Lately, the baby has been waking up before me in the morning, so, in order to manage my many morning tasks, I have been putting him in the exersaucer while I slip away to shower or finish my makeup. If nobody else is awake, I turn on Netflix so he won’t feel alone.
Netflix, in its infinite wisdom, decided that I would like the show Llama Llama based on my viewing history. Thanks, Netflix.
At some point, usually between the theme song and my mascara application I hear one, two, or even all three of my other children complaining loudly about the show as they journey from their warm beds into the kitchen to make their breakfast.
“Not THIS show again, Mom!” I hear as I battle my uncooperative curls into some semblance of a hairstyle.
Yet even though they say they hate the show, something primal takes over and their eyes become transfixed on Llama Llama and his mama. They just can’t peel themselves away from the witty banter between Zelda Zebra and Ramona Rhino. Gilroy Goat’s shenanigans captivate them, rendering them powerless to progress at any rate toward completing their routine morning tasks.
As I emerge from my room, as ready for the day as I’m going to get, I notice that nobody has eaten. Nobody has brushed their teeth, and nobody has combed their hair. Sometimes I notice that the teenager hasn’t even gotten out of bed yet.
And then I lose it. I raise my voice; I clap my hands; I firmly state each of my kids’ full names, enunciating each syllable clearly. Then I flip off the television in disgust, and Llama Llama fades into the center of our plasma screen.
“You’re nothing like Mama Llama,” my eight-year-old whispers under her breath.
On my way to work, I ponder her words. Before I know it, I’m mentally comparing myself to Mama Llama.
“I bet she never feeds Llama Llama pre-packaged muffins for breakfast.”
“In my defense, she doesn’t appear to have a job outside the home, so she probably has more time to cook.”
“However, she’s a single mom and I can’t even imagine how hard that must be!”
“But she only has one kid to get ready in the morning! Must be nice!”
“Mama Llama never raises her voice or loses her cool.”
“And she plays with her son whenever he asks her to.”
“I bet she doesn’t even have a Netflix account!”
“Well, we both read to our kids before bed; I guess we have that much in common.”
Then I realize what I’m doing. That’s right; I’m comparing myself and my mothering to a fictitious television character. A character based on a series of bestselling children’s books. A character who was wholly created in the mind of an award-winning author.
I’m comparing myself to a llama.
Talk about a complete waste of brain power. Comparison is useless in the real world, but it’s down-right brutal when we use made up characters as our role models. Characters who are written to be kind, patient, and understanding. Characters who are, by design, exemplars of motherhood.
When I arrive home after work, I cuddle next to my eight-year-old and ask what she meant by her comment. Turns out, she had noticed that I’ve been really busy and tired lately, and she wished I would make a little more time to play with her in the evenings, as Mama Llama does in the show.
That is feedback that matters to me, and it’s something that I can actually act on. I can prizorite play time with my middle child, and I can find a new show for ambient noise in the mornings.
Because, after all, as a mama, I’m no llama, and that’s okay!
What are some clues that your children give you when they need more of your attention?