not have shaken that belief. This was not a matter of sentimental love either. The tone could be quite negative, yet he'd still be Daddy.

Re the Southern theory: we were from Delaware.

Rhymes With Scrabble said...

He is unusually youthful-looking. He's almost 51, though.

However, I submit to you that I really do look more like my mother: http://biology.semo.edu/agathman/images/personal/home/HPIM0712.JPG (That's my sister Hannah in the middle; we're really not sure why she appears to be gigantic in this photo. Maybe she was leaning forward or something.)

Goesh said...

Way up in farm country on the northern plains, it was always dad or pa. Any guy calling his father, father, would have been deemed a sissy and regarded as someone who couldn't drive a tractor or pitch hay or shovel cow manure. When we were old enough to sneak off and drink beer, we boldy called our fathers the old man amongst ourselves. None of us were so foolish as to call them that to their faces. I honestly don't ever remember any child, boy or girl, or any teen ever calling their father daddy. Probably in the privacy of their homes some town folk did, but I wouldn't bet on it. Now women and girls would sometimes call their mothers just that, but to us boys, it was always mom or ma.

Tonya said...

My son is 11 years old and he was around 8 years old when he stopped using Mommy and Daddy and began calling us Mom and Dad.

Anonymous said...

I think the gender of the speaker matters a great deal in the South, particularly with dear old Daddy. I'm from Georgia, and I think most of my female friends called their parents "Mama and Daddy," and continue to do so now, in their thirties. My brother and my male friends, who might still use "Mama," use the term "Dad."

Susan said...

When my grandmother died (way before I was born) my grandfather married her sister. She was then called "Auntie" by all the kids. A generation later all us cousins called our various aunts "Auntie" as in Auntie Mary, Auntie Rachel, etc. It probably sounded juvenile to anyone outside the family but it sounded perfectly natural to us and I was pretty old before I gave it any thought or wondered where it originated.

Constance said...

These days I'd prefer to just call my parents Neale and Kay. As a kid, my sister and I would call them "the parental units." This might be evidence for the other extreme of Jeremy's hypothesis.

Anonymous said...

I called my father "daddy" until I was about 16 (just because that was what my siblings and I had always called him), then one day he made fun of me for calling him "daddy", and he's been "dad" ever since. So my father definitely did not want to pursue permanent daddyhood. For which I am grateful, because who wants to be a 27 year old freak with a "daddy". If I were a man, and a woman referred to her "daddy" on one of our first dates, that would most likely be a red flag. Even more disturbing is the idea of dating a grown man with a "daddy".

Ann Althouse said...

Jeremy, there's an important distinction here. We called my father "Daddy" within the family. If I were talking to an outsider -- say, to someone on a date -- I would never have referred to "my daddy." I would have said "my father." By the same token, I can remember looking down on a man who referred to his father as "my dad." I thought that made HIM seem babyish. You're a grown man! I thought. I've gotten used to the midwestern use of "dad" for father, but it took me aback at first. If your original post is about someone referring to her "daddy" to an outsider, I agree that's totally pathetic.

jeremy said...

Ann: I agree that it's an interesting distinction. I'll admit that I'm not quite sure how to incorporate it into my theory. Even though it contradicts your experience, I think I mean the generalization to apply to people who call their fathers Daddy in private. However, this could be an area of future research.

Susan: I don't think I would expect my theory to apply to the calling of aunts Auntie. Or even to the calling of Uncles Unc-ly.

everyone's favorite you-know-what... said...

when i was weelittle, they were "mom-mom" and "dad-dad-dad".

dunno why, but they were.

now they are momandad, mom, dad, me ma an' me da, or whatever particular term of affection i choose to use, knowing that they are in fact my parents and will be there for me when i need them.

they also just had their 29th wedding anniversary... 6/26/76

so it's all good. much love and props to the momandad.

-m.t.b.

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