x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Online parenting jargon makes for an off-putting experience

There are several parenthood acronyms out there: BLW, LO, AP, FTM, SAHM. There’s enough I have to learn as a parent without adding a whole other language in the mix.

Whoever invented the baby-led weaning movement never thought of us Arabs, and next week, I’ll tell you what I mean by that. I say next week, because while reading about BLW (the abbreviation for the movement), I got thinking about the ridiculous amount of parenting acronyms and abbreviations I come across every time I look up something related to Baby A. I know I’m off on a tangent, but humour me.

Do you have any idea how many acronyms come with parenthood? A lot.

First of all, I wonder, how does it work exactly – does understanding of this all-secret code just dawn on you when you become a parent? Are you obligated to find time during the newborn haze to sit down and learn them all? Is your ability to both use and understand them some sort of test you have to pass before you are officially allowed to call yourself a parent? Because I come across this excessive use of acronyms in every parenting forum, community, article and comment thread dominated by disgruntled parents. This jargon is out there, and it’s being used, regularly.

LO is little one, AP is attachment parenting, FTM is first-time mother. SAH, SAHM, SAHD and SAHP are, respectively, stay at home, stay at home mum, stay at home dad, stay at home parent. I can fill up this page with the endless, baffling list. And yes, baffling, because how does it make sense to use “LO” when the word kid, which has all of one extra letter, means the same thing?

What I’m talking about here requires an elaborate abbreviations dictionary just to get by on these social sites. It’s as if you need to use the abbreviations to prove that you belong, that you’re part of the crowd, that you get it.

Well, I certainly don’t get it. There’s enough I have to learn as a parent without adding another language to the mix, especially considering that I’m trying to teach my child the nuances of three different languages. I promise not to ask much of her as a mother, but there’s one thing I will not be lenient on: there will be no use of LOL, YOLO, or any of their derivatives, in our household.

And here’s the paradox: every time I come across one of these abbreviations on an online page where I first headed to find some compassion and understanding, some answers, I am left feeling alienated and distanced, because I cannot relate. I am not part of this elite squad of parents who seem to know the same language and who save themselves seconds of typing by using these abbreviations, but leave me using up minutes of my time looking up EC (elimination communication, whatever that is) and VBAC (vaginal birth after C-section).

Instead of making the information that I and other parents like me need to get on with parenting, these abbreviations create a wall of language that shuts us out and makes the information we seek inaccessible.

Keep the secret, special language between you and your spouse; I hear Mr T and I will soon need one to communicate in front of our LO when we don’t want her to understand what we’re saying. As for parenting information, let’s be a little more giving with a common vernacular, which we’ll be relying on to share the universality of our experiences.

Hala Khalaf is a freelance writer living in Abu Dhabi

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