Monday, April 9, 2012

What not to read to your sensitive child

I keep bringing home books from the library that make Finn cry.  The first was a pop-up book about frogs and other animals.  I thought he would really enjoy the pictures.  And he did.....until we got to a pop-up crocodile.  At which point he started FREAKING OUT and crying.  Admittedly, it was rather scary and large.  I had not checked all the pages prior to checking it out or perhaps I might have bypassed this one from the get go.  Oh well.  Parenting Fail.

The second book was about a baby llama going to bed.  Pretty harmless right?  Well, no.  Turns out baby llama is stuck in his room calling out for his mama (because he wants some water) for five long pages before she shows up.  The baby llama's panic increases with mama's lack of response.

The first couple of times I read the book, Finn seemed to enjoy it.  And then we were in the kitchen doing something completely unrelated, when he started to tear up and get really, really sad.  With his limited vocabulary, it was hard to tell initially why he was upset.  However, it turns out that he was finally processing the story, and he was crying about the baby llama and the Llama Mama.  He understood that baby llama was going to bed and wanted water, but Llama Mama wasn't there to give it to him.  I could just see the questions questions roving around in his little mind, "Where is Mama?!"  "Why doesn't she bring the water?!"  "Why is it taking so long?!"  "Why doesn't she respond to baby llama?!"

I tried reading him the story a couple of times (per his request) after that, but aborted the attempts when the tears threatened.  That night, he fell asleep positively whimpering and crying out for me.  Parenting Fail.

For the record, most people really enjoy this book.  In fact, if you look at the Amazon reviews you find that most people love the book (236), but there are a few who absolutely hate it (17).  The book is pretty decisive in that way.

The people who hated the book fall into two categories.  One group appears to be like us--the children found the book scary and the parents were troubled by the lack of response from Llama Mama:
"As an educator and a mother of a 2yr old, I was shocked at the reviews this book is getting. This book is about a mother who is busy on the phone, with her dishes, etc., and does not go to her terrified child. You can see from his eyes, he is really scared, not pulling any games or being difficult. She leaves him screaming on his bed till she is ready to get to him. Does she console him and let him know everything is ok? NO!!! She scolds him. It is one thing to want to teach self soothing, it is another to abandon a child in obvious emotional distress and then scold him for it.I checked this out of the library in hopes that it would help me son go to bed better. NO WAY would I read him this. The message is.." If I am busy, you will have to wait, no matter how distressed you are".. Not the message I would ever send my son."

' I found the story horrifying and sad. A little llama (I am assuming he is little because of the teddy, he is called a 'baby' on the final page), who gets scared in the dark in his room, is waiting forever for his mama to come, who is chatting on the phone and doing other things. Little llama gets scared in the dark and calls out for his mama. This is a little unsettling, is the mother not going to her baby because she is hoping he would go back to sleep? I gave her the benefit of the doubt at this point. But then when mama comes back after little llama totally freaks out (why didn't he just go find her? Was he told to stay in bed at all times?) instead of validating his fears and soothing him, she 'shames' him by downgrading his separation anxiety and calling it a 'drama'. What a horrible message to send to kids! Her final words are sweet, but then she gives him only two kisses (that's it?), and he falls back asleep alone, snuggling with his pillow.

I am sorry but I found this ending SO SAD. Please give this book a re-write, my heart is breaking for this little lonely llama. Suggested ending: "Llama llama snuggles with mama, hugs his pillow, soft and deep. Mamma llama sits with baby, until he falls asleep."'


"I really hate to give this only one star, because, as an adult, there is much that seems cute about the book. Some pluses: colorful, cute llamas, and the whole "llama,... mama,... pajama" rhyming is very catchy. BUT, some of the illustrations show a VERY frightened little llama waiting for his mama. He is quite terrified, and even if the ultimate message is that he should not be so scared since mama is just downstairs doing the dishes or talking on the phone, I can't even get that far, because my daughter starts crying. The first three times she heard the story she was fine, but now she starts crying because she is identifying with the little llama. It's not even mama llama's scolding that makes my daughter cry, but it is the palpable built up tension and anxiety of this little baby llama crying for his mama. I can even feel it myself, as I turn through five pages of a variety of anxious feelings...enough already!!! Mama--go get your baby llama!!!!

I had to close it and remove it from her sight while hugging her and reminding her that her mama is right here. It's just too scary for the little ones. My daughter is 18 months old."

The other group consists of those who think the book "sets a bad example":

"We've always put our children to bed without going back in, so they know there won't be any calling out for mom and dad after they get tucked in. I feel that this book put the idea in my daughter (2.5)'s head that if she calls out for me she will get me to come back in (and therefore won't have to go to bed yet). We are not impressed with these books." 

"We were given this book as a gift and I held off on reading it to my two oldest (3.5 years and 2 years) because it's recommended for slightly older kids. My children are all good sleepers and we have a good night routine that they use to get ready and go to bed. They know if something is wrong, I will come. So, the next few nights my kids pitched complete fits just like the unhappy llama just so I would come running to the room to see what was wrong. And, my admonitions about not screaming for mommy for no reason were met with "but that's what Llama Llama does in the book.". I tried to explain over and over that the llama was upset because he was scared and that's why he cried for his mama and had a fit. But, all my kids got out of it was "if you pitch a fit Mom comes in.". It took a good week before the "fun" of being Llama Llama yelling for his mama wore off. The book is now gone from our house."
 I don't think we will be checking out any of the author's other books.  The titles of "Llama Llama Mad at Momma" and "Llama Llama Misses Mama" sound rather ominous. 

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