Outrage of the Week: No Wine In Front of The Kids

Hi Readers! Here’s an advice column that had me reaching for the scotch. And I don’t even drink:

Dear Amy: My husband and I adore our grandson, who is a toddler. We watch him at our house overnight two times a month while his parents attend art classes.
Now that he is getting older, my daughter would like to start leaving him for longer stays — the most recent request is three nights/five days so they can attend a class out of state.
When our grandson was born, his parents created a list of rules regarding his care. I understood why they would want to do this.
One of the rules is that there is zero tolerance for drinking any alcohol by the primary caregiver (me).
My husband and I enjoy drinking wine every night. When my daughter and her brother were growing up, her dad and I always had wine with our meals.
I don’t mind giving up wine on an occasional evening, but as they start to ask us to care for our grandson for longer periods, I’m wondering if the no-tolerance rule is still an appropriate expectation.
We are responsible drinkers who enjoy wine. But are we pitting the safety of our grandson against our wine consumption? Are we being selfish, and could we possibly be accused of having a drinking problem by making an issue of this with our daughter and son-in-law?
Is responsibly drinking wine in one’s home mutually exclusive to being able to responsibly care for a child?
— WL

Dear WL: I support the “zero tolerance” policy of these parents. Even one glass of wine can affect your response time and sleep habits.
Speak with your daughter, and go over her list of expectations. You should ask her to negotiate a solution — the most obvious being that you and your husband trade off who is the primary caregiver in the evenings. This person will enjoy a glass of apple juice with dinner.
If you are afraid your daughter will bring up your drinking, then you do have problem. At the very least, your drinking is causing a problem with her, and you should be brave enough to address it.

Hey Amy! How about being brave enough to address the over-the-top fears many of today’s parents are indulging in? They’re a lot more damaging than a glass of Chardonnay.

These grandfolks are not running around the table, chasing each other with electric knives. They sound like normal, civilized people. If they’re irresponsible, so is all of France. The idea that they have to change their behavior because their grown daughter wants them to be even MORE perfect — or what she considers perfect —  is not something to encourage. Should she insist they only discuss pre-approved topics, too, and play no music composed after 1783? (Maybe she did, in her list.)

If the grandparents are actual alcoholics, then that’s another story and I doubt the mom would even consider leaving her kid with them. Since that doesn’t seem to be the case, I think the grandmother here is being extremely obliging. She’s not only giving her time, she’s shutting up about the rest of the rules her daughter has issued.

Daughter, hon, how about Universal Rule #1? “Be grateful for free babysitting.”  — Lenore

135 Responses

  1. I like Amy Dickinson and value her opinions and advice, but even I think she completely missed the boat on this one.

  2. And yet somehow Europe continues to exist.

  3. This is ridiculous. I also don’t drink, but I don’t think a little wine with dinner makes anyone incapable of caring for a child. I mean, are they getting drunk? I doubt it, especially if they are drinking every night.

  4. I am down with a no drinking and driving rule. But in your own home? And we are talking about a toddler, not an infant. Your “response” time at night does not have to be lightning fast” as much as with an infant.

    Either the mom has insights into her parents habits that we do not, or she could use a glass of wine herself.

    Also, as crazy as the request is, surely Granny can refrain for three nights….

  5. I just found this blog via the Time Article listed below. I have no kids but think that this is brilliant (must be all those lead toys from China I licked as a kid). Regardless, thank you….it makes feel so much better about the fact I will be a truely terrible mother.

    As for the column above…ridiculous. If I even thought about giving my mother a list of directions for child care, she would laugh in my face then ask me to fetch the vodka (and I turned out juuuuust fine.)

  6. How did I survive childhood at all!?

    A sip of my dad’s beer or my mom’s wine was a normal part of dinner for me, as far back as I can remember.

    I guess being a wine aficionado in my adult life was accidental.

    I suppose being the go-to wine expect for all of my friends and family is evidence of some kind of trauma.

    And boy… I sure did miss out on all that binge drinking everyone does nowadays.

    Oh… and that time when I was invited to a party (as a teenager) where the main attraction was that they were going to have a keg? (I was 14.) I declined. I could have a tasty beer at home anytime I wanted, why drink crappy beer with a bunch of vomiting teenagers?

    I was SO damaged I declined to participate in an underage drinking party. Shame on my parents for teaching me to be a responsible drinker.

    Now… who do I sue?

  7. Why is it whenever I hear “zero tolerance” it also goes hand in hand with zero critical thinking skills? Nearly nothing is as black and white as a zero tolerance policy makes it.

    This Amy person is way off and I completely agree that the daughter should be bowing and scraping that her parents are so willing to watch her kids.

  8. you know, if you don’t trust your parents to watch your kids w/o a set of rules, maybe you shouldn’t leave your kids alone with them?? seriously.

  9. Look, for normal people from normal families, I understand — this looks like a helicopter reaction and, oh blessed be just think of the children if grandmom has a merlot with her roast.

    But as the child of an alcoholic, let me just say that I don’t automatically accept the original writer’s “oh it’s just wine with dinner” and “we drink responsibly” because my alcolholic parent says that as well. And it’s not just 4 oz of joi d’vie like the French, it’s 4 large glasses or more until she’s blotto.

    May I humbly suggest that the parent who asked the grandparents not to drink around the baby may be privy to facts we aren’t? Because if grandmom is afraid to talk to her daughter about her drinking habits, that’s a huge red flag in my book. In that case, I see nothing unreasonable about asking grandmom to abstain for 3 nights.

  10. The only way I could see a point here, would be if both grandparents had a few glasses, and a situation arose where the child needed to be driven someplace. I didn’t see that addressed, but I think it’s a possible explanation that was not touched upon.

    The “Zero Tolerance” part is odd. There’s a lot of grey area between a glass of wine with dinner and drinking several glasses during & after. It’s not really clear which is the habit for these grandparents from their letter.

    Just to be clear,I do not believe that several glasses a wine each night in and of itself points towards the grandparents being alcoholics, but the several glasses they typically enjoy before settling in with one another for a quiet night at home *may* impair their judgment enough to make watching a very small child unsafe. (Bath time,. in addition to needing a “designated” driver, comes to mind.)

    The advice to “enjoy a glass of apple juice” is patronizing. Agree completely on that count. However, I believe either the grandparents drink more than they’re letting on here, OR the daughter has wacky control issues. Unlike most Free Range discussions, this one isn’t prompting the “Yeah! Right ON!” gut response for me. Too much grey area.🙂

  11. Anna, I think the issue is not “this one time” they couldn’t abstain for 3 nights, but if it becomes a regular occurrence. Taking in a toddler for a few days anyway is stressful and routine-changing; denying responsible adults a glass of wine with dinner (NOT enough to get you drunk or make you incapable under any law) is ridiculous.

    If she’s that worried, she should get a nanny. They’re paid to look after children.

  12. If you have to give someone a big list of rules micromanaging everything down to what they drink with dinner, you should do a bit of self-reflection.

  13. ahah this is so funny. That way when this kid will see a drop of alcohol for the first time he will go crazy about it, like catholic girls and sex.

  14. Even one glass of wine can affect your response time and sleep habits? With dinner? Rather light weight, that one. So she advocates that no parent of any child under the age of 12 drink alcohol ever? Unless the other parent is having apple juice, of course.

    I wouldn’t trust my child with an adult who was incapable of handling one glass of wine myself. What’s her response time going to be when she’s on the cell phone?

  15. Did anyone go to the actual article and read the next letter to Amy? That one was almost as bad as this one.

  16. Although I should have said that I agree with Amy in the next letter.

  17. @ c.esq. If they’re worried their parents are alcoholics, why are they leaving their kids with them for days on end? They think their parents are the special kind of alcoholics who drink themselves into oblivion every day but the three to five in a row they’re babysitting?

  18. So mom and dad plan to NEVER drink in front of their kids, EVER? No weddings or Christmas parties, no beer at the barbecue? Or do they just want EVERYONE else to be perfect? BAH!

    My rules? When at grandma’s, the kids follow grandma’s rules. If she wants to give them 2 sodas and 4 cookies, she is free to do so. If she wants to let them stay up to midnight, fine. It won’t kill them. She did a fine job raising my husband, I’m certainly not going to tell her how to grandparent my kids.

  19. Going to go out on one more limb WRT the commenter above and whether grandparents should be given any guidelines when watching grandchildren. One of my friends is fortunate that her parents will care for her child overnight, etc They sound like lovely grandparents all around, except the grandmother is a horrible driver, by all accounts*, except her own. So my friend has asked that her mom not drive when her parents watch her child. It sounds controlling on the surface, but more sane & reasonable when you know the context.

    *Having heard the story, I’ shocked she’s still legally able to drive. lol

  20. c., esq., –as the daughter of an alcoholic, I agree with you. but I also would NEVER leave my children in my alcoholic parent’s care–not for a day, an evening, and certainly not for 3 nights/5 days. if you feel obliged to set down alist of rules for the people who raised you (or your spouse), then they aren’t fit to watch your children unsupervised.

  21. If alcohol’s been a problem for the parents, the request is reasonable. But if we’re talking just a glass or two of wine with dinner it shouldn’t be such a big deal. Responsible alcohol consumption is not a bad thing to model for children.

  22. @LisaS

    We haven’t had to cross this bridge yet (no kids yet), so I haven’t given it much thought and I tend to agree with you. I just think it’s unfair to automatically jump to the conclusion that mom’s a helicopter parent when we don’t have all the facts. That’s all.

  23. I wish we knew what else was on the list. I DO agree that leaving a lengthy list/set in stone schedule/micro-managing list smacks of control issues. I’ve been around people who think they entire world will crumble if snack is not an organic apple sliced just so and served precisely at 3:02pm.

    But, I also know that there are things a grandparent may really need to be told about, such as proper car seat safety/use or even a heads up about any odd behavioral quirks. I say this as the parent of an extremely busy child, who did *crazy* things at a really young age, so I had to prepare caregivers to some degree that “Hey, M will find the hole in the fence behind the preschool even though no one else has” (He did, btw…lol) or “I wasn’t kidding when I said he scaled that bookshelf.” (at 11 months.)

  24. I’ve had to have this talk with my husband. He doesn’t drink alcohol, ever, at all, whereas I enjoy it in many forms, in moderation of course. He has been known to give me the stink eye for having a glass of wine for dinner and refers to any alcohol as “booze.” So we go out for our anniversary and I’ll have a glass of wine, I’m “boozing it up.”

    The thing is, my family has a history of alcoholism. Therefore, my daughter (and myself, natch) have a genetic tendency towards it. One of my goals is to model normal behavior towards alcohol for my children. I’ve had several long talks with my husband, and it took a “you will never ever comment negatively about alcohol again” to get him to stop being an ass about it.

    So even my free-rangey husband was all hyper paranoid about moderate alcohol consumption, but he finally gets it and is supportive of what I’m doing. Still won’t drink, but that’s his own choice.

  25. Ridiculous. The French have managed to successfully raise generations and generations of children while having wine with dinner. However do they do it?!

    Amy Dickinson should remember to turn on her brain before she writes her column.

  26. I am always surprised when I see this attitude and its prevalence. Many years ago some friends and I were at a regular restaurant that served beer and had arcade games for the kids. One the girls in the group commented on this horrible father that she had spotted by the video games. I looked over expecting to see him beating his children or his wife in front of the people, or something truly outrageous. Instead I saw a father following around his toddler and 6 year old with a beer mug in hand. He was not drunk (that I could tell) simply trying to contain the chaos and enjoy a beverage at the same time.

    My friend explained that the man was a horrible father for drinking in front of his children. I mumbled something about chalking me up as a bad parent (when I became one) and tried to move on.

    My husband can tell similar stories from his friends. All of which leave us shaking our heads.

    Apparently it is a pervasive thought process that alcohol anywhere near the children=bad.

  27. There are lots of people (seriously – LOTS) who don’t drink for religious or moral reasons – not even for weddings, barbeques, or christmas parties. I can see why a non-drinking parent wouldn’t want their child exposed to it, not even a little bit.

    I think tthat really the grandmother should be talking with her daughter, not with Amy, about the issue. If the drinking thing is that big a deal, then maybe the mom should ask someone else to care for her child.

  28. Just as a side note, about how Europe “continues to exist” – Most European countries are experiencing zero population growth. Germany actually has negative population growth. In a few generations, Germany will be Turkish and France will be Algerian.

  29. Beth, that’s an excellent point.

  30. I’ve gotten the hairy eyeball by more than one parent in the neighborhood, because the whole family has wine with dinner. Yes, the whole family. Monsters too. We all volunteer in a winery and have learned so much about wine and how to pair it properly with food!

    Not only do I think Amy’s advice was crap, I think Grammy needs to grow a damned pair of ovaries and tell her daughter where to cram her “zero tolerance” policy. My house? MY rules, and if you don’t like my rules, you can go hire yourself a sitter.

  31. I suppose I’m keying in not on the alcohol, but on the “list of rules for the primary caregiver.” What is going on in the relationships that this is even necessary? And why are they the same rules now as when the toddler was born?

    But it does seem to me that the grandparents agreed to those rules and need to live up to their agreement. Asking to review them is appropriate, and it might require some kind of compromise.

    For the record – I agree that generally, “zero tolerance” is a silly, Puritanical rule, and I agree that in particulars, it may be the best thing. And I’ll add to the particulars that there are people with honest religious beliefs against alcohol, and if I had them, I’d ask my family to respect them. Thank God and Arthur Guinness I don’t.🙂

  32. Well, considering, though, that European civilization has existed in something like its present form for about 1200 years, and the native population decline is a result of the last 50 or so, I think the point still stands that regular, moderate alcohol consumption is not grossly destructive.

  33. As for the religious argument, that’s a good point if the rule was just “not in front of the kids.” But if the rule is “not a drop of anything hours after the kid’s in bed,” then it’s over the top. And if the parents have alcohol problems, then it’s a stupid rule, because it’s stupid to leave the kids there for multiple nights.

  34. Apple juice for dinner??? Goodness, why not just haul the old folks in a nursing home now!!!!

    Just a note: even if I had a religious belief (?) of some sort that banned drinking alcohol all together, I would not insist it upon anyone, anymore than I would insist everyone to adhere to my religion.

    Lenore, I love your blog…but oooh sometimes it’s just too much to see how silly people can be:)

  35. Good grief. If the mother doesn’t trust the grandmother to be responsible while taking care of the grandchild, then why is she leaving him there in the first place? I’m assuming that anyone I leave my child with I would have to trust completely… and that includes leaving them to their own personal choices in their own home.

    Of course, if there’s some reason I DON’T trust their judgment and care completely, I shouldn’t leave my kid there in the first place. And that has nothing to do with alcohol.

    (And another thing: If I thought I wasn’t going to be allowed to drink wine ever again, I might have re-considered ever getting pregnant! As a first time mother-to-be, your website scares me sometimes, Lenore!🙂 )

  36. ditto to all of the- if there’s an alcohol problem, why are you leaving your kid there? why does a grandma who managed to raise at least one healthy child safely need a list of rules? my mom-in-law keeps my 4 year old frequently. quite frankly, i’m so darned grateful for free, willing babysitting in a place that my son feels cherished, when she asked if i had any conditions (yes, she asked, which made me question what kind of person i seem to be), i said, “you raised my husband and he’s fine. i trust you. if you want to spoil him rotten and feed him 8 tons of sugar, go for it. you’re the one who’ll be staying up until midnight watching ‘shrek’ when he can’t get to sleep. y’all have fun, love you both.” if i didn’t trust her absolutely, i wouldn’t leave my son with her. period. no list of rules would make it okay, no free babysitting would be worth it.

  37. Not to further thread-hijack, but the Mudlim immigrant populations in Europe are experiencing identical poulation growth slowdowns to the natives. In a few generations France will be old, not Algerian.

    Ethnic paranoia is as destructive and untrue as parental paranoia.

  38. @Beth, but not because they have wine with dinner.

  39. Yes, we are extreme puritans about alcohol in the US but here is yet another case where the UK trumps us: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/health/article5617567.ece (government advises parents to never drink in front of kids).

    Personally, I think kids learn from the behavior you model. If they see you drinking responsibly (and yes, that is possible), then they are more likely to.

    That being said, there are two issues raised by this letter that I would never consider doing: I would never leave my child with an alocholic (my father is one), and I would never give a grandparent offering free babysitting for 3 nights a list of rules to follow.

  40. A few weeks back I got a bad case of food poisoning. While my daughter cooked herself a bowl of rice n beans on the microwave (she’s 5 it’s appropriate to gasp in shock) I walked by on the way to the sink. I walked through the microwave wafting the nasty smell of the food and I lost it and puked in the sink.

    Since my daughter has never witnessed me being sick, she didn’t know what to do: call 911? Get a neighbor? hold my hair back? It was then and there I started to think maybe I needed a few more nights out getting blotto and recovering the next day. Then she’d be more used to seeing someone get sick and not be so freaked.

    Just a different perspective.

  41. must be her first kid.

    i think both she and Amy need about 4 more kids each — that’ll loosen them up😀

  42. “Personally, I think kids learn from the behavior you model. If they see you drinking responsibly (and yes, that is possible), then they are more likely to.”

    @Shannon, I’m with you. Growing up, there was always alcohol in our house. It wasn’t locked up. Our parents rarely drank–maybe a glass of wine with dinner on holidays.

    So if it was always there, and they didn’t find it particularly interesting, why would my brother and I find it alluring?

    (Caveat: there is no history of alcoholism in our family–that certainly would have the potential to change this equation.)

    Answer: We didn’t. Yes, I drank in college, but that faded away as soon as I had to start driving myself home after graduation. And this decision-making ability was mine in spite of the shocking fact that, when we were children, my parents would let us have a tiny glass of wine on Thanksgiving if we wanted it. To drive this point home even more, my brother always turned it down.

  43. This is the point where the grandparents need to look at their daughter and say. “Gee, you lived long enough to have kids of your own; we must have done something right.” Unbelievable. If your parents aren’t falling down drunk every night, shut your mouth and be thankful that they are willing to take you kids for a couple of days so you can get a break.

  44. I just read a blog post about this, only it had more to do with mothers than grandparents:

    http://prettybabies.blogspot.com/2009/11/make-mine-double-parents-magazine.html

  45. @Beth you write, “Most European countries are experiencing zero population growth.”

    You blame this on the wine they drink? You’re not spending time with the same wine drinkers I am.

    This seems like an easy one. Daughter: “Mom we’re hoping you’ll babysit for free [for a long interval] and follow these rules.” Mom: “Gosh, I love spending time with my grandchild, but that request is just too much. If you need me to watch him for a few afternoons while you interview nannies, please let me know.”

  46. This is a result of the American puritanical tradition. There are some people who can’t see the difference between 1 drink and 6.

  47. In actuality a beer or glass of wine before dinner can keep you from strangling your kids…😉

  48. 1. If the parents drink till they’re falling down drunk (the only reasonable explanation as to why the mother has worries) why is she even considering using them as sitters in the first place?

    2. If they’re not, why the hell does she care? Welcome to the big bad world where people sometimes have habits that we don’t approve of. Read my lips: Free babysitting for several days in a row. I don’t think anyone who hasn’t been the parent of a toddler really understands the impact of those words

    This is one of those times when I wonder if “advice columnists” fake out their own entries… Uh, you’re their daughter, doesn’t that place you in the ultimate position to decide if they’re going to be good people to babysit for you? What more do you want? She was raised by these people; no amount of empirical evidence or newspaper-lady advice is going to be able to match her own personal experience with these two elderly grandparents. Forget the sitters… I’m thinking this woman doesn’t have the ability to raise a child herself.

  49. If the grandparents are alcoholics, then the woman shouldn’t leave her child with them. Point blank. Obviously they are not, or this over protective, zero tolerance *shudder* mother would not leave her kid with them.

    As adults, if we do drink, we should model responsible drinking for our kids. That is, having a glass of wine with dinner or the occasional beer. It’s very healthy for kids to see adults enjoying alcohol in moderation.

    Frankly, I wouldn’t give up my glass of wine with dinner for anyone, especially for someone for whom I was providing free childcare!

  50. If you read my post, you will notice that I just stated the fact – Europe is experiencing zero population growth. I did not say that it had anything to do with anything. I was just mentioning it.

    Although a Jewish Rabbi in the UK House of Lords says that it’s due to secularism. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/8345837.stm

  51. In my opinion, the writer of this post ought to drink her wine from a coffee mug. Grandmas are SUPPOSED to circumvent their offspring’s ridiculous demands…

  52. Incidentally, Lenore, you’ve had more than one “Outrage of the Week” this week.😀

  53. Jan: It’s also the influence of recovery-movement doctrine: AA is populated largely by people who have never been able to stop at one drink and who spent large parts of their lives associating with others who couldn’t stop. Recovering alcoholics often talk about how amazed they were to discover that there were people who could drink without winding up puking or passing out, and some express doubts that such people really exist. Basic rationality says that it doesn’t make much sense to turn to such people for advice on drinking in general, but basic rationality is quite scarce these days.

    One influence of recovery-movement dogma has been to redefine “addiction” to include anything you do because you want to enjoy it. The idea is that if you don’t want to give up something that you enjoy just because someone else disapproves of it (not because that something is hurting you or others), you’ve got a “problem.”

    Amy’s advice definitely came from “experts” who subscribe to a 12-step ideology. In reality, one drink of wine is only going to raise a 100-pound woman’s blood alcohol level (less for anyone heavier or a man) barely beyond the point where any effect can be detected without using very sophisticated neuropsychological tests available only in academic research laboratories. And that’s assuming that she downs the glass in one gulp. It’s perfectly legal to fly a passenger jet with that level of blood alcohol. But then I’m citing science here, not religion, oops I mean spirituality.

  54. In my opinion, if I am paying someone to take care of my kids, I get to set all the rules. If I’m dropping my kids off with their grandparents (which I get to do, since I am lucky enough to have wonderful in-laws who live nearby) and doing my own thing for a while, I leave the rules in their hands. They raised four kids, one of which I found to be worth marrying. If my kids get a little extra candy and a little (or a lot) extra TV, they are also getting the incredible gift of time with their grandparents.

    I think this mom needs to stop and realize that her parents won’t be around forever. Making taking care of her kid a hardship for them is not doing her kid any favors.

    Also, having two kids of my own, if I was asked to watch a toddler for five days, I’d NEED some wine.🙂

  55. If the grandparents are asking, it is unlikley they are alcoholics. There are many families that have a glass of wine with dinner…period. THis sounds like a long-standing cultural activity and an overprotective first-time mom. An alcoholic would NEVER ask if it is ok to drink when watching the kids because, well, they don’t like to admit how much they drink. I think this is a cultural thing, and I think Amy is whacked. My parents are free to watch the kids and have a glass of wine…lord knows I do. Would I have a bottle? Never. I have three kids to watch. But a glass? Go for it…and thank you for giving me a day or two or three off!

  56. I find it funny that many people of America have a fear of drugs of any sorts, but is integrated in our society. For a headache, we take over the counter pain killers (tylenol, Advil, etc.). For sleeping problems we have ambion. The list on and on. For those who smoke and have alcohol, it is legal to have at a certain age and these grandparents are extremely responsible. It is irritable to see how “the Political Correct police” try to run our lives in every way.

  57. Funny, it never occurred to me to issue a list of rules to my parents for the times they look after my children. This might have something to do with the fact that I’m not an entitled, demanding brat and that I’m filled with gratitude for their free babysitting. I’m with Marion here: when my parents are watching them, my parents make the rules. I wouldn’t dream of denying them the fun of spoiling their grandchildren.

    Granny and gramps should go ahead and drink their wine as usual. Their brat daughter doesn’t need to be informed — or is she making them sign some sort of legal document? Will she be installing video surveillance?

    What’s this bullshit about “response time” anyhow? I’m the parent of a child with severe special needs and have NEVER needed lightening-quick “response time.” If there were ever an emergency where speed was required, I’d call 911 and let the experts do their job… and rest assured that even in MY situation, with a special-needs child, the odds of that ever happening are very slight.

  58. This is so, so sad for so many reasons. Ungrateful daughter, wimpy grandmother, bad for the wine industry. It’s just ridiculous and is just fluff to fill up pages of a magazine or online something or other.

  59. I confess to giving my children their own wine when they want it. They get a about 1/100th part wine to water and enjoy it very much. They do the same with coffee and other adult drinks.
    I am not raising alcoholics. I am raising children involved in the slow food movement who like to sit around the table with adults discussing the matters of the day.
    None of my children is going to be interested in swill beer when they get to college because they are learning responsibility at home. How can you learn responsibility if you don’t see it in action?

  60. [i]I confess to giving my children their own wine when they want it. They get a about 1/100th part wine to water and enjoy it very much. They do the same with coffee and other adult drinks.
    I am not raising alcoholics. I am raising children involved in the slow food movement who like to sit around the table with adults discussing the matters of the day.
    None of my children is going to be interested in swill beer when they get to college because they are learning responsibility at home. How can you learn responsibility if you don’t see it in action?[/i]

    I’m tracing your IP and calling CPS ASAP!😉

  61. dammit, italics don’t work on this site. Crap!

  62. Lenore, you need V-bulletin ASAP.

  63. Shh, don’t tell everyone my son has wine EVERY Sunday, and has since second grade. We Catholics are horrible that way…

  64. Dear WL,
    Providing a different perspective is what grandparents are for. Why don’t you help your grandchild learn that there are lots of different ways to be a balanced, responsible, respectable person by being yourself?
    And tell Mom you did a good enough job raising her for her to give you some trust!
    Good luck!
    Jacqui

  65. There may be a lot more to this story. My father was a raging alcoholic but would have described himself as a moderate drinker who only had one drink a night. In a super big gulp cup. I strongly suspect this may be what’s going on.

  66. Carol – if that’s the case, why would the mother even consider leaving her kid with them for a single night, much less for three nights and five days? A raging alcoholic will promise up and down not to drink but will do it anyway. If she believes her parents are responsible enough to take care of her kid for that long (and that is a LONG time to leave a toddler with someone) she should think they are responsible enough to handle one cup of wine with dinner. You’re right that there may be more to this story, but if there really is an issue of alcoholism it just seems like the mom wouldn’t trust them at all to babysit. You can’t take the word of an alcoholic that they won’t drink anyway!

    As a kid I saw my parents have a drink now and then with dinner or at a bbq – my dad would even give me a little bit of his beer in a Dixie cup. He drank really good beer, so when I went to college the LAST thing I wanted to was to drink the warm piss water that passed for beer at the keg parties.

  67. I agree – re the Puritanical origins of the USA – creating a swarm of self-righteous fundamentalist prothelitizers who cannot discern between a falling down drunk – and an adult enjoying a drink at the end of the day.

    Too much of this “holier than thou” philosophy seems to be overtaking this country….

    Sharlett’s version of THE FAMILY – is alive and well – and growing daily.

  68. If the grandparents have a drinking problem or worse, just don’t leave the kids under their supervision. Untreated addicts will agree, lie, and then do what they need to do for their addiction no matter how much they want to control themselves. I know parents who need a court ordered supervised clean u/a before they can take their children on a visit, or no visit, and with darm good reason…the safety of the child would be seriously in danger.

    If this is just a daughter’s control or personal moral issues and the grandparents are responsible light social drinkers, then I hope they firmly stand up for themselves and their lifestyle. I think it is wrong for anyone in a family to demand other relatives conform to their particular religious beliefs, anxieties, or control issues.

    I do appreciate my adult children keeping me up to date on the latest car seats, safety strollers, etc. as it is easy to miss changes when no longer a full time parent. I really appreciate my adult kids being pleased enough with how they were raised that they wouldn’t dream of handing me a list of rules before providing childcare. Notes on health issues and names of doctors are of course appreciated. My adult children are a mixed bag of religious beliefs, lack thereof, vegans, you name it, etc. but everyone, including me are respected and ok with just being who they are. It is ok for grandkids to see different lifestyles and be comfortable with all who love them. Family get togethers and babysitting are a real joy even though we enjoy a good argument now and then.

  69. Once again, UNBELIEVABLE, and once again, right on with your comments Lenore!!

  70. I have zero tolerance for zero tolerance rules.

  71. An
    occasional drink or to accompany a meal isn’t the same as binging or
    drunk driving.
    This is another case of trying to to control everything about children
    using zero tolerance in the interest of safety.
    The precious little ones often rebel later when on their own and use
    fake IDs good enough to fool some police such as the one used
    by a former President’s daughter tried to use at a club where I worked.
    Colleges want to concentrate on educating students
    without having the responsibility of also baby
    teacup sitting young adults how to
    drink safely being passed onto them by parents.
    What helps develop a better attitude towards alcohol is to gradually
    introduce drinking with for example: a limit of 1 wine glass with a
    PARENT and a
    MEAL at 17
    as in Europe, 19 for low alcohol beverages or as an ACTIVE member of
    the military and 21 to purchase.
    Currently, the all or nothing approach towards drinking encourages
    young adults to drink too much.
    Going
    from a total ban and then at 12:01 on a birthday one can drink as much
    as they want sets kids up to overindulge because birthdays are
    celebrated. Drinking attitudes matter more than one’s age.
    It may be time to consider alternatives to prohibition which didn’t
    work for everyone, so why believe that it can be realistically applied
    for those under 21?
    http://www.amethystinitiative.org/

  72. I agree, the daughter should know what her parents are like, and if she can trust them or not.

    I suspect the son-in-law is the problem in this case.

  73. Hey BMS, it’s not just you Catholics, I’ve been having wine since I can remember, thanks to my Jewish family.

    I will never get this primary caregiver zero-tolerance alcohol policy. I hear it way too frequently. It is possible to drink and parent responsibly at the same time.

    Hell, I don’t have a problem with a nursing mum (or even a pregnant woman) enjoying the occasional glass of wine or beer.

  74. I don’t drink at all, and I’m actually pretty firm in that I never will. I also have in-laws who chose totally different sets of rules for their children than I would dream of, in some cases. I feel for her, I do…

    But this situation?

    If she is expecting the grandparents (and even that’s a lot — expecting!) to care for her kids for the better part of a week, it’s unbelievably rude and pretentious to demand that they change their lifestyles to accommodate her preferences.

    Simply put:

    If you don’t like their daily habits, find another sitter.

    If the habits aren’t that bad, shut up.

    Done deal.

    I agree with the advice-doler-outer on one thing, though: this woman’s biggest problem is that she and her daughter can’t communicate about it. That’s the rub.

    Maybe it’s a rule that can fly out the window now that the kids aren’t as young, and it’s a non-issue. Being afraid and/or hesitant to speak to your mother/daughter about this is the real trouble.

  75. “…Hell, I don’t have a problem with a nursing mum (or even a pregnant woman) enjoying the occasional glass of wine or beer.”

    Katie, you are truly a heretic of the highest order! 😉

  76. I totally agree with wanderingbrain… if the parents don’t trust the grandparents to be sensible without providing a set of “rules” for them to follow, then why are they letting them babysit in the first place?

    I think it is very healthy for children to experience different lifestyles (within reason of course) and family life. It sounds like the parents are determined that their kid won’t experience anything different than what they want…. that’s sad.

  77. If my parents were not allowed to enjoy their wine while babysitting their grandkids for an extended period of time (more than 3 hours), suffice it to say, that’d be the end of babysitting in our family! 😉

  78. @Beth: Well, in that case, the first comment is irrelevant and off-topic, and the last seems like a copout.

  79. Oh noodles! I can imagine my daughter saying this to me. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN???

    Seriously, I think it’s overboard to request no alcohol at all unless there was a problem.

    Excuse me now while I go fetch a drink

  80. oh man. My daughter and I met my husband for dinner and he had not ONE, but TWO beers! I didn’t know to call CPS on ourselves.

    Maybe one day years from now that daughter will look back, be embarrassed and beg forgiveness. Or not!

  81. I read this in the Chicago Tribune last week and was annoyed. Either the daughter is really uptight or the parents are glossing over their drinking. We’re only getting one side of the story. It’s possible the letter was edited before printing and Amy got more of the story than we saw.

  82. I and my wife are non-drinkers and so are my sons who are now young adults. We maintain an alcohol free home but when we go to friend’s houses there is often drinking. I think we wouldn’t have sent our sons for babysitting with regular drinkers, as that would create an ambiguous message about our values in regards alcohol. But I wouldn’t ask them to change their behaviour unless they eg parents, wanted to babysit. Exposure from the wider community can be managed through adequate debriefing with a child in an emotionally safe environment. As teenagers, when my sons saw their friends drunk, they could equate the theory with the reality. This extends to ‘moderate’ drinking. From a societal point of view there is no real moderate drinking, because ‘moderate’ eg as within health warnings, would lead to many alcohol manufacturers going bust, and alcohol prices would rise considerably. making drinking a much less regular prospect for anyone except upper middle class. So called moderate drinkers ensure that alcohol manufacturers succeed in encouraging over-drinking among a great number of people in many countries of trhe world with devastating social consequences. See: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article6903660.ece

  83. Yup. I agree with you, Ms. Skenazy. Oh, but of course I must add an anecdote or two. Or three. We’ll see how this goes. Our nearly 4-year-old loves to repeat the list of drinks preferred by the three occupants of the household. He says, “I drink milk, water and juice. Mama and papa drink coffee, water, milk and wine. Someday I will drink coffee, too.” Interestingly, when I have offered him a taste of coffee, he refuses. And this is a kid who eats almost anything and everything. Now, that said. We are backpackers, and I often bring a small flask of bourbon along to sip now and then in the evening. On one of our trips, when he was 2 1/2, he found the flask, brought it to me, and said, “Papa, I think you should drink some whiskey.” Now, I was relaxing at the time, and everything was actually wonderful, so it wasn’t what it sounds it might be. Still, I did think about it for quite a while. At the end of the day, I still bring a flask of bourbon on most backpacking trips. Anyway, I could go on and on, but the bottom line is that we brought the kid up to eat what we eat, and he does. I know we’re partly lucky in this. We drink moderately, and I don’t think it’s harmful for him to know that we drink some things that he’s not allowed to drink yet. In fact, he seems quite fine with that. Blah. Blah. Blah. What’s harmful to kids, in my anecdotal opinion, are secrets and putting appearances in front of reality on the importance scale. I refuse to do anything but be who I am to my kid, and, on most days, that seems to be working just fine.

  84. I am a mom of two with no family within a 6 hour drive to take care of my kids. Can I have these two grandparents? Please?

    Free babysitting, free overnight babysitting…heaven.

    This mom needs to be alone for awhile.

  85. There is an article in Parents magazine this month about parents drinking in front of kids and the cocktail playdate. The basic conclusion seemed to be that as long as it’s in moderation and the playdate is still more important than the cocktails, then there likely isn’t a problem. They also notes that if you are going to drink in front of your kids, not only to employ good sense in terms of quantities, but to make sure they understand it’s a grownup drink and NOT give them a sip, which can give a mixed message.

    Not that Parents is the be-all and end-all of sound psych advice or whatever, but interesting that this is coming up in multiple places at once.

    (and would this Amy person then presume that parents also must drink not a drop for the entire time they are raising their children? because as the grandma says, abstaining for an evening is not the same as being required to avoid something entirely reasonable for an extended period.)

  86. Wow! The parties my grandparents held in Europe when I was little are memories that still bring a smile to my face. There was lots of eating, DRINKING, smoking….. my cousins and I regularly had to take empty bottles back to the bottle shop and come back with new ones as well as packets of cigarettes. It was a fantastic atmotsphere of lots of laughter and happiness. Now as an adult and a wife & mother, I choose not to smoke, my husband and I love trialing new and wonderful Australian wines and we entertain friends in our home…. get ready for it…..in front of our children and our guests children!
    I think the grandparents in the above letter have given up all control to their grown up kids who are now dictating how the grandparents should bring up their children while the 2 of them get on with their lives the way they choose. What a super arrangement.

  87. The adult children are asking for a favor. You don’t ask for a favor and then demand the favor giver also meet your every specification.

    “You want a free ride to the store? Fine but don’t complain when I stop for gas and to pick up my dry cleaning.”

    The adult children can suspend the rules for a few days or they can skip the class. Their choice.

    “It’s my house and I’ll drink a glass of wine if I want to”
    (sung to the tune of “It’s my party … “

  88. brain explodes….
    she has parents who are willing to take her kid for the better part of the week so she can go take an art class?
    She is a very crappy bohemian and needs to take a bohemian class.
    Are her parents supposed to be so grateful that she allows them the opportunity to babysit? Honestly, that’s craziness.

    And as for Amy’s advice – gag, I hate apple juice. There is nothing to enjoy about that & if this child needs faster response times than an adult can give on one to two glasses of wine, then there is something else afoot.

    Also, “the list” – is it me, or does it seem crazy to make a list like that when your baby is born and stick to it like you made a blood vow? Babies and children are different – their needs change all the time. If you want Mary Poppins, you are going to have to go to a nanny agency and pay her a fair wage.

  89. The letter writer’s request for advice seems hard to answer well without knowing more about the situation. Several people have pointed out that the mother could have an issue with how much or how the grandparents drinks (I don’t think they necessarily have to be alcoholics to be problematic drinkers – it’s a continuum) and the grandparents may not realize quite how much they drink, but at the same time this isn’t the mother’s only request – she gave them a list!

    But regardless of the real situation with the letter writer and her daughter, Amy’s advice is, well, crap. It uncritically promotes the idea that someone who has had a glass of wine is not a suitable caregiver and fails to acknowledge the (huge) favor the grandma is doing for her daughter.

    Personally I’m not in favor of giving any caregiver strict rules (even if I’m paying). For the most part if someone is looking after my kids I want them to have good judgment and a compatible approach to life. If I need to micromanage them I’m not going to want to leave my kids with them for more than a few hours anyway. Making suggestions, developing a schedule, or if the child has special needs, that’s one thing – but telling a caregiver *they* can’t or must do particular things, in many ways I’d just rather not use them.

  90. Hmm, on this one I have no issue. I have to wonder why the grandparents are freaked out about 3 nights with no wine. Why do you need wine so badly that 3 meals without it is upseting you?

    Second, I have no issues with no wine around children that aren’t your own. Yes, I know the emergencies in life are rare. We have only had 2 emergencies in my son’s 4 years of life (we have two children, but my younger one has not had an ER trip yet, though I am not sure how.). By emergencies, I mean ER trips that need to happen right this minute. But to have someone that isn’t his parents deciding how much wine is OK for them to drink and then possibly drive with my child in the car, no, I don’t think so. We don’t drink around our kids for this reason (well, hubby might have a beer, but if he does, I don’t). I know, I know, I am a horrible parent for keeping one person sober and expecting anyone who watches my kids to remain perfectly sober. But my husband has scraped people off the road that had “just two beers” (and honestly probably really did only have just two). Their reaction time was slower behind the wheel, someone hit their brakes unexpectedly, wham! If that makes me a paranoid Mom, that’s one title I can live with on this issue.

  91. @ kittenpie re: the advice from Parents NOT to let your children have a sip to avoid mixed messages- a couple of years back, my hubby, son (2, then), and i went to medieval times with my sis and her two kids (13 and 9 at the time). the folks at medieval times do not stint the alcohol in their mixed drinks. my sis got this tall, fruity drink to share with me. her kids thought it looked good and asked for a sip. she said, “just one sip, it’s alcoholic.” you know what message they got? even sweet, fruity alcoholic drinks taste strong and (to them) nasty. her son said, “why would anyone want to drink that?” as he reached for his soda. no mixed messages there!

  92. If I in any way suspected that a sitter had an alcohol problem at any level, they wouldn’t have my kids in their care…alone…for a morning – let alone for an overnight. Especially not for 5 days! I do have/have had alcoholics in my family and I recognize that it can get out of hand. A responsible parent doesn’t go ahead and drop them off anyway with a rule about no alcohol. Please, that alone seems to make this a case of rude and know it all parents.

    Also, with no grandparents living near us, I can say that I would buy my relatives whatever they wanted to get 2 FREE OVERNIGHTS PER MONTH!!!!!!!!!!!!! Maybe even a nice bottle of wine. ;D

  93. I’ll chime in with the ‘clone these grandparents and send them here’ crowd. I would kill for nearby relatives that would take the kids.

    Do we wonder where this generation of kids gets their entitlement genes from? “Hi mom. I want you to provide free overnight babysitting, and I want you to obey my 4 page list of rules exactly, or else.” I hope this mom isn’t surprised when her daughter gets to high school and demands “Mom, I need the latest iPhone, and all designer clothes, and a ride to the mall, and my room decorated just so or else. And no, I won’t be doing any chores, and my supper better be ready on time.” At which point Grandma can laugh for about 5 hours straight.

  94. “Germany actually has negative population growth. In a few generations, Germany will be Turkish and France will be Algerian.”

    And then they’ll be forbidden by sharia to drink alcohol and you’ll be happy, right?

    “Hmm, on this one I have no issue. I have to wonder why the grandparents are freaked out about 3 nights with no wine. Why do you need wine so badly that 3 meals without it is upseting you?”

    Well, let’s say you regularly have a glass of ice tea with dinner, and your daughter asks you to go without ice tea for three nights. Would that upset you? It would irritate me. I’m giving you free babysitting, and you’re telling me I can’t have the drink I enjoy having with dinner every night for three nights? I COULD do it, but I don’t WANT to do it, so why SHOULD I do it, while I’m babysitting your kids for free?

    “my sis got this tall, fruity drink to share with me. her kids thought it looked good and asked for a sip. she said, “just one sip, it’s alcoholic.” you know what message they got? even sweet, fruity alcoholic drinks taste strong and (to them) nasty. her son said, “why would anyone want to drink that?” as he reached for his soda. no mixed messages there!”

    Don’t assume that is going to happen. My three year old kept asking for a sip of my wine, and I kept saying it was an adult drink. Finally, just to keep him from asking again, I let him have one tiny sip, assuming he would find it nasty and never want it again. He immediately wanted another sip. So I had to go back to saying “No,” and once I said that another 20 or so times, he got the message and stopped asking.

    There’s no confusion about what adults are allowed to do vs. what kid’s are allowed to do. Kids don’t drive. Kids don’t drink coffee. Kids don’t watch this DVD. Kids don’t touch this vase. We have all sorts of rules about what only adults can do. In my daughter’s words, “Only mommies can drink wine. Only daddies can drink beer.” (Okay, there’s some confusion there…)

  95. Okay, just got to ride the hobbyhorse one more time.

    Shannon said, “Yes, we are extreme puritans about alcohol in the US”

    Actually, the Puritans had NO PROBLEM with moderate use of alcohol — they probably even tolerated a level of consumption that the highway patrol doesn’t, these days. It’s definitely an American thing to have weird hangups about alcohol, but it didn’t come about until the mid-19th century when the Puritans (as we think of them) had long disappeared. The Puritans may have been many things, but sexually repressed and abstemious were not among them.

  96. BTW, that’s not meant as a shot at Shannon. It is a common misconception, just one I find it entertaining to take on. 🙂

  97. The daughter grew up in the house where these same people enjoyed there glass of wine. Did the daughter grew up to be a raving drunk? Then why does she thing that the grandchild will. Stop the insanity tell the daughte to get another babysitter for the five days that she has to pay for. She will be back asking grandma and grandpa to take the child.

    Should we ask why they are leaving the child in the hands of the grandparents while the self indulge by taking classes. If this is such a problem maybe they should forgo continuing education until their child is grown.

  98. @katy — I have to wonder why the grandparents are freaked out about 3 nights with no wine. Why do you need wine so badly that 3 meals without it is upseting you?

    Well, I could answer that. I go days, weeks, even months sometimes without a glass of wine or other alcohol, and never have more than two measured “drinks” at a time. But I don’t need someone telling me I can’t have any under certain conditions, when their reasons don’t hold water.

    So I think it is a control and respect thing. I would never “insist” that my parents do this or that WRT my kids, and the only way I could even imagine it happening, was if there was actually a genuine good reason for it. There is no genuine good reason not to have even a drop of alcohol while caring for children. People who actually HAVE kids and occasionally drink are not irresponsible, so why would grandparents doing so while babysitting be so?

  99. When my daughter was a toddler she would go around putting her hands on glasses and saying “cold, cold” one evening she put her hand on my glass of wine and said “cold” and I corrected her by saying “No honey, red wine is served at room temperature.”

    I honestly think that if you normalize reasonable alcohol consumption it demystifies it for your children. I like wine with my meals. I don’t get drunk and my daughter doesn’t see it as an intoxicant but rather something she might enjoy when she is of legal age and her taste buds have matured.

  100. […] I was reading my friend Lenore Skenazy’s blog, Free Range Kids. She posted about a “Dear Amy” advice column that appeared in the paper — the writer of the question, a grandmother, had an interesting […]

  101. About 15 years ago, I was writing about city government and urban land use for an independent weekly that was largely dependent on ads from bars and live music clubs. I got interested in the way that elected officials and munincipal employees were incredibly subservient to very activist, very intolerant homeowners’ associations who claimed to be “the voice of the neighborhood.” (“Nitwitted NIMBY Neighborhood Nazis” was what I called them; it was the sort of paper where you could get away with things like that.) But the gist of it was that the conventional wisdom was that any place that sold alcohol caused crime, deflated property values, and ruined the quality of life, and closing these places was A Good Thing. Mind you, I’m talking about neighborhood taverns that had been in business for decades, and, upon finding themselves with high-dollar new-construction residential housing, were suddenly and continually being harrassed by local officials – often to the point of closing. Any attempt to point out that these places had been a part of the local culture much longer than the “townhouse carpetbaggers” or that they provided a great deal of employment and tax revenue was greeted with the response that anyone who opposed shutting down the Dew Drop Inn was obviously a drunken, drug-addict criminal.

    I did a lot of research on the neo-prohibitionist movement – it’s a nationwide phenomenom – and while the Volstead Act was sold as morality, the new banner is that it is a public health concern. The reality is that these views and actions are just about control – control freaks who find themselves in position to enforce their will on others with the blessings of officialdom. And as a presidential aide from one administration or another (I have a hard time telling those crooks apart) said “Power corrupts; absolute power is really fun!” That is what is going on when someone buys a six-figure condo across from a long-established bar and begins calling the cops three or four times a night with fictional complaints; that is what is happening with this mom and grandmom. “I’m the big person now and you have to do what I say!”

  102. [b]Well, let’s say you regularly have a glass of ice tea with dinner, and your daughter asks you to go without ice tea for three nights. Would that upset you? It would irritate me. I’m giving you free babysitting, and you’re telling me I can’t have the drink I enjoy having with dinner every night for three nights? I COULD do it, but I don’t WANT to do it, so why SHOULD I do it, while I’m babysitting your kids for free? [/b] Not sure if code works.

    ——————————
    Wine compared to tea. I have never, ever seen anyone with slower reaction time behind a wheel because they had 3 glasses of tea at a meal. I have seen people that had slower reaction times after wine. Drunk isn’t the only way to drive under the influence. So, no, I would have no issue if my child asked me not to partake of an alcoholic tea while her child was in my care, none at all. In fact, I am more careful with other people’s children. Not freak out careful, we are much more allowing of things around our home than most of our friends, but if I had even one glass of wine a month, I wouldn’t make it the night(s) that someone’s child was in my care. I have no issue with someone asking me now to partake of unnecessary things that could cause a possible harm to their child in an emergency for a night or two here or there.

  103. I don’t think asking people to refrain from drinking in front of your children is an outrage. Now, if the daughter said, “Zero tolerance for drinking in front of any children ever”, well, that would be overstepping her bounds outrageously. But frankly, as the child of an alcoholic, I have a problem with the idea that it’s an outrage for me to ask someone not to drink when they’re taking care of my children. And I don’t see what whether I paid them or not has to do with it. Now, I would not ask someone in their own home not to drink in front of my children – it’s my decision whether I allow my children to be watched in their home, but I don’t feel that it’s right for me to tell them what they can and cannot do in it. But when my children are being watched in my home, where there is no alcohol unless the caregivers bring it themselves, I feel that I am perfectly in my rights to ask that it not be introduced.

    In this case, if the daughter is asking the parents to watch the child in their home, I think it would be respectful of both parties to sit down and have a discussion regarding the issue and the reasons for each party’s approach to it. But I also think it’s hard to make a case for this being an outrage without knowing a whole lot more about the people involved.

  104. Note: That first line should read “I don’t think asking CAREGIVERS to refrain from drinking in front of your children is an outrage.” I recognize that I’m not raising my kids in an alcohol-free world. But I would like to raise them in an alcohol-free home.

  105. But this is not apparently about not drinking “in front of” the children. It is about not drinking while the children are present, asleep, or whatever. And this IS the grandparents’ own home.

    Perhaps “outrage” is going a little far. But it is unreasonable, unless there really are things going on that we don’t know about, but we can’t assume that there are. And again, almost any factor that we don’t know about that could justify the request, is better dealt with by not having the parents be responsible for the child for several days.

  106. “Now, I would not ask someone in their own home not to drink in front of my children”

    My impression was that she was leaving the kids in her parents’ home for three days and asking her parents not to drink at all during that time. That just strikes me as rude.

    So people who think this requiest is fully justified–do you really believe every parent who drinks a glass of wine with dinner is being irresponsible?

  107. Whoa, Amy and the daughter need a chill-pill. Most of the postings here I agree with (i.e., teach your children about responsible behavior), but I’ve got you all beat. When I was growing up in a large (5 kids) family, one of my parent’s hobbies was to rebuild and redecorate our very large home (we each had our own room, no-sharing = heaven!). Dad took the attached garage and remodeled it into a family/den/party room with, wait for it… a built-in BAR, complete with 3 beer taps, sink and frig. Mom was into interior design, so she design it to look like a tree was growing out of the middle of the bar with the branches and leaves hanging over the top of it, like an island hut in the Bahamas. Totally cool, huh? Neither the room or the taps were ever locked-up. We kids never thought of it as being forbidden, probably because my parents never made a big deal out of it. It was kind of like hiding in plain sight, so we never really thought of it as taboo. Even so, most of us now are mainly social drinkers. My son doesn’t like the taste of alcohol, so I don’t have to worry he’ll ever abuse it. I’m more concerned with his video game and fast food addictions than alcohol consumption.

  108. Dear WL’s Daughter,

    Seriously? Your parents are willing to provide almost a week of free babysitting for a toddler, and you want to tell them they can’t have a glass of wine at dinner? Listen, I have the solution to your problems: Send your parents my way, and you can hire a nanny and boss her around all you want.

    If your parents are both alcoholics and/or binge drinkers, you shouldn’t be leaving your toddler with them. If they aren’t, a glass of wine or so is not going to render them incapable of looking after him.

    Enjoy your out-of-state class.

    Sincerely,

    Mostly non-drinking parent

    . . .

    There is one thing I would make a rule about if I were leaving my kid with grandparents (or anyone), and that is hitting (or, if you prefer, “spanking”). Frankly, though, except in some sort of dire emergency, I don’t think I’d even consider leaving her in the care of someone who considers “spanking” kids appropriate to begin with — so the idea of making that a rule would be unlikely to come up.

  109. If the rules were an inconvenience to me, I would politely decline the “privilege” of babysitting the child for extended periods of time.

    As someone who has young children and no extended family nearby, it amazes me how often I hear people who are not only unappreciative of all the free babysitting their relatives provide, but act like they are doing their relatives a favor by leaving their children with them.

  110. “My son doesn’t like the taste of alcohol, so I don’t have to worry he’ll ever abuse it. I’m more concerned with his video game and fast food addictions than alcohol consumption.”

    I wouldn’t assume not liking the taste of alcohol AT THE MOMENT is a hedge against abuse three, two, or one year from now – or even six months from now. For most people, alcohol is an acquired taste.

  111. I found Amy’s response ridiculous. And I’m speaking as the sober alcoholic father of a toddler. … I think the only time a single glass of wine ever affected my sleep was when it followed half a bottle of Scotch.

    All kidding aside, there are two strong possibilities here: The son-in-law has issues relating to his side of the family and has laid down the law on this. There are many people out there who view any consumption as excessive.

    But it’s very likely that grandma may not have been entirely honest about her drinking. “A glass of wine with dinner” is a pretty common refrain for those in denial. It’s been my observation that people who don’t have a drinking problem don’t react this strongly to the idea of not drinking.

    Further, the fact that she’s doing so preemptively — “as they start to ask us to care for our grandson for longer periods, I’m wondering if the no-tolerance rule is still an appropriate expectation” — rather than reacting to a recent incident very strongly suggests a preoccupation with alcohol not usually found in “normal” drinkers.

    Two things I hear said all the time are that people who don’t have a drinking problem don’t spend much time wondering if they have a drinking problem and that if those around you think you have a problem, then you may have a problem.

    Cheers –

  112. @Ralphinjersey – I don’t know that she’s necessarily reacting strongly to the idea of not drinking so much as she may be reacting to the idea of being told what to do in her own home.

    We drink wine at lunch and dinner both. We enjoy it. And frankly, if someone who wasn’t paying my mortgage told me “You can’t”, they’d be bounced out on their ass on principle. Not because I can’t do without my wine, but because I get to set the rules in my home.

    It may well be as you surmise, though.

    Either way, Amy’s response should have been “Tell your daughter to hire a sitter.” It neatly handles both possibilities.

  113. This reminds me of my 3rd grade teacher – who threw a fit at my mother because I told her some rules the TABC had. My Dad was in the beer business, I would overhear him explaining rules to adults.

    Then there was the neighbor that swore Sis and I would be falling down drunks. The reason – when Dad’s company sponsered events there would be left over shirts with his logo on them. We would run around in them on the weekends.

    Then there were the donations from Dad’s company to the school

    Elementary – ice, and Cardboard (6ft x 3ft used to turn the PE portable into a haunted house). His drivers would park across the street. Change their shirts, and then go in the building get Mr. John the custodian. He would bring a flat bed out and help them haul the stuff in. Couldn’t use their equipment because it had logo on it.

    JH – I was failing math because the school “ran out of paper” and we were having to copy 3 boards of problems from the chalk board. No matter how hard i worked I couldn’t get more than 1/2 through each day. Dad hit the roof. He called people to donate paper and toner. Then he showed up with his donation. He went in for the flatbed and the principal couldn’t understand why dad was parked across street. He went out to help – Dad had a panel truck (with logo on side) filled front to floor to ceiling with paper.

  114. This is such b.s. Either the daughter trusts her parents with her child in which case she sure as heck shouldn’t be making up rules, or she doesn’t in which case she sure as heck shouldn’t be leaving her child with them. I have no grandchildren yet, I’m looking forward to having them some day, but it one of my children EVER presented me with a set of rules, I would invite him or her to find another babysitter.

  115. I would never leave my kids with anybody who I had to leave a list of rules for their behavior, well other than their father and that’s only because he forgets those little things like making sure ds pees before bed so I’m not up in the middle of the night changing his sheets. I could just imagine my mom if I tried to give her one, she’d laugh so hard she cried and tell me to hire a babysitter then.

  116. I can’t help but think most of the people responding here are forgetting something: family politics.

    Let’s set aside the idea that the grandparents are actually irresponsible drinkers. I think we pretty much all agree that if they were, the mother shouldn’t/wouldn’t be leaving her kid with them at all, let alone for nearly a week (and in the future, it may turn into a week or more). That leaves only the idea that the mother (or the father?) is basically being a control freak (remember, this isn’t the only rule, it’s one of a laundry list, the alcohol rule just happens to be the one in question because it’s likely the most volatile one and maybe the only one that they currently disagree on).

    Now, we have grandma, who likes a glass of wine at dinner, and we have mother, who grew up with the parents’ wine habit (did it ever occur to anyone that the grandparents might be immigrants from Europe, and so the wine thing is cultural and they don’t understand why such a rule exists now that the grandchild is older?), but for some reason is now vehemently against having alcohol around her kids (and evidently a myriad of other rules for the caretakers of her kids). Why is mom suddenly like this? We don’t know, but we do know that she is, and when it comes to family politics, that’s what matters. If the mom has this laundry list of rules, then perhaps grandma is worried that if she tries to confront mom about any of the rules, that she’ll never get to see grandson again. As absurd as that sounds, I’ve seen such things happen (my mom’s sisters haven’t spoken to each other in something like 25 years because of some stupid spat that no one even remembers anymore, even at their own mother’s funeral this past summer, they didn’t say a word to each other).

    Perhaps it’s not an alcohol issue at all, but rather a “control” or “morality” issue. People who grow up with alcohol in the house and grow up with it consumed responsibly tend to have a view of alcohol that is one of “it’s not a big deal to have around,” unless something powerful enough happens that changes the person’s entire paradigm. Perhaps it’s the husband’s influence? Maybe it was a religious experience and the joining of a particular denomination that has demonized any alcohol consumption?

    It seems to me that there is certainly more going on than what is being told here, and I think grandma’s reluctance to talk to mom has a lot more to do with family politics than it has with just about anything else.

  117. I agree it depends on how the grandparents are affected by drinking. My sister would hit the roof if I drank while watching her kids. Her inlaws, our cousins she wouldn’t give it a 2nd thought. The reason is I don’t react well – 1/2 a glass of wine can knock me out for hours. Of course I don’t drink for this very reason.

  118. […] Outrage of the Week: No Wine In Front of The Kids Hi Readers! Here’s an advice column that had me reaching for the scotch. And I don’t even drink: Dear Amy: […] […]

  119. My brother has been pretty strict with a personal “no drinking in front of the kids until they’re old enough to drink” rule. I think it’s whack, but respect his decision. I personally think it’s better modeling to show a “take-it-or-leave-it” approach to alcohol — ok sometimes but not necessary. So far his kids seem pretty balanced — too soon to know about mine. Cross your fingers.

  120. I grew up in an alcohol free house. I hated it. I binge drank in college, was terrified of other kids parents who drank a single beer… and for what? There’s nothing in the world wrong with a bit of wine with dinner and my child will be exposed to it from an early age. Teaching responsibility is the key, not teaching fear. Fortunatly, all of my siblings and I now drink on a casual basis (maybe one or two a month) and found it important that our future spouses be willing to drink a bit, too. We were all seeking balance and tollerance and thankfully, I’ve found it. Now, off to get a glass of wine…

  121. OH. MY. GOD. As someone who has no babysitting relatives handy, all I can say is the daughter needs to get a grip. Three nights and five days, and you’re kicking up a fuss about a glass of wine? The only thing the grandparents need to worry about is how they managed to raise such an ungrateful and self-righteous bitch.

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  123. holy cow, wine is one of the only things making life with small children tolerable sometimes.

    Anyway, you just have to trust your elders sometimes, if you want to mooch childcare off of them. That just seems basic to me.

    (For my part, I’m so grateful for any kind of childcare help that I even kiss my teenaged babysitter’s butt for deigning to accept 10 bucks an hour to watch TV on a Friday night.)

    So, at this point, I would never in a million years presume to dictate a laundry list to an elder that I otherwise trusted enough to watch my child. FOR FREEEEEEEE!!!!

    So I guess I agree with Dragonwolf– this sad tale reveals more about the relative weakness of Grandma in this particular family relation than it does about free-ranging per se.

    Maybe Grandma just needs to quit being so readily available for free babysitting for awhile, and see how THAT sets with Momzilla.😀

  124. Although I do believe that if you ask people to watch you children you should tryst their judgment and not put up a list of rules. But I do not understand why people need to drink alcohol every night or even every week. If she knows her daughter would rather not have her drink, than why not leave it for thos few days. If she misses it that much than she might be a closeted alcoholic after all.

  125. Anna – You’re inability to see things from others’ perspective is a poor excuse for suggesting they’re alcoholic. It’s possible they’re alcoholics, but resenting being told to change their lifestyle isn’t, by itself, a good indicator. There seems to be a pervasive belief, particularly in the US, that anyone who resents being told not to drink is likely alcoholic – it’s absurd. I resent being told not to eat cheese or raw egg but I’m not addicted to either.

    It may be the original letter writer just enjoys a glass of wine – millions of people do. Looking after kids can be hard work and relaxing in the evening in a way that you enjoy is a welcome respite. It may be that she has been reading the growing body of scientific evidence that links good health and longer life with moderate alcohol consumption.

  126. Wow. Interesting responses. Such touchiness about drinking a glass of wine! Does a wine-drinker have to be either health-conscious or a lush?

    I myself learned how to drink responsibly from my parents. They taught me themselves. Alcohol was never a forbidden thrill, just one of those acquired tastes like coffee (or olives!) which adults seemed to like and kids didn’t. Their good sense, plus my curiosity as I gradually got over the “eewww” factor, turned me into the happy cheap date I am today. I’m fond of drinks, all sorts, but one is all I want.

    I’m hoping to do the same with my kids if they’re interested. (My husband doesn’t drink, so it’s up to me.) And if they’re not, fine. So far one likes coffee, one doesn’t care.

    And a thought about older teenaged children: Lenore, when you and I were at Yale, (Hi it’s me Martha) the drinking age was still 18. Those “happy hours” on Friday nights, before dinner, featuring a different cocktail each week – remember? a buck for a screwdriver – were also a good way to show college students how drinking could be easy and fun and relaxing AND responsible (y’know, like for grownups) instead of an illegal, macho, potentially deadly sport.
    Clealy those days are over. (Another subject altogether.) But to some extent maturity about drinking was an incidental part of our college experience. That might make an interesting study…

  127. I even let my *son* drink wine. Every Sunday! And he see’s everyone else in church drink it too!

    I am always amazed at how “puritanical” we Americans can be whn it comes to alcohol.

  128. One glass of wine? really? thats bad? WOW do these parents not know how to unwind and relax?

  129. “There seems to be a pervasive belief, particularly in the US, that anyone who resents being told not to drink is likely alcoholic – it’s absurd. I resent being told not to eat cheese or raw egg but I’m not addicted to either.”

    It goes beyond that, it seems to me. Almost anytime someone brings up resenting being told what to do rather than being allowed to trust their own judgment, a goodly number of people will raise the specter of that person having some sort of negative, problematic relationship with the thing under discussion, whatever it is. The American fussiness over alcohol and a few other things somehow makes this socially acceptable in some cases, whereas it’s seen for how obnoxious it is in some others. The possibility that adults simply find it offensive or even just don’t like to be presumed to be irresponsible in their choices without actual evidence that they are, is off the table for some people, for some reason.

  130. Wow…this is absolutely insane. My DH is from France and he drinks a little wine with most meals. Big deal! I am not a big drinker, unless I have a beer on a date, but once in a while, i have some wine. Yes, in front of my kids. Deal with it.

  131. And to the commentors saying France has a population problem, you are incorrect. France actually has one of the highest birthrates in Western Europe – partly because they did have a problem with that in the 70s. So, the government started provided incentives (ie, money) to people if they had more than one kid. it worked.

  132. I understand that the child in this scenario is a toddler. But I assume that as the child gets older, the grandparents may continue “baby-sitting”. Why not get into the habit of not drinking in front of the child now? Drinking alcohol is an adult behavior (that’s one of the reasons underage drinking is illegal) and should not be done in front of children. Adolescents are anxious to become adults, and when they see adults engaging in adult behavior, it makes the child want to participate in that behavior as soon as possible. If the child is genetically or biologically predisposed to alcoholism, the grandparents could be contributing to creating an alcoholic. There are some adult behaviors that should not be practiced in front of children. You don’t have sex in front of your children, do you? Why not reserve the adult practice of drinking alcohol to the privacy of adults?

  133. When it started to look as if my parents drinking habits were likely to be an obstacle to their being able to run a kid to the ER if it were necessary, I put it to them — either don’t drink when you have our kids overnight, or we’ll just stop having them stay with you overnight unless we’re staying too.

    They chose the latter, which is their privilege, as independent adults. We stopped leaving the kids with them, though we still stay overnight as a family. It was a civilized solution which left all the relationships in reasonably good shape. (Ok, *I* would have been happier if they’d chosen not to drink, but the writing on the wall for that little wish has been legible for a long time.)

    The price of having family care for your kids is tolerating their way of doing things. If their way is really intolerable, well, then you lose that care option.

  134. This winter season has been very warm. Perhaps we can get started with the barbecuing season earlier this season, I can’t wait.

  135. I fully agree with the child’s parents. There is no reason to drink while caring for a child or in front of a child unless you have a problem. Why would you compromise your child’s / grand child’s safety? Why would you set an example of drinking for someone you love. I know you are thinking I’m some some kind of prude or fanatic. Not true. I just love my children and grand children so much that I wanted them to know you can enjoy life without alcohol. Teach by example.

    My parents quit drinking completely before I was born. They had been out with friends and had a few drinks. They came home, paid the sitter, and ignored the fact that my sister had a high fever. The good news is she didn’t have brain damage from that night of neglect and it scared both parents into total abstanance.

    What wonderful role models they were for us. I feel that most children will go one step beyond what they see as the “norm”. I have maybe five drinks a year. And, it’s not in front of children.

    I hope you love your grandchild and respect your daughter enough to take a few nights off the bottle. Papaw too.

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