Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Take Care, Sister!

Megan requested French pigtails again this morning. I did her hair up the same way yesterday and she loved it. She came home from school squealing with delight,

"Almost all the girls in my class loved my hair!"

There are like 6 girls in her class besides her. So if only "almost all" of them liked it, that really isn't a huge crowd but at least it made Megan happy.

So this morning while I was doing her hair Megan said,

"Do you know what Ms. Bridget called you?"

At the time I had no idea who Ms. Bridget was or why she'd be calling me anything so I just said, "Nope, what?"

"She called you my nanny!" and then she started cackling with laughter, "But I told her that you weren't my nanny. You were just taking care of me because you're my friend and my mom and dad aren't home."

"That's right," I told her, "So what, exactly, did Ms. Bridget and you talk about when you were talking about me?"

I'm not vain; I just like to know what's being said about me. Especially if it's a six year old doing the talking.

"She just asked who did my hair and I said, 'Sister Heiss,' and she said, 'Who's Sister Heiss?' and I said, 'She's taking care of us while our mom and dad are gone,' and she said, 'So she's your nanny?' and I said, 'No, she's just Sister Heiss,' and she said, 'But who is she?' and I said, 'She's just taking care. That's all. She's my friend.' and she said, 'Oh,' and I said, 'Yeah' because I just didn't know how to explain it all."

I totally know what Megan is talking about. She's in that stage of life where she talks fluently but doesn't grasp a lot of concepts. She doesn't understand the different between city/state/country/continent. She doesn't understand how time works. And while she may know there are different religions, she doesn't know what the differences are.

And unfortunately for her our religion has a lot of lingo that confuses people. Like "Sister."

I remember having a similar conversation with my friend Rebekah and her mom.

Rebekah: Can I stay and play a little longer? Please, please, please!

Me: No, you have to go home because Sister Loos is coming over.

Rebekah's mom (relieved that I wasn't also whining for Rebekah to stay over longer): Oh, is she a nun?

Me: A nun? What's a nun?

Rebekah's mom: You said, 'Sister Loos is coming over.' Do you call her 'sister' because she's a nun?

Me: Ummm...I don't think so. I don't even know what a nun is. She's just my friend's mom...

Rebekah's mom: So she's not a nun. You just call her 'Sister Loos?'

Me: Of course, that's her name!

Yup, I can see how that would be a difficult concept for Megan to explain to Ms. Bridget. It was difficult for me to explain when I was Megan's age because I assumed that everyone went to church and everyone called grownups "Sister" and "Brother." I didn't even grow up in Utah and I was confused about this--I knew that not everyone belonged to the LDS church, I knew that I didn't call my neighbours or teachers Sister and Brother. However, I did occasionally slip up and call them that by accident and I definitely didn't know how to explain why when I did make that mistake.

I was introduced several times at the party like this, "This is Sister Heiss. She's just takin' care!"

And then I would smile and shake hands and say, "I'm Nancy. I'm tending Megan while her parents are away."

And then Megan would nod in firm agreement.

It worked out well. I don't think we confused too many people, even with Megan saying, "She's just takin' care" and eliding "of me" every time she introduced me.

Soon she'll be able to pull a fast one, like Emma. "This is sis....Mrs....Nancy." But only after she's able to make the jump between church and secular life.


  1. When I saw the title of your post, I though you were channeling Lost! There is a character on Lost that calls everyone 'Brother'. Although I can't tell you why unless you start at the beginning! Mwahahaha!

  2. I remember Dad's culture shock when Abra and I referred to Sister Stelniki?? as Jackie. I think it was one of our first Sunday's at the PoCo ward and I talked about Jackie. Dad asked who, I described her, because at that time I only knew her as Jackie. She was the first adult that ever intoduced herself by first name only. (that I remember)

  3. First name is much less confusing...I guess it may also be considered less respectful, but definitely less confusing!

  4. I loved this post! Very typical-six-year-old! I remember when I was little I regularly asked my mom if we were Christan OR Catholic.

  5. Doesn't it depend on whether the person thinks being called by their first name is disrespectful? I don't know. Me, well, my name is Heidi. Not Sister Eldredge. That's my mom..... hahahahahahahahahaha

  6. I'm not sure it does, Heidi. I don't mind being called by my first name, but at church I am in the primary and am called, "Sister Heiss" by all the kids--because that's what you do in primary.

    I think we should go back to how it was in Joseph Smith's day, maybe. Brother Joseph, Sister Nancy, etc. It could work...

  7. Josie's teacher at school is Mrs. Lister. At church she is--yes, a walking rhyme. She doesn't like it. Her husband, Brother Lister, is about to start teaching school, and then he will be--yes, another walking rhyme. He isn't too keen about that.

  8. It's funny because in our huge extended family, everyone who is not my Mom, or Grandma I call Aunt, or Uncle.

  9. When Kevan was little he told his mom that he figured out how to tell "Misters" from "Brothers"--"Misters" smoke and "Brothers" don't. Easy enough!

    Maybe we should switch to the military-family-community way of doing it and have them call you Miss Nancy and Mister Andrew.

  10. :) You could just move to Grassy Lake if you want to go back to the way they did it in the early church. They still call each other "brother" and "sister" and then the first name rather than the last one. I can see where actually having to serve in Primary would necessitate being called by your last name, even if you don't mind the first name, though.