Wednesday, August 10, 2011

I am Katherine/Katie/Kate/Punkin/Punk/Katie Bug's Mother, not her Mommy

First thing out of five year old Katie's mouth when she woke me up this morning: "Mother, I have a question. How come in England people speak English and we speak English here too? And I have another question. How come in England a children's room is called a nursery but here it's called a bedroom?" Wow. I need a little coffee before the history lesson, kid.

Katie has taken to calling me "Mother". I suspect it's Disney's British invasion that has come to our house. Will bought a bunch of VHS tapes at Half Price Books, thrift stores, garage sales. Most of them cost $1. We currently have two working VCRs, so his thinking was that even if the VHS tapes crumble after one viewing, it's the same price as paying Redbox to watch a movie overnight. And none of the tapes have crumbled. In fact, they're all in amazingly good shape.

So Katie has been on a steady diet of "Alice in Wonderland," "Mary Poppins," "Peter Pan," "Bedknobs and Broomsticks," "The Sword and the Stone," "Robin Hood," and "The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh." Whenever I say "Peter Pan" with my flat Midwest accent she corrects my pronunciation, "It's 'Peetah Paaaaaaaaahn."

It's weird to be called Mother. I associate someone called Mother with the corpse in "Psycho" or, even scarier, my grandmother. I always thought it was funny that my mom called her mom "Mother" and her dad "Daddy." When my grandfather was staying with us the last month of his life, I remember my mom giving him a sponge bath in bed and calling him "Daddy." I was about ten or eleven at the time, and I had stopped calling my dad "Daddy" when I was in third grade. I thought "Daddy" was just what babies called their fathers. But there was my middle aged mother, caring for her elderly father, calling him "Daddy." I asked her why she called him "Daddy" and her mom "Mother." Her response? "That's what they wanted me to call them."

I never thought about what I wanted to be called by my own child. I assumed she'd call me "Mama" when she was an infant, "Mommy" til about third grade, and then "Mom" after that, just like I did with my mom. But no matter how many times Will referred to me as "Mommy" or I referred to myself as "Mommy" or anyone else did too, Katie always called me "Mama." Until the Disney British invasion. Now I'm "Mother."

At first it kinda creeped me out. I didn't want to be "Mother." It's so formal and cold sounding. But not coming from my little girl's mouth. She makes it sound endearing, so I'll let her call me that is she wants. Even if she pronounces it "Mothah" like she was born in London and not Overland Park, Kansas. So I just think of it as like a tall guy going by the name "Shorty" or a fat guy called "Slim". I'm about the least formal parent I know, so calling me "Mother" is kinda funny.

Another funny thing is that I never intended on my daughter's nickname being "Katie." I love the name Kate. Just Kate. I should have named her just Kate. But I wanted to name her after my wonderful sister Kathryn, who goes by Kit or Kitty, who was named after our maternal great-grandmother Catherine/Kitty. So we went with the third spelling, Katherine, and decided to call her Kate.

So for the first three or four years, we called our little girl Kate. Then, around the time she started learning how to write her name, she decided she'd prefer to be called "Katie". I was hesitant at first. Katie? That's such a goody goody name. Kate sounds strong, even presidential. But it's her name, not mine, even though I gave it to her. So we've been calling her "Katie" for a little over a year now and it's stuck.

Until she came home a few weeks ago after playing at a playground and no doubt hearing the new name announced she wants to be called "Kaylee". I had to put a stop to this madness. "Kaylee? Punk (my nickname of her nickname Punkin,) Kaylee's not a nickname for Katherine." Katie slumped her shoulders and asked, "Why not?" I said, "Because Katherine is a name with a long history. The name Katherine has been around for a long, long time, and many people have had that name over time. So there are many nicknames for it, but not Kaylee. Kaylee is a trendy name now, but it's not a name that will survive throughout history." Katie was listening intently. Whenever I speak in broad terms her eyes get big and I can see the wheels churning in her freakish little brain. "What's history?" she asked.

I sighed and poured myself some more coffee.