The Tribune Comany’s advice columnist — appearing here in the Los Angeles Times — is asked (and I paraphrase) this question:
When we babysit our grandchild, our daughter has a zero tolerance policy on drinking. We like a glass of wine at night. What do you think?
“Ask Amy” columnist Amy Dickinson answers (and I quote):
I support the “zero tolerance” policy of these parents. Even one glass of wine can affect your response time and sleep habits.
To which I respond: bullshit.
One glass of wine sipped over, say, a half-hour doesn’t in any meaningful way affect response time and sleep habits. Had Amy done a few minutes research before writing, she would have discovered that a single glass of wine has no meaningful effect on judgment, response time, or motor skills. Here, for example, is a study of five objective measures of psychomotor performance at different levels of alcohol consumption. From the conclusion:
The results of this study which indicate no impairment after an alcohol intake producing a BAC of less than 50 mg%mL, (0.05% blood alcohol) confirm similar results by many other authors…
In other words: Get a grip, Amy.
One glass of wine consumed by a 160 pound adult over the course of one hour produces a blood alcohol content of 0.02% (according to the University of Oklahoma Department blood alcohol content calculator), less than half the level in the above study, which found no impairment.
The truism that the consumption of tiny amounts of alcohol causes dangerous dysfunction has been put forth by otherwise admirable people trying to eliminate dangerous activities like drunk driving. And I would agree with Amy were she to endorse a zero tolerance policy of grandmotherly drinking and driving, or grandmotherly drinking and operating power tools, or grandmotherly drinking and filling out tax forms. But for a quiet night of babysitting at home, there is simply no justification for the absolutism that is Amy’s default position.
There is seldom a meaningful discussion of this kind of thing because ultimately the Ask Amys of the world can respond with “no risk is acceptable when it comes to children” and “it’s better to be safe than sorry.” No one wants to be put in the position of arguing for risking the lives of children. But the fact is that we risk our children’s lives every single day, and that if we didn’t our children would grow up to be horribly stunted adults. Why doesn’t Amy endorse a zero tolerance policy for activities demonstrably more dangerous than hanging around with grandma while she sips a single glass of wine? Where’s the condemnation of speed boats or soccer leagues or hiking in the forest?
I’ve done enough of Amy’s research for her, but I’d bet cash money that it’s statistically riskier to drive a baby across town to grandma’s house for babysitting than it is for grandma to have a glass of wine once the baby’s safely in place.
Why are Amy and people like her purists only when it comes to things like wine? You’ll have to ask Amy.