By Judy Krasna, F.E.A.S.T. Executive Director
Last week, my husband used the acronym “YMMV” in a group chat. I was hoping that someone else would ask what it stood for, because I hate admitting that I don’t know things. My internet slang is reasonable for my age, as long as you stick to shorthand that I know, like LOL, BRB, IMHO, TTYL, AFAIK—the basics. But YMMV was not in my lexicon. So, of course, I turned to the internet, and I discovered that it means “your mileage may vary.” The literal version means that two people driving the same car may not get the same gas (petrol) efficiency because there are going to be variables. The real-world version means that there are differences between people’s experiences, so while one can state their own experience, they can’t guarantee that someone else’s experience will be identical.
YMMV has become my new favorite shorthand, because it is so well suited to the way that we support caregivers at F.E.A.S.T. We share our own lived experience in the hopes that it will help others who are behind us on their journey. We’ve been exactly where they are; we know what lies ahead and where the speed traps and road bumps are. We can highlight the best route for others. This makes us wise and insightful guides. We lead other parents toward the paths that worked for us and away from the ones that didn’t.
However, there is no guarantee that what one parent did will work—or not work—for someone else. At F.E.A.S.T., we know that your mileage may vary. It’s the foundation of our parent support principles—don’t tell other parents what to do, tell them what worked for you and let them figure out if/how to adapt that to work best for their loved one and their family.
The bottom line is none of us are driving identical cars on our journey. Our cars are not in the same condition. We are not driving on the exact same roads, and our roads are in different conditions. Some roads are in excellent condition, allowing for smooth sailing. Other roads have numerous potholes and bumps, forcing a slower journey that may require re-routing at times. We are not all starting the journey at the same location, or with the same amount of gas/petrol in the tank.
Sometimes when I’m driving and I have Waze on, it will tell me that it found me a shorter route which makes the arrival time at my destination earlier. And sometimes it tells me that there is traffic up ahead and there is an extra 15 minutes added to my drive. Traffic conditions, which are totally out of my control, impact how many miles/km I am driving on any given trip, and how long it’s going to take me.
No matter what type of car you have, no matter how long you’ve been on the road, no matter how abysmal the road conditions are, no matter how many times you have to stop and refill your gas/petrol tank or switch routes, I urge you to just keep driving. Your mileage may vary, and that’s frustrating, especially when you are doing all of the right things and you feel like you’re barely moving. Or worse, you feel like you’re moving backwards.
Take note of when you are getting better mileage and when you are getting worse mileage and adjust whatever variables you can to get that better mileage. Accept that even though there are factors beyond your control, steady driving is the action most likely to get you to your destination. Just keep moving forward.
If you are offering support to others, please keep advice in the context of worked for you, what wasn’t successful, what your experience was, etc. Telling people outright what to do and what not to do by using language that is too directive, even when well intended, can be unhelpful considering YMMV.
YMMV. We can’t guarantee your mileage. The only guarantee that we can offer at F.E.A.S.T. is that we will be here to support each and every parent who needs us—to walk beside them, to guide them using our collective lived experience, to welcome them into our wonderful community, and to illuminate their path through knowledge and information. In our experience, those things help parents get better mileage, regardless of the variables.