motherly (ˈmʌðəlɪ): adj 1. of or resembling a mother, esp in warmth, or protectiveness
Katara totally felt motherly toward Aang. Like she feels motherly towards anybody for whom she has even just a little bit of affection, but especially Aang.
It’s a mix of “I’m so proud of you omg you’ve grown up soo much” and “fuck what are these feelings this kiss was good i’m so attracted to you but you’re off to maybe die this is confusing”.
I bet she still felt motherly toward him when they were married with children. Heck, I bet she still felt this way on his deathbed (and beyond).
It’s okay because, yk, she’s not his actual mother and he doesn’t see her as such, they’re not related, she never infantilizes him (quite the opposite) and there is no power imbalance between them: their relationship is based on a friendship between equals and huge amounts of mutual respect (respect for each other as people and functioning adults, for each other’s identity, abilities, values and decisions - even when they don’t particularly agree with each other). There’s only two years between them - truly insignificant in the long run, barely matters at the end of the show (like they get along with each other better than with anybody else).
So I don’t see how it’s a problem? Aang is too young in the show for me to seriously ship him, but that’s on me, and I don’t think Kataang is problematic because of Katara’s motherliness. It’s actually one of the things I like most about older!Kataang - this inversion on classical gender roles: the girl is the protector, the one providing the most emotional support.
And actually, I think it’s thematically significant:
Idk, if Katara’s love for Aang is supposed to represent the Air Nomads love for him that hasn’t left this world, it feels right that it has this fiercely protective, proud, and warm quality that makes it feel so motherly.