If your kids struggled to find their back-to-school groove this past week, spare a thought for a couple of five-year-old boys in Russia.
The kindergartners masterminded an escape, Shawshank-style, from their school by digging a tunnel under the fence. For real.
Using shovels from the school sandbox, the cunning pair worked on their route for several days, eventually seizing their moment. They crawled through the tunnel and ended up - where else - at a luxury car dealership.
They were found eyeing up a Jaguar in the showroom two kilometres from the tunnel's end, when a concerned woman turned them over to police.
The scariest part about this story? No one even noticed they were gone "for about an hour."
"This is considered a very serious violation," said the head of the Magnitogorsk preschool, Olga Denisenko, who happily sacked the teacher on duty at the time the boys disappeared.
These are not fugitives or hardened criminals, people, but kindergartners.
Kindergartners, who should be climbing like monkeys and learning their ABCs and 123s. Shudder to think what they'd be capable of engineering, come third grade...
RELATED: 5 Important Questions for Your Child's Kindergarten Teacher
It's back to school time which, for a lot of kids, sadly means back to being bullied. And the only one thing worse than being bullied yourself is watching your children being bullied.
Just ask spoken word poet and dad-of-three Khari Touré, who was inspired to pen the song "Love Yourself" after witnessing his daughters' struggle with body image issues.
Both older daughters, 15 year-old Ashé and six year-old Nia were taunted over their weight, appearance and hair texture. Their self-esteem took a metaphorical beating. And Touré couldn't just stand by and watch helplessly as his girls had their confidence knocked.
"Seeing both my (older) daughters bullied, it made me want to write a song of affirmation for children that they could repeat to themselves," said Touré. "It was a love letter not only to my daughters, but to every child who's been bullied, made fun of, and made to feel less-than, unworthy or unattractive."
"I'm beautiful. I'm worthy. And those mean words can't hurt me. I'm priceless. I'm smart. And I love myself, I'm focused on my health," goes the rap.
"Realize there will be people who criticize - bullies who talk about your weight, color, and size. But beauty comes in every size, color, and shape and your beauty can't be measured with that measuring tape." Amen.
But "Love Yourself" is much more than a personal mantra; it is an anthem for all kids who are routinely the victims of bullying: children with disabilities such as autism, ADHD and down syndrome, who are statistically most likely to be targets.
No one is immune to bullying. Frankly, bullies will always exist. There will always be mean girls and boys who seek out and hone in on some little thing and use it to torment you. But if you feel OK with yourself, then no one can tear you down so easily.
"I want all children to keep this - throughout when they're young - so they can grow up really internalizing the words and believing in their own beauty and brilliance," said Touré. "It's so hard trying to instill confidence in children when they've been bullied by other children, but I'm going to do it."
So crank it up in the car if/when you drive your kids to school. Save this ditty to your playlist, stat, because this is one rap song your kids - and let's face it, you too (because bullies aren't confined to childhood) - need to hear again and again.
Everyone knows there are three topics you never talk about in polite conversation among parents: politics, religions, and... circumcision. But when the Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS) updates its position about the surgical removal of a newborn boy's foreskin for the first time since 1996, then you have no choice but to talk about it.
“It’s a very emotionally laden topic,” says associate pediatrician-in-chief at Toronto's Sick Kids Hospital, Dr. Jeremy Friedman, stating the obvious. “There’s a few topics in pediatrics that whenever you talk with parents, it’s never a mild conversation. People seem to have very, very strong feelings.”
And the reason parents have such strong feelings is that for many people, circumcision is connected to their culture or religion (see above).
For the longest time, there was no other good reason to circumcise a newborn, which is typically done in the first week after birth.
“There is a lot of good research these days that suggests there is definitely the ability [for a newborn] to perceive pain," claims Friedman, "and therefore pain control is essential if you’re going to do a procedure like a circumcision.”
So while the CPS does not "recommend" the procedure per se for every baby boy, it does cite some health benefits to removing the foreskin of the penis, such as helping to prevent HIV, the herpes simplex virus and human papillomavirus, as well as urinary tract infections. It may even offer some protection against penile cancer. However, Friedman notes that HIV is something of a moot point in Canada, where the risk of contracting the virus is "very, very low."
And it goes without saying scrupulous hygiene goes a long way. Many boys grow into "intact" men without issue.
The fact remains, for some families the decision to cut or not to cut is an obvious one. For others, it's more complicated. Some parents may even opt to circumcise one child yet not another.
While newborns in this country used to be circumcised as a matter of course, over the past century the rates of circumcision have declined to about a third of all boys. It's still largely considered a cosmetic procedure, therefore the average $300-500 cost isn't covered by most provincial health plans.
“My advice to most of those families tends to be there really isn’t a good medical reason to convince you to do it or convince you to not do it,” says Friedman.
In other words: when in doubt, do whatever the heck works for you and your family.
RELATED: Study Re-Opens Circumcision Debate