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Dear Urban Diplomat: Should I rat out parents who abuse the tennis club child care service?

Dear Urban Diplomat: Rules are rules

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Dear Urban Diplomat,
I’m a member at the Toronto Lawn Tennis Club, where they offer a child care service called Kids Klub, the idea being that you can leave your child while exercising or playing tennis. A lot of parents abuse the system by leaving and getting their nails done or going shopping while their kids are in the program, which is totally not allowed. I know it’s none of my business, but it really annoys me given that I comply. Should I report them?
—Rules are rules, Moore Park

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Dear Urban Diplomat: Can I confront parents who bring a wailing newborn to an upscale restaurant?

Urban Diplomat: For Crying Out Loud

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Dear Urban Diplomat,
My husband and I went to Toca at the Ritz-Carlton for our anniversary dinner. Around 9 p.m., a newborn-toting couple settled into the corner booth, and seconds later, the wailing began. We were irked, especially when the couple tried for 10 minutes to soothe in situ rather than in the lobby. Would we have been so wrong to say something?
—For Crying Out Loud, Cliffside

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Dear Urban Diplomat: How do we tell our otherwise perfect babysitter that drinking on the job isn’t cool?

Dear Urban Diplomat: Parental Guidance Needed

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Dear Urban Diplomat,
My wife and I discovered the parenting Holy Grail: a babysitter who’s punctual, affordable and amazing with our kids. Last time she sat, we told her to help herself to anything in the fridge. When we got home, she was a bit chattier than usual. We paid her and she drove home. Then we discovered a bottle of wine sitting empty on the counter—it had been three quarters full when we left. Was she drinking while playing with the kids? Was she driving drunk? We want to keep using her, but we don’t know how to broach the drinking issue. Help!
—Parental Guidance Needed, High Park

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Memoir: Michael Redhill on becoming a full-blown hockey dad

As a kid, I never got into organized sport. Today, I’m schlepping my sons through pre-dawn blizzards to far-flung corners of Ontario—and loving it

Memoir: as a kid, I never got into organized sport. Today, I’m schlepping my sons through pre-dawn blizzards to far-flung corners of Ontario—and loving itAs a hockey fan born to non-sporty parents, I had little experience of the game short of listening past bedtime to Bill Hewitt through a tiny radio hidden under my pillow. I was dismissed from speed-skating school for wonky ankles, and to this day I can’t skate very well at all. It was something of a surprise, after this childhood, to become the father of two highly athletic young men. Their mother, whose father played junior hockey in the ’50s, had both boys on skates at the age of two, and by four, each was ready for hockey school.

Hockey parenting with preschoolers was easy and often touchingly funny. In those days, it was a 10-minute drive north to the Leaside Arena to watch 10 players surround the puck and move it up and down the ice like a weather system. Then: hot chocolate. There were no imprecations from the stands any more serious than “Way to go!” and “Awww, nice try!” And there was loving laughter and applause.

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A new mixed-raced generation is transforming the city: Will Toronto be the world’s first post-racial metropolis?

I used to be the only biracial kid in the room. Now, my exponentially expanding cohort promises a future where everyone is mixed.

Mixe Me | By Nicholas Hune-Brown

Click on the image for 10 interviews with mixed-race Toronto children

Last fall, I was in Amsterdam with my parents and sister on a family trip, our first in more than a decade. Because travelling with your family as an adult can be taxing on everyone involved, we had agreed we would split up in galleries, culturally enrich ourselves independently, and then reconvene later to resume fighting about how to read the map. I was in a dimly lit hall looking at a painting of yet another apple-cheeked peasant when my younger sister, Julia, tugged at my sleeve. “Mixie,” she whispered, gesturing down the hall.

“Mixie” is a sibling word, a term my sister and I adopted to describe people like ourselves—those indeterminately ethnic people whom, if you have an expert eye and a particular interest in these things, you can spot from across a crowded room. We used the word because as kids we didn’t know another one. By high school, it was a badge of honour, a term we would insist on when asked the unavoidable “Where are you from?” question that every mixed-race person is subjected to the moment a conversation with a new acquaintance reaches the very minimum level of familiarity. For the record, my current answer, at 30 years old, is: “My mom’s Chinese, but born in Canada, and my dad’s a white guy from England.” If I’m peeved for some reason—if the question comes too early or with too much “I have to ask” eagerness—the answer is “Toronto” followed by a dull stare.

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Dear Urban Diplomat: Am I obligated to provide a gluten-free option at my kid’s birthday party?

Dear Urban Diplomat: Gluten-free birthday cake

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Dear Urban Diplomat,
Last week we sent out e-vites for our son’s 10th birthday. The RSVPs started coming back, and in two cases, parents wrote “gluten-free preferred” in the space for allergies and dietary restrictions. What the heck is that? I’m not asking for preferences—I’m asking if their kid will keel over if he catches a whiff of chocolate icing or offend Allah by consuming non-Halal pepperoni. I’m disinclined to accommodate these requests, but my husband thinks we should, to avoid any social awkwardness. Am I out of line here, or are they?
—Let Them Eat Cake, Streetsville

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Memoir: when I moved away from my overprotective parents at age 17, I was primed for trouble

Memoir: I spent my teen years willingly obeying my conservative, overprotective parents. When I left home to attend university at 17, I was primed for troubleI grew up in sleepy, suburban Calgary. My parents are conservative, first-generation immigrants from India—hovering, hyper-vigilant, you-can’t-go-to-the-mall-without-me parents. I spent my teen years obeying the rules; recklessness was something I always admired in my classmates but never dared myself. I didn’t have a sip of alcohol until my last semester of high school, and my parents never even bothered to give me a curfew. I was always home.

At 17, I was accepted into the journalism program at Ryerson University, a school with enough legitimacy that my parents were okay with letting me move to a faraway city unsupervised. For me, it meant an opportunity to finally rebel. And yet, when I arrived at Ryerson, I mostly kept to myself. I got into a relationship with the first boy who looked at me twice and rarely left his side. I called my parents once, sometimes twice a day.

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Fetal Position: inside the world of Lia Mills, the 16-year-old leader of a new generation of anti-abortion activists

Fetal Position

Lia Mills didn’t start Grade 7 with a plan to become famous. The year was 2009, and she was enrolled in a gifted class at Gordon A. Brown Middle School in East York. Everyone in her grade had to participate in a speech-writing contest. Winners would deliver their speeches in front of the school, and the school’s winner would battle district-wide. Most of Lia’s classmates chose serious, heavy topics such as human rights. Lia wanted to speak about abortion. She didn’t know much about it when she chose the topic, but the more she read, the more determined she became. She felt it was something God wanted her to do.

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QUOTED: Doug Holyday would never, ever raise kids downtown—not that there’s anything wrong with that

I can just see it now: ‘Where’s little Jenny? Well, she’s downstairs playing in the traffic on her way to the park.’

—Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday, on the type of tragic scenario that results when families dare to raise children in the city’s hazardous, traffic-laden core. At city hall yesterday, the former mayor of Etobicoke said he feels “there are healthier places to raise children,” though he grudgingly conceded that some people might actually want to bring up their kids downtown. Adam Vaughan, who was raised downtown and is doing the same with his offspring, leapt to defend downtown parents, and it only got more heated from there (Holyday: “Sometimes I wonder if your head’s on backwards.” Vaughan: “At least I have a head on my shoulders!”). At the root of the spat is a requirement that a proposed 47-storey condo on King Street include family-friendly three-bedroom units, a provision that Holyday called “social engineering.” City council ended up voting to keep the three-bedroom requirement—tough luck for Holyday (and for poor Jenny). [Globe and Mail]

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Toronto’s Africentric high-school program finds a home 

The Toronto District School Board has opened enrollment for the city’s first Africentric high-school program, which will kick off this fall at Scarborough’s Winston Churchill Collegiate. (Oakwood Collegiate on St. Clair Avenue was previously tapped to host the program, but hundreds of students and parents opposed the idea and called the program a form of segregation.) Despite the fact that the Africentric Alternative School has been up and running for three years now, we still expect supporters and nay-sayers to clash over the expansion of the city’s Africentric programs. [Toronto Star]

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Reasons to Love Toronto: No. 7, because kids have a playhouse

Reasons to Love Toronto: No. 7, Because kids have a playhouse

How do you make Toronto’s best building even better? You put in a kids’ space. The Weston Family Learning Centre at the AGO is sort of like the city’s finished basement, if the city had artsy parents with money. It’s one of the rare spots where children can be happy and those responsible for them can lounge hiply, admiring an architecturally superb space, designed by the super-hot firm Hariri Pontarini. It’s almost too nice to have grubby little children running around in it.

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Dear Urban Diplomat: how do I explain to my children that we’re not poor?

Dear Urban Diplomat

(Image: MJ/TR)

Dear Urban Diplomat,
Every year, my kids’ private school launches a campaign for donations, and parents are expected to give generously. My husband and I are not rich; the $60,000 tuition is 40 per cent of our income. This year, we didn’t participate, which meant our names didn’t appear in the school’s annual report. One day, our eldest daughter came home asking if we were poor, having been told so by her friend, who was told so by her mother! I don’t want my children to be stigmatized. What’s the best course of damage control?
—Charity Case, DAVISVILLE

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Jan Wong: Why aren’t schools teaching kids about the pleasures and perils of sex?

Body Politics

The answer is simple: our curriculum is shamefully outdated, and the Liberals are too scared to fix it

Adam and Eve nibble an apple from the Tree of Knowledge and suddenly realize they’re both naked. Unfortunately, sex ed isn’t part of God’s plan, and He evicts them from the Garden of Eden. These days, some folks in Toronto are acting quite God-like themselves, insisting that the next generation live in innocence and ignorance. Heaven forbid our youth get to know themselves in the Biblical sense.

Our public schools are under attack by an evangelical Christian organization called the Institute for Canadian Values, whose leaders believe, as a basic ideological tenet, that teaching up-to-date sex education in schools will corrupt and confuse our children. The institute is run by a man named Charles McVety, who is quite skilled at getting media attention. Shamefully, most journalists have checked their brains at the door, blandly covering the institute’s actions and claims without questioning their legitimacy or standing up against the influence of the church on the state.

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Jesse Brown: Why smart phones in the classroom equals smarter kids

Fears of cyber-cheating and sexting in school are so last year

Gadget Goes to SchoolWhen Dalton McGuinty suggested in September 2010 that cellphones and tablets might have useful educational applications, he was savaged by both the press and his political opponents. The Toronto Sun called the idea a “terrible” surrender to already tech-addled kids who want to use gadgets only for Facebook. The National Post likened it to welcoming cigarettes and sharp objects into class. Even Wired magazine panned the idea of gadgets in school as “premature,” citing the potential for distraction, cyber-cheating and a digital divide between kids with the latest gear and kids without. The Ontario Tories picked up all the outrage and ran with it, slamming the notion as “absurd,” a prime example of just how out of touch McGuinty was, and asking, “Shouldn’t our kids be learning math and science instead?” They went on to suggest that if McGuinty gets his way, we will soon have “sexting” in our classrooms.

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How bullying became the crisis of a generation

Kids are committing suicide, parents are in a panic, and schools that neglect to protect students are lawsuit targets

The Bully Mob

Mitchell Wilson had a short life. He was born in March 2000 at Markham-Stouffville Hospital to Craig and Shelley Wilson. From the age of three, he had trouble running and jumping. He climbed stairs slowly, putting both feet on each step before moving up. He fell often, and sometimes he couldn’t get up on his own. His doctors thought he had hypermobility syndrome—joints that extend and bend more than normal.

When Mitchell was seven, his mother was diagnosed with an aggressive melanoma. Her treatments left her distant, sometimes testy and mean, and in so much pain that she rarely left her bedroom. “I sort of kept Mitchell away,” Craig Wilson told me.

“He basically didn’t talk to his mother during the last four months of her life.” Wilson often left his son to his own devices while he took care of his dying wife and ran his family’s industrial knife business. Mitchell spent most of his time in his bedroom, playing video games. He comforted himself with food, and by the time he was four feet tall he weighed 167 pounds. Once, in a Walmart, he fell to the ground and his grandmother had to ask store employees to help her lift him.

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