Are fat kids being abused?

February 2, 2009

An Australian medical journal says doctors at a childrens’ hospital say the growing prevalence of severe obesity in kids is leaving many health workers unsure if they should notify child protection workers when parents fail to follow medical advice.

So, in Canadian terms, if your kid is obese and you, as a parent, don’t do all you can to trim them down, doctors and nurses can call the Children’s Aid Society.

Is that excessive?

The easy answer, I think, is no, that’s perfectly acceptable. Parents are responsible for their kid’s health and if they’re raising a gigant-asaurus that can’t walk up a flight a stairs then maybe their kids would be better off in a foster home where better-positioned parents can get the kid on a treadmill and feed them properly.

But I don’t think it can be so cut and dried, because there’s plenty of reasons today’s kids are so obese, and I don’t think it’s all a parent’s fault.

What about technology, which doesn’t make it necessary to walk outside and meet someone to learn every single thing about them?

What about poverty, which stops low-income earners from providing their families with fresh fruit, vegetables, milk, and meat, instead of boxes and boxes of processed shit?

What about the computer, television and video game industries that turn kids into couch potatoes and zombies that live in a fabricated world?

What about the cost of organized sports, where a low-end hockey stick is over $50?

What about big business, which expects people to work 10 or 12 hour days, leaving children to their own devices?

What about the education system, which continues to cut recess time and stifle playground activity with generic, boring equipment because a kid maybe, just maybe, could get hurt on a slide that has a six-inch drop to the ground and bang, you got yourself a lawsuit?

What about a medical system that just throws prescription drugs like Ritalin at kids instead of discovering reasons for their behaviour, and helping parents harness that energy into something productive?

What about you, because, well, have you hugged a fat kid lately?

Are all of these ills the fault of parents? I don’t think so. Sure, ripping that Happy Meal out of a kid’s hand now and again and replacing it with an apple is important, but does the fact your kid is fat make you an unfit parent?

I think there’s plenty of ways to share that blame.

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Community mourns loss of teachers

January 15, 2009

A few weeks ago I wrote about the types of teachers I dislike.

On Tuesday night, in the area I live in just outside the Greater Toronto Area, we lost a couple of the good ones to a tragic car accident. The Grade 2 and 2/3 teachers were returning home to their young families after a day of professional development at the local school board offices. Of course, weather was a factor when their Honda Accord lost control and was hit on the passenger side by a loaded tractor trailer. Both were pronounced dead at the scene.

On Wednesday, my newsroom at a twice-weekly community newspaper that covers the towns the teachers worked and lived in, spent the whole day collecting information and telling the stories of these two great teachers. Some people were too upset to talk to us, while others put on a brave front and talked to the local and national media.

But what touched me most were the tributes that have been pouring in from friends and former students, expressing grief and sorrow, but also celebrating the accomplishments of these women, who made life better for the children of our community.

It’s so sad when people die too young. It’s even more sad when they leave husbands, young children, and many, many students and colleagues with gaping holes in their hearts that won’t soon be mended.

My condolences to all who knew them.


Closure for America’s Most Wanted host

December 16, 2008

The host of America’s Most Wanted, John Walsh, has finally received closure on the 1981 beheading of his 6-year-old son Adam.

Walsh, it seems, always knew serial killer Ottis Toole was their man, and police finally admitted as much at a press conference today, although they gave few details about how they’ve now decided, a decade after Toole’s two death-bed confessions and retractions, that he did it.

Police said Toole was long the prime suspect in the case and that they had conclusively linked him the killing. They declined to be specific about their evidence and noted they had no DNA proof of the crime, but said an extensive review of the case file pointed only to Toole, as John Wash long contended.

The reason they had no DNA, the story says, is because police lost the blood-stained carpet in Toole’s car and – oops – Toole’s car, before the FBI stepped in and took over the case.

The cases of missing children and children who die before their time, like this 14-year-old from my area, who died toboganning on Friday night – something every Canadian has done a million times – have always disturbed me, but that sick feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when something like this happens has multiplied 1,000 times over since The Hurricane came along.

I guess you can never truly ache for a parent’s grief until you’re a parent yourself.

Because I just couldn’t fathom what I would do if my little girl ever went missing, or was hurt by some sick fuck or killed. I hope I would be a rock for my wife and my family, but I just don’t know if I could handle it.

In fact, it makes me sick just thinking about it, so I’m done with this one.

Good for John Walsh and his wife though, I’m sure they’ll sleep more soundly tonight.


It’s time to buy Canadian

December 15, 2008

The Toronto Star – the givers of my weekly paycheque and numerous migraines – have a story today about Health Canada recalling 42,000 ‘toxic’ toys from store shelves.

Yes, that’s 42,000 toys that contain dangerous amounts of lead.

The recall includes 7,000 toy guns and 35,000 packages of charms that snap into popular Croc shoes. Both products were sold in dollar stores nationwide.

In fact, the 35,000 lead-heavy charms are said to be so dangerous a child can die from ingesting just one of the penny-sized items.

Y’know what, I’ve had enough of this crap. Everything we buy comes from China or India, where they could care less about safety, while Canadians – specifically Ontarians – are losing their jobs at an insane rate as shareholders of American and Canadian companies chase the almighty dollar and move their companies to Mexico, China, and India, while blue collar families here suffer.

And the result?

Toys with lead from thriving overseas economies with no health standards.

A continuing spike in unemployment in Canada.

A rise in welfare recipients, and more usage of food banks.

House foreclosures.

Broken families.

And all so corporations can keep making their mega-millions while not giving a fuck about the people who made them rich in the first place.

So if you haven’t done your Christmas shopping yet, take a look at the label of the toys you’re buying and try to support Canadian manufacturers.

What’s left of ’em, anyway.


A shotgun clarification

November 25, 2008

Apparently, I haven’t been as clear in my previous postings about how and why lice have landed on our daughter’s head.

So here’s what’s happening in our part of Ontario.

Apparently, there’s a lice outbreak in schools from Bowmanville to Belleville, about 200 km apart. Our daycare provider’s kid has eight people in her class with lice, and they don’t send them home like they did in our day, they just try to contain things.

So, our daycare lady has been religiously cleaning and washing everything in her house, after the health unit told her there was nothing to worry about, health wise, for all the kids she takes care of.

But I guess a few slipped through.

But, other than being itchy, lice aren’t really that bad, as we’ve found out from our online research. They aren’t like fleas – they don’t jump – and they die a day or two after leaving their host, and I’ve had friends who have hung on longer than that, because the vacuum cleaner wouldn’t take care of them.

We certainly don’t live in a pigsty, and lice have nothing to do with cleanliness anyway. They just have a bad rep.

So there you go. ‘Nuff said.


New Zealand creating good parents

November 20, 2008

New Zealand is expanding a program that forces parents of children with behavioural problems to attend classes.

“Parents of chronically disruptive children are now being sent on state-run parenting courses in a bid to address their children’s antisocial behaviour – some through court and Probation Service referrals.

“The 12 to 20-week group courses, which include homework assignments on how to play with children, teach parenting skills such as rewarding good behaviour, setting boundaries and discipline.”

Kids whose parents take part in the program have 75 per cent fewer behavioural problems after their parents complete the course.

I gotta say, I think this is a fantastic idea. Kids aren’t born bad. They aren’t born to be trouble. They’ll take as much rope as their parents will give them, and some parents either don’t know right from wrong themselves or don’t care.

The Boss works with troubled teens every day, and she sees these kids who have no support system at home, and who are having a helluva time at school. They get suspended for fighting, or drug use, or clowning around, and the school system is even ready to give up on them in some cases. Some of their parents or no better – missing appointments, or generally not giving a shit, despite the fact these people are trying to help their kid get off a path to drain-on-society-ville.

Now some parents are just overwhelmed by trying to put food on their table and pay rent while working one or two low-paying jobs, while others simply don’t have their own shit together, so how are they to raise a kid with the proper boundaries and discipline they need to succeed?

Kudos to the Kiwis for setting up this program and forcing parents to go and learn how to be good parents before their kid ends up in juvie, numbed on Prozac or pushing drugs.

Just because you don’t need a license to have a kid doesn’t mean a little training is a bad thing.


You call that labour? When I had …

November 15, 2008

Women who have had babies have no boundaries.

They can meet a complete stranger on the street and, within minutes, they’re comparing C-section scars or one-upping each other’s vaginal tearing, without considering the inappropriateness of it all.

Motherhood is like a special society – certainly not a secret one – that gives any mom the right to go into great depth about their experiences during childbirth without fear of retribution, or worrying about something as unnecessary as tact.

I’ll never forget the woman The Boss and I bumped into at my office, shortly after The Hurricane was born. I was being dropped off at work (The Boss’s car had just died, and we were pre-van, so a one-car family) and this woman saw the sleeping bundle in the backseat. Because it was July, we all had our windows down, and this woman proceeded to tell us every single detail about how her children entered the world.

And how do you tell someone you have never met before that you’re running on two hours sleep and 100% do not care, when they’re talking about something as … uh … beautiful as childbirth? Well, you don’t. You listen, you nod your head and say ‘Wow’ when you find out she lost all bowel control because she was pushing so hard to get the little bugger out, and you hope today is the day you finally take that stroke you’ve been expecting.

But the stories from strangers aren’t the worst of it all. It’s when you get friends in the same room to talk about their birthing experiences that it becomes a no-holds barred event that would make the most hardened criminal weep for mercy. I’ve been on the outskirts of these conversations, wincing with each detail my cousin revealed about her delivery.

Now I’ll admit, guys talk about it too, but that’s because we’ve never really understood the process because we were too busy shielding our eyes during the pre-natal classes. We know what – in theory – is going to happen, but really, do any of us truly believe it until we see it? No freakin’ way. So yeah, it’s a point of conversation for a few weeks, but we leave the gory details to the ones wearing the badge of honour (and deservedly so, I might add).

But I don’t think you’d ever hear this at a hospital:

“Oh hey man, you’re here for the vasectomy? Oh shit, I had me one of those a few years back. Your nuts are going to ache, man. The stories … well, everything you’ve heard … times that by a thousand. When I had mine, they cut me from (gesturing) here, all the way to here. Try taking a piss after that! Then I screamed, oh Christ I screamed. Finally, they gave me some morphine, crack, I don’t know what it was, but it helped take the edge off. Then they stuck this flame-thrower into me! They cauterized my sack man! But, in the end, everything was great, and it was all worth it and hell, I’d do it again in a second.”