Pandemic parenting slang: are you a curling dad or a crunchy mom?

The only thing worse than the sleepless nights is the insufferable lingo. New parents receive an onslaught of advice, most of it in perplexing jargon or acronyms (if you’ve become a SAHM with your DD, will your DH forget what you were like BC?). Even when you learn the various buzzwords – from “no-rescue parenting” to “positive parenting” – you’ll still have to work out what kind of parent you want to be.

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Say no to being a “helicopter parent” – someone who constantly whirrs around their kids, never leaving them to their own devices. No to being a “lawnmower parent”, too, who cuts all the weeds (problems) in front of their child so they never have to confront them (“snowplow parents” do something similar, just with more force). The jargon doesn’t end when your baby graduates out of nappies or stops being a “threenager” (a toddler who has teen-style outbursts). Perhaps it’s time to buy some expensive books that spout nonsense and make you feel even guiltier for making it up as you go along (AIBU?).

Different countries have their own parenting styles – and their own, often sexist, slang to match. “Tiger mother” was coined to describe demanding Chinese-American parents who push their kids to academic over-achievement with all the ferocity of a vicious predator. In America, home to Hollywood and Broadway, “stage mothers” pressure their children into becoming stars. The sheer number of such terms could make you feel like a “mombie” (a sleep-deprived mum who looks like a zombie). If you want to survive the next chat at the school gate, you’d better do your homework.

1. Curling parents (noun)
2. Parents who sweep away their children’s problems
Making a clean sweep of parenthood

Named after the broom-wielders who compete at the winter Olympics, Curling-Eltern (“curling parents”) aim to help their children glide smoothly through life. As opposed to hovering Helikopter-Eltern,who tackle their offspring’s problems when they arise, these parents sweep away obstacles in advance. This might involve lending a judicious hand with homework, or defusing playground conflicts through clandestine negotiations with parents on the opposing side. Although they risk raising over-cautious milksops, curling parents hope such scheming will give their kids the best possible start in life.

The term was coined by Bent Hougaard, a Danish family therapist, and has since become popular in Germany. Primary education is particularly important for German children: ten-year-olds are split into different types of secondary school depending on their performance in primary school. If your child winds up in a bog-standard Hauptschule rather than a grand Gymnasium (which prepares pupils for university), they may miss out on a degree and the more lucrative career options it opens up. It’s never too early to start sweeping.
Tom Nuttall

L’enfant roi
1. The child king (noun)
2. A demanding child
Bow down to your tiny ruler

He’s an impatient, fussy eater who interrupts adult conversations and refuses to do what he’s told – in Britain or America this sounds like an ordinary child. Not in France. Kids are expected to obey their parents and exhibit self-control. Toddlers who won’t take non for an answer are rare, feared creatures. They even have a dreaded moniker: the enfant roi (child king).

These children are considered unbearable company: throwing tantrums when they can’t have a biscuit, dictating the menu for family dinners (plain pasta again!) and insisting on constant cartoons. Left unchecked, the enfant roi may turn into the enfant tyran: a child tyrant who uses violence to enforce their will. Next step is the mother becoming a maman taxi (taxi mother), doting on her young overlord while neglecting herself.

Despite their supreme power, little emperors struggle as adults. French psychologists say that learning to be patient is crucial to a child’s happiness. Kids who grow up without limits face them in the real world and may end up with depression and a permanent “feeling of dissatisfaction”, according to Didier Pleux, a child psychologist.

Want to stop your own child becoming an enfant roi? Be a benevolent ruler. Listen to your kids without ceding to their every demand. If the fearsome reign of a child king teaches us anything, it’s that absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Pamela Druckerman

Crunchy mom
1. A mother with an organic approach to parenting (noun)
2. A woman on a quest for more information
From placentas to “plandemic”

“Do your own research.” The rallying cry of anti-maskers and QAnon conspiracy theorists suggests a freethinker – but more often portends confirmation bias. Now the catchphrase is being used by another group: “crunchy moms”, neo-hippie mothers with an obsession for everything organic, are also going down the conspiracy rabbit hole.

Named for her insistence on making her own crunchy granola, the crunchy mom loves cloth nappies, coconut oil and homegrown food. Many are fierce advocates of home-schooling, sharing a bed with your child and eating your own placenta. The crunchy mom’s antithesis is the “silky mom”, who carelessly plies her kids with processed, shop-bought fare.

Crunchy moms may seem harmless, but their fixation on being “natural” can lead them to mistrust medical authorities. Facebook groups full of crunchy moms are often a breeding ground for anti-vaxxers. Some have become frenzied anti-lockdown warriors, too. When it comes to covid denial, these mothers aren’t just crunchy – they’re nuts.
Neel Ghosh

鸡娃 (jiwa)
1. To inject a baby with chicken blood to make them powerful and strong (verb)
2. To fill your child’s life with tutoring to help them get into university
Making your child the cock of the walk

During the Cultural Revolution in China many village doctors injected rooster blood into their patients. Some thought jixie liaofa (“chicken-blood therapy”) would make people stronger and feel energised. Competitive Chinese parents are now giving their kids a similar treatment. Today the term jiwa, “to inject a child with chicken blood”, is used to describe parents who fill every spare moment of their children’s lives with tutoring and extracurricular activities, theoretically to make them smarter. The goal? For their baby chick to get into a top university.

The Chinese job market is brutally competitive and many parents think their kids need a head start. So if you want your child to rule the roost, you have to begin early. An ambitious spring chicken should be speaking by the age of one and studying both Mandarin and English. By the time they’re three they will be reading English picture books and have memorised 100 ancient Chinese poems. Tutoring for the International Maths Olympiad begins at five.

Others reckon chicken-blood parenting isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Many people in China are beginning to question the point of the rat race. Some parents prefer a foxi (“Buddhist-style”) strategy: hands off and relaxed. Others follow the fangyang parenting method, meaning “to let sheep out to pasture”. If you’re raising children, consider plumping for the free-range approach.
Sue-Lin Wong

#Яжемать (yazhemat)
1. “But, I’m a mother!”
2. Mothers who demand special treatment
Mother thinks she knows best

Have you ever been rudely asked to give up your seat on a train for a child? Did the demanding mother then let their toddler watch ear-splitting cartoons? You may have encountered a yazhemat. The Russian moniker literally means “But, I’m a mother” and is used to describe women who insist on special treatment because they have children.

Search for yazhemat online and you’ll find listicles of their ten most ridiculous demands. On Facebook you might see posts about a former schoolmate who is now an entitled yazhemat. These angry, out-of-control characters – who regularly yell at strangers and use their children as cover for their own bad behaviour – have become a popular hashtag.

Yazhemat is a Russian version of the “Karen” stereotype, a pejorative and misogynistic term for an entitled, middle-class, white woman. The Russian word is used as a sexist slur towards all mothers, regardless of race or class.

But Russians who mock yazhemats should be careful: the country might need more mums, irate or not. Deaths have exceeded births in Russia nearly every year since 1992 and the government is now paying people to procreate ($6,000 for having your first child, $8,000 for each sprog after that). Perhaps entitled mothers are just as special as they think they are.
Sasha Raspopina

To overflow with pride (verb)
Bursting with parental pride

There’s nothing new about bragging on social media, but two powerful online armies particularly relish boasting: influencers and mums. Proud parents like logging into Facebook to trumpet Timothy’s promotion or perfect grades, often embarrassing their unsuspecting offspring. For some this is about one-upmanship. But many parents simply can’t help themselves kvelling – a Yiddish word that describes the moment when your pride overfloweth and you find yourself telling the world about your children’s achievements.

The term comes from the Yiddish kveln, meaning to beam at or be delighted in, and the German word quellen (“to swell”). In the 19th century Jewish immigrants to America started to mix Yiddish words with American English and created “Yinglish”, an amalgam of the two. Kvelling is one such example that eventually made its way into English dictionaries.

The tight-knit nature of Jewish communities offers many opportunities to kvell. And you can apply it to anyone, not just your children. Revelling in the accomplishments of a famous, fellow Jew could be described as “tribal kvelling. Liking a Facebook post about the success of a random acquaintance? “Distance kvelling”.
Hollie Berman