As a girl, I loved the story of how my parents chose my name. My mother loved the name Christina and planned to use it if she ever had a girl. But, as she would say, she changed her mind the minute the doctors put her beautiful baby daughter in her arms. She took one look at me, fell in love and decided I was meant to be a Katherine.
In my early twenties, I learned from my dad that there was more to the story. Apparently after hearing of my intended name, my maternal grandmother was so upset that she dispatched my grandfather to the hospital. He let my mother know that if she did not name me after her mother, my grandmother would never speak to her again.
I’m not sure if my poor mom was just tired from a difficult, 24-hour labor or if she just wanted to please her mother. I do know my name is Katherine Lee and that I was named for my maternal grandmother and my paternal grandfather. My mom did rebel a bit though. My grandmother spelled her name with a C.
Perhaps you can tell that I come from a long line of strong women who like to get their way. Such a personality trait will always complicate mother-daughter relationships.
My mother and I are no exception. I spoke very early and had no problem speaking my mind. This complicated our relationship, and we have had our share of heated battles through the years.
Thankfully, with age, and the arrival of my own children our relationship has mellowed.
I’ll be the first to admit that I wasn’t easy to raise. My firstborn, although a boy, reminds me so much of myself that at times I want to scream. At other times, I want to call my mother and thank her for not strangling me. He embodies qualities I like about myself as well as many that may make me seem… well, challenging.
When he and I fight, my mother’s words echo in my mind, “I wish upon you the same thing my mother wished upon me… a child as difficult as you are.”
She got her wish, I have three.
My mom had three girls, and I thought I got away easy with two boys and only one girl. I remember the wars that would occur in a house of almost all women.
My poor dad.
I also, foolishly, had the idea that given my daughter’s special needs, our relationship would be easier. After all, the world is so hard for Lizzy to navigate, especially when it comes to language. Surely that would help us avoid the mother-daughter battles that were an everyday occurrence in my childhood.
All I can say is, Lizzy is one strong little girl. It’s a great trait for her given all the challenges she faces. It’s not so great for me as her mother.
This was apparent a few weeks ago when Lizzy participated in her first Special Olympics.
“No mommy, no hair.”
“Lizzy, stand still, I just want to fix your bow.”
“Noooo, you’re hurting me. Leave me alone,” she said very loudly.
Just what a mother wants to hear with 50 other parents and volunteers watching us.
“Very good sentence, Lizzy. Now stand still,” I said in a tone that would earn me canonization.
This was only slightly more embarrassing then last year during dinner at my in-laws. “Mommy. Get off my back,” she said.
The difference between Lizzy’s outbursts and those of a typical child is that when Lizzy does this, my family doesn’t think less of us. They’re too busy trying not to laugh.
“Kathy, she is doing really well,” my sister-in- law whispered to me as my husband escorted Miss Lizzy away from the table.
Lizzy has also spread her wings in shcool. One day her teacher called me, laughing. Lizzy was getting very frustrated with the math that she was working on. All of a sudden, she headed for the door and said, “That’s it, I’m out of here.”
My daughter’s show of independence has always stirred a host of different emotions for me. First, is just plain anger and a little shock. How can my sweet baby talk to me like that?
But that anger is tempered with gratitude. It’s hard for me to be too mad when I waited so long to hear her speak. What she says is less an issue because I am just so thrilled to hear her say anything.
Inside my beautiful daughter’s very complicated brain is a little girl who is a lot like me. She just wants her mom to leave her hair alone and let her be.
My job is to learn the delicate balancing act of letting her go just enough, yet still keeping her safe.