Little Pitchers, Big Ears: Setting a Responsible Example

There is no way anything gets past my daughter. This 8 year old sees, hears, and questions everything. The phrase, “Little pitchers have big ears,” could have been coined about her.

One recent evening, my daughter was wondering why the other adults at the table were having wine with dinner and I had refused a glass.

I explained that she had a swim practice later and that I was driving her there and back. She knows, from previous conversations (more like interrogations from my little lawyer) that it is illegal to drive when your blood alcohol content is over a certain limit. She also knows that a single glass of wine wouldn’t put me over that limit. Through an incessant round of questioning that would impress Torquemada – the first Grand Inquisitor – she’s discovered that a person’s BAC is affected by the amount of alcohol consumed, time, weight, and gender (and that, no, that’s not sexist).

So, this simple question turned into a big conversation about the effects of alcohol.

The law draws a line for the purposes of prosecution but I know that the effects of alcohol begin well before that point. Drinking alcohol dulls the senses, slows  reaction time, and impairs judgment. Having a drink before driving, especially before driving my children, is just not a risk I am willing to take.

Right now, my daughter says she does not understand why anyone drinks. When the dental hygienist compared the feeling of nitrous oxide to having a glass of wine (gee, thanks–great comparison to make for an elementary kid), my daughter resisted using the mask at the dentist. She did not like the idea of what she called a “buzzing feeling” or that she would not able to think and speak as clearly. Rather than accept anything that might make her feel less in control and less like herself, she preferred the needle of local anesthetic.

She may change her mind about drinking in the future. Even if she doesn’t, she’ll likely find herself in situations where others are drinking. Whether it is a rowdy audience at a concert, a classmate who swears he’s sober enough to drive, or a friend at a party, I hope she’ll make responsible choices. I know that she’ll remember my example, and our honest discussion, better than any lecture.

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Candace Lindemann is the founder of Naturally Educational. She is a curriculum designer and educational writer who holds a B.A. from Yale University and an Ed.M. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.  She gained hands-on experience with students, teaching in the classroom at two of the highest rated high schools in the United States and volunteering with at-risk children.
*The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility ( or any member.*