7-year-old boy removed from father and placed in state custody over mistaken order of hard lemondade

Christopher Ratte took his 7-year-old son to a baseball game at Comerica Park. He ordered a lemonade from a vendor and gave it to his boy. Unbeknownst to Ratte (a professor of classical archaeology at the University of Michigan) it was "hard" lemonade, meaning it contained alcohol. When a guard spotted the boy sipping from the bottle, the police were called in, the boy was taken from his father, driven by ambulance to the hospital, and put into foster care.
The 47-year-old academic says he wasn't even aware alcoholic lemonade existed when he and Leo stopped at a concession stand on the way to their seats in Section 114.

"I'd never drunk it, never purchased it, never heard of it," Ratte of Ann Arbor told me sheepishly last week. "And it's certainly not what I expected when I ordered a lemonade for my 7-year-old."

But it wasn't until the top of the ninth inning that a Comerica Park security guard noticed the bottle in young Leo's hand.

"You know this is an alcoholic beverage?" the guard asked the professor.

"You've got to be kidding," Ratte replied. He asked for the bottle, but the security guard snatched it before Ratte could examine the label.

... it would be two days before the state of Michigan allowed Ratte's wife, U-M architecture professor Claire Zimmerman, to take their son home, and nearly a week before Ratte was permitted to move back into his own house.



  1. I’ve never heard of hard lemonade either. Why wouldn’t make the distinction glaringly obvious? You just order a lemonade and they give you booze? wtf?

  2. Unbelievable! This would have been a non issue in any other country. Get ready for the Ministerium für Staatssicherheit everyone.

  3. What is wrong with people? I used to sip my dad’s bear as a kid every chance I could get. So what? God, is it cocktail hour yet!? This is Detroit for you!

  4. The flip side of this is that adults need to stop drinking children’s drinks with ethanol added. Vodka and beer are for grown-ups. If you can’t drink it without a cup of sugar in it, maybe you just should stick to chocolate milk.

  5. How things have changed from the days of Tiger Stadium. I’ve seen a security guard there get in a fist fight with a loud drunk and be cheered for it. Now they’re looking for kids sipping girlie drinks. Thank goodness there’s nothing more serious going on around there to draw the cops’ attention.

  6. Why is moral outrage the default emotion for so many people? Did they hire Tipper Gore to do security or something? Plus, ambulance? A university professor probably has insurance, but still, those things aren’t exactly cheap.

    That’s a pretty cheeky kid, tho, not mentioning the buzz. Mind you, I would’ve done the same.

  7. I found another typo, and this time it’s not mine but Mark’s. But just to add, my father’s bear did enjoy it.

  8. Runs around wildly waving arms!! OMG, police state!!!

    Seriously though, was the guard just supposed to let the 7-year-old drink his own malt beverage?

  9. I thought for a long time that it was normal lemonade. I’m 22 now, but at the time, I asked my father if I could try some and he just looked at me funny.

  10. “it would be two days before the state of Michigan allowed Ratte’s wife, U-M architecture professor Claire Zimmerman, to take their son home, and nearly a week before Ratte was permitted to move back into his own house.”


    What is WRONG with security people, police, state authorities, if they really acted in this way? Have they totally lost their grip of reality? To take a 7 year old kid away from his family for that length of time over a simple harmless mistake? If this had been my child, I’d like to think I would take them apart over this.

    That security guard should have quietly pointed out the error, everyone would have had a laugh, and that would have been the end of it.

  11. “was the guard just supposed to let the 7-year-old drink his own malt beverage?

    No, but they could have reached a happy medium where they could stop the kid from drinking the beverage and not snatch him from his father and throw him in foster care and prevent the father from living in his own house for over a week.

  12. wow, this is just wrong on so many levels. i guess i’ll need to be more careful when i’m getting high at baseball games, geez…

  13. I never had you pegged as a bear chaser, Jeff. I guess you just can’t make assumptions anymore.

  14. What a kafkaesque nightmare. In any normal society, you’d have a discussion with the security / police at the scene, it would all be cleared up, and you’d go home. Instead the action sets off an unstoppable sequence of events… except it’s not actually unstoppable. There were numerous opportunities for the authorities to exercise common sense, but no one could be bothered to take the miniscule risk inherent in thinking for themselves. It’s much easier to just go by the rulebook and put a family through hell in the process… and in the end, nobody ever lost their job for following procedure, right?

    I think it’s symptomatic of a larger trend in society: organizations setting up procedures and policies that practically have the force of law, and people carrying them out blindly so as to absolve themselves of any responsibility to think. We reward people for showing ‘due dilligence’ in these situations and never punish anyone for their ridiculous overreactions. In a sane society, everyone responsible for this debacle would be disciplined and possibly fired for incompetence.

  15. on the flip side, how in the hell do all of these adults not know what Mike’s is? They have huge ad campaigns and take up a sizable chunk of the beer section in just about every store. It’s one of the more popular alcoholic beverages today… do these people think Smirnoff Ice is a brand of soda too?

  16. To everyone going on about “Police States”…

    Let me first say that I too find this an appalling case of lack of proportionality in terms of official response to a situation.

    BUT! But, but, but…

    Before you simply shout “Orwell” and move on – let’s think about why stuff like this happens more and more.

    This is just my speculation – but could it be that maybe it’s just as much to do with the overly litigious nature of our society than any conscious effort by authorities to simply “go fascist”?

    Think about it… so, hypothetically, the situation goes another way…

    Same thing happens but the security guard lets them go with a warning and a chuckle. Then the kid gets really sick and/or dies (for whatever reason, it’s not important) and the parents sue the PANTS off everyone related to the stadium.

    Just saying – in this case you may think it’s an overly authoritarian response and I would totally agree. But think about why law enforcement agencies and even security guards might feel the need to “follow the letter of the law” in cases, especially involving children, when people will sue at the drop of a hat.

    Not justifying the behavior – just trying to understand it instead of just ranting for the sake of ranting.

  17. How could he not notice? Sheesh. It clearly says “hard”, “malt beverage” and lists the alcohol content. Since when does regular lemonade come in beer-sized glass bottles anyway? How could he not have known what it was? And I know prices at sporting events are ridiculous, but didn’t he notice that this ‘lemonade’ cost several dollars more than plain soda? Also, I’ve never been to this location, but every stadium I have been to has a separate vending counter for food and sodas and another one for all the alcohol. How could an academic be so ignorant?

    Yes, the authorities overreacted, but it’s entirely the father’s fault for not knowing what his kid was consuming. He doesn’t need to be abreast of every latest alcoholic development, but he should have paid attention to what his child was drinking.

  18. Wow, that’s nuts. According to TEXAS state law, it is absolutely LEGAL for a PARENT to serve alcohol to a CHILD, provided the parent is present at the time of consumption. Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code, Chapter 106 Sec 106.06 (b) A person may purchase an alcoholic beverage for or give an alcoholic beverage to a minor if he is the minor’s adult parent, guardian, or spouse, or an adult in whose custody the minor has been committed by a court, and he is visibly present when the minor possesses or consumes the alcoholic beverage.

  19. The kid will have a great story to tell though: ‘My first drink got dad expelled from the house’.

  20. Radio Canada CBC, Stuart McLean’s The Vinyl Cafe, Christmas Party episode where the spiked punch bowl for the adults gets switched for the kid’s punch bowl.

  21. #22 have you spent much time with academics, my sister?

    do these people think Smirnoff Ice is a brand of soda too?

    Honestly they probably think it’s ice.

  22. edit to my comment:

    While I do think that the incident is the father’s fault, I do not in any way condone the way the authorities handled it. I agree with #15, he should have just been notified of the mistake, warned, laughed, and let go to enjoy the rest of his day.

  23. #23 is right on. This isn’t Big Brother, it’s people being anal to the point of collective neurosis. (the Milly Syrus affair? whatever her nameis)

    And the boy was driven away in an ambulance??? How much alcohol was in that thing?

  24. They have huge ad campaigns and take up a sizable chunk of the beer section in just about every store.

    Perhaps some people spend less time in the beer aisle than some others. People who don’t drink alcohol probably pay no attention to alcohol advertising. You’ve kind of tipped us off to your own focus by trying to impose your paradigm on this gentleman.

  25. Doesn’t it occur that all this was traumatic for the 7-year-old, to be dragged away from his Dad at a ball game. Then foster care?!
    THAT is the child abuse. Do they really think they are acting in the child’s best interest? What has happened to good judgement?
    Why the over reaction?

  26. I’ll start by saying that I agree this is an overreaction, and I’m not trying to argue that the police reacted properly.

    For a slightly different perspective though, I believe I’ve seen the damage that this sort of thing can cause if left unchecked. I remember a camping trip with a friend some years ago; another acquaintance of his (we’ll call him Joe) came along with his wife and 4-year-old child. Late at night around the campfire, my friend was blending frozen strawberry daiquiris and to our astonishment, Joe and his wife were giving the kid his own glass, and letting him get drunk. Worse, this was something they were pretty casual about, saying they let him drink pretty often.

    Today I understand the boy has some pretty severe developmental problems. I realize correlation does not imply causation and we’re dealing with a very small data set, but I draw my conclusions anyway.

    Maybe a couple days of bureaucratic hassle could be a small price for a suspected individual to pay, for society to verify that a young person’s mind and life were not being similarly damaged?

  27. Well, thank god they removed him from his parents, put him in foster care, and scarred him for life, rather than just taking away the beverage and issuing the father a citation of some kind. Otherwise our poor public servants wouldn’t have anything to do all day except shuffle papers and surf the internet.

  28. An honest mistake. Meanwhile, there are children being horribly abused all over the place and no one does anything about it.

    They removed the child from his parents because of this, but there are children living in appalling conditions, with evidence of systematic and monstrous physical abuse.

  29. #21 (Syncrotic) Is absolutely correct. Couldn’t have said it better.

    To add, perhaps for a wide variety of organizations there should be a set of “common sense guidelines” and a booklet of examples for situations in which to exercise it. I’m kidding of course… I hope they really haven’t implemented such a farce.

    I’ve never heard of “hard lemonade” until this story either. What’s next, White Russian Yoo Hoo? Or Spiked Hawaiian Punch?

  30. I’m sure that the people responsible will argue that the response to the situation was justified. After all, they can’t admit fault. Everybody in a position of authority is always in the right. Just look at the Boston “bomb” scare…

    However, if they were completely justified in their actions, shouldn’t they also be held responsible for the consequences? (Read: the bill from the therapy this kid may end up needing)

  31. And we actually wonder and marvel at why 1 out of 100 Americans is currently serving time in jail?

    Of course the kid HAD to be taking into state custody and the parents charged with a crime. Mistakes don’t happen in America, only criminal intent.

  32. Isn’t this the parents fault? They chose to live there, they chose going to a public event. The father is supposed to be literate (a professor), he’s doesn’t read the papers, watch TV,nothing? He had a duty to know the risks. There is no law against emigrating from the USA. Yet.

  33. #24: How could he not notice? Sheesh. It clearly says “hard”, “malt beverage” and lists the alcohol content. Since when does regular lemonade come in beer-sized glass bottles anyway? How could he not have known what it was?

    Have you ever had Jones Cola? IBC Root Beer? Non-alcoholic drinks are served in beer bottles sometimes, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see lemonade served that way.

    And if you ordered a lemonade for your kid, would you be inspecting the bottle for its alcohol content? Of course not, you ordered lemonade.

  34. People used to send their kids off to school with a nip of alcohol in many countries around the world.

    Many European countries allow kids to drink and don’t have a minimum drinking age at all. In Italy, Portugal and Spain wine is given to everyone with meals. Even kids.

    Hell the Catholic church hands out alcohol every Sunday. Granted it is a very small amount. Maybe they should be locked up for child abuse.

    I haven’t seen much research as to the effects of alcohol on kids. Considering the sheer number of adolescents who have consumed alcohol, I imagine the long-term effects are modest at best.

  35. Hell, my Grandma used to make some wicked eggnog and she’d give us some, I think mostly to calm us down because it was Christmas and we were bouncing off the walls and ceiling. When my brother and I were in high school, we’d drink the leftover eggnog for breakfast. Hey, it’s made of eggs, right?

    Then there was the time I was 19 and ordered a Long Island Iced Tea, thinking it was some flavored tea. They served me (I don’t know why), and I drank half of it before I knew what I was drinking. Good thing my friend was smarter than me and was able to drive afterwards.

    So yeah, folks give their kids booze sometimes, and sometimes folks are buying booze and don’t know it.

    Then there was the time my brother ate some brownies he saw on a plate in the kitchen, ate them for breakfast, and got in trouble with my dad because there were “special”.

  36. First, let me agree with #29… and point out to all of you who are posting “How could he not know??!? How could any of you not know?!?”

    I’ve dealt with faculty before. Very frequently, they are wrapped up in their academic universes. I’ve known a professor who could link a single page out of literature to five religions, seven previous literary works and three or four contemporary (to the book) events, plus relate it to modern society. All within minutes of reading the page. Absolutely brilliant. But he dressed himself in Courderoy pants and jacket with a turtleneck… and Birkenstocks… OVER socks. In summer.

    I highly doubt he watched much television or perused the beer aisle with any frequency whatsoever.

    I’d expect him to know about as much about alcohol as most of the posters here do about how George Orwell’s works might borrow from Shakespeare. But to an Academic in the field of Literature, that might be a complete no-brainer. So, should we judge all of you as idiots just because you don’t know something that would be classified as Common Knowledge to someone from a different walk of life?

    Furthermore, I would point out that there’s no mention in the story of a history of abuse or neglect. #35 told of a boy who was rather casually (likely repeatedly) given intoxicating levels of alcohol. In this story, it was a one-off mistake. As others have, repeatedly, said… the response was entirely disproportionate to the event.

    Last, to those who comment on the litigiousness of modern society, I can’t deny that. However, if common sense (yes, I know – neither common nor sensical) were to prevail, a suit against the stadium/distributor/et.al. should fail resoundingly if the guard calmly pointed out the mistake, the danger involved, plus the location of emergency services (including, but not limited to) the nearest phone should the child become ill.

    At most, the event should have been reported to the authorities who could check for previous similar reports which could then trigger an intervention style response.

    But, you know… Nah. We have to protect kids from their parents, parents from themselves, and everyone from scissors with edges that can actually cut things. You know… Just in case.

  37. Mark Frauenfelder’s grandmother used to greet the family, kids and all, with vodka shots when they came to visit. She’s 107 and he’s the founder of BoingBoing. A little nip isn’t going to kill a 7 year old. In fact it might increase his longevity and snarky goodness.

  38. @Jordan M, #44:
    “Hell the Catholic church hands out alcohol every Sunday. Granted it is a very small amount. Maybe they should be locked up for child abuse.”

    Yeah. THAT’S why they should be locked up for child abuse.

  39. I think #6 Jeff hit the nail on the head here: Whether or not he was aware of the drink’s potency, short of physical harm, why does anyone get to say whether a parent should be allowed to supervise their child with an alcoholic drink? The law is that those under 21 may not be served liquor by license dispensaries; it says nothing about their own parents. I used to have a neighbor who let his toddler sip from his beer bottle; to the best of my knowledge said kid has not grown up either deranged or alcoholic. In my experience, and I think research would bear this out, extremes usually are born out of extremes, either in imitation or in reaction; moderation tends towards moderation.

    It’s funny that this should be a similiar situation to the “defense” that people offered when Barack Obama was accused of being a Muslim. Most people were quick to point out his faith, etc., but the only real defense that would have defused the question would have been “So what if he is?” Ratte’s response to flummox the guard shouldn’t have been “I’m sorry, I didn’t know, it’s the concession stand’s fault” but instead “So what if it is? Are you his father? No? Then kindly fuck off.”

  40. The whole thing is ridiculous, especially “the prof should’a knowed” argument. For Chrissake, bookworms keep their heads in books, not booze ads, and academics keep their heads in academics. Of course he didn’t know hard lemonade from shinola. Anyone over forty can’t keep up with three fourths of the shite that twenty-somethings take for granted.

    And what the hell is the big deal if the kid had a drink? How about if he got swacked? I’m not kidding! There are worse things than having an academician for a father letting his kid get a teeny jag on. Even if the guy knew it was booze (which he didn’t) there is no friggin’ crime here. I’m sure that kid will be exposed to more thought provoking stimulus in his life than the lot of us plebs.

  41. And meanwhile, when actual child abuse goes on, “the system” just lets the kids go right back to the abusive parent. I’ve seen that happen in the case of obvious, blatant physical abuse with obvious, blatant scars on the kid’s skin. Somehow, no one noticed those.

  42. Wow. Forgive me if I seem brusque, but this archaeologist *must* have been living under a rock his entire life.

    If you want lemonade, ask for regular lemonade. If you ask for HARD lemonade (and honestly, even my 78 year old grandmother knows this), you are obviously talking about the kind that contains alcohol. If both non-alcoholic and alcoholic products were served, he should not have asked for “hard” lemonade (article does not specify).

    Even if only hard lemonade was served at the concessions, any professor (unless he is blind) can read a label (on a glass bottle that does indeed resemble a beer bottle), and should do so before giving some unfamiliar consumable to his own child.

    I’ve had Mike’s Hard Lemonade, so I’m familiar with the bottles. Even if he didn’t know, and it was an honest mistake, the words “premium malt beverage” and an alcohol content printed on the bottle should have been enough of a clue.

    I reference the USDA’s suggestion, “Read it before you eat it”, or in this case, before your child drinks it.

  43. I have to agree with a fair majority here – total overreaction and disgusting treatment – what the authorities did to the kid was far closer to child abuse than anything the father did.

    To #22 and people who can’t believe the father didn’t know what the drink was: Well, first of all, if alcohol advertising or displays make any dent in your psyche, you’re interested in it. Apart from being an academic (so not totally immersed in the “real world” or popular culture to begin with), if the guy doesn’t drink, he wouldn’t notice. “Premium malt beverage” doesn’t mean anything to someone who’s unfamiliar with alcohol branding and from what I understand, the word “hard” isn’t displayed on the ballgame advertising. Besides, if he really was just expecting lemonade, why would he examine the bottle before handing it over?

    Even if that wasn’t the case, a citation should have been the maximum penalty here – maybe the trip to the hospital if there really was suspicion that the kid had been drinking more than the bottle in his hand. Records would be made, and cross-references with existing abuse reports and further action taken if something was found.

    As it is, a kid was abducted from his parents and sent away at the taxpayer’s cost for doing something that’s the normal with Mediterranean meals. Repeated high levels of alcohol could be abuse, but if you’re splitting up innocent families that’s far worse.

  44. #43: Have you ever had Jones Cola? IBC Root Beer? Non-alcoholic drinks are served in beer bottles sometimes, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see lemonade served that way.
    And if you ordered a lemonade for your kid, would you be inspecting the bottle for its alcohol content? Of course not, you ordered lemonade.

    Yes, I’ve had those and their very names clearly indicate ‘Cola’ and ‘root beer’. No ‘hard’ in sight. Also, typically stadiums put all sodas/lemonades/kid-stuff in paper cups because it all comes from a soda dispenser. They don’t usually serve premium sodas in glass bottles. And if I ever decide to have a kid, no, I wouldn’t go searching for alcohol content specifically. But I would look closely at anything I gave my kid, especially if it said ‘hard’ on it, and in the process I’d see the alcohol content clearly printed on the label.

    By the way, I don’t think he “should of known better” by being culturally aware or a frequenter of the beer aisle. He just should of looked at the thing before he handed it to his kid. A millisecond glance at the bottle before he passed it off would have tipped him off. It’s that simple. It’s that easy.

  45. To #56 ” And if I ever decide to have a kid”…ha-ha-ha nuff said. You don’t know diddly.

  46. Lilith999,

    You seem to have a lot of rules for people to follow based on your perception of reality. Not everyone knows what ‘hard’ means. Give it up.

  47. True, not everyone knows what hard means. All the more reason to read the bottle. If I don’t know what it is, or I’m unfamiliar with a product, I read the labels before eating/drinking. I would be particularly cautious before giving something foreign to a child.

    Having been to many sporting events across the country, what Lilith999 said is also true: At concessions, they usually serve fountain drinks (including regular lemonade) from plastic cups, and alcoholic beverages (beer, wine coolers) in the branded packaging. More than likely, there was a Pepsi/Coca Cola fountain in front with Minute Maid or Hi-C, and upon noticing that they were giving him something different, would he not have thought to look? Again, the article does not state (I’ve read this thing about three times, I’m not seeing any other details).

    I’m not arguing that the guy “should have known”, but I am saying that he should have looked closely at something he was not familiar with.

  48. Antinous,

    I don’t have any rules for people to follow. When did I ever state that I did? I’m just saying that as a parent it’s his responsibility to pay attention. That’s not my rule, that’s just the way the world works. That’s the way laws work. Not my laws, but the ones in place. You have a kid, it’s your responsibility to look after it. That includes knowing what you’re giving them. If you don’t know, then it’s your fault for not looking. No one purposefully deceived this man, he chose not to look at the bottle. It’s not complicated, it’s not some personal dogma I’m trying to shove down anyone’s throat. I still think the authorities overreacted, but it all could have been prevented if the guy had just looked.

    And if you think that believing parents should pay attention to what their children consume is some odd, personal rule of mine and not just common sense, then I don’t even know what to say.

  49. The word “hard” is pretty dang obvious on the label, but people never read labels.

    (Yeah, I’m a packaging designer.)

  50. Sure he should have known, should have looked. Doesn’t mean the official reaction wasn’t flat-out psychotic.

    One problem is that socal services jobs aren’t very attractive on their own merits–lots of education for mediocre pay–so a decent chunk of the people they attract are there to fight battles from their personal past.

    And a lot of the parents they see ARE scumbags, it’s easy for them to slip into treating everyone as an abuser, guilty until proven innocecnt.

    It’s also a system–like most security in fact–where the goal has been twisted over time. It’s not so much preventing tragedies as it is dodging responsibility with: “you can’t blame us, look at how much we did!”

  51. I’m of 2 minds of this article. Especially, after reading about the Austrian Father.
    Could the authorities reacted better? Yes.
    But, what if they did find abuse? Everyone would be cheering.
    My understanding with child services is once a complaint is filed. They have to follow procedures. Luckily, it turned out to be ok.

    And about the father not knowing about hard lemonade. He should of glanced at the bottle to verify it was lemonade. Anyone who’s been screwed at the drive thru will tell you. Check the food.

    I do not have kids. So, I maybe missing somthing.

  52. Lilith999, the guy made a dumb mistake at the most.

    Not allowed for a parent to make mistakes? You know what, “if you decide to have children” you’re going to make, not hundreds, not thousands, but millions of these boo-boos. You know why? Because an adult with children has their attention pulled in that many directions.

    You know what else? This guy didn’t do anything wrong, not one thing. He made a tiny error because he was unfamiliar with a new type of alcohol.

    You ever break a bone as a kid? You ever get a bad grade? Did you ever slip one past your parents? How did that happen? They weren’t supposed to let that happen! They must’ve been unaware/negligent, eh?

  53. My gut tells me to be on the father’s side with this, but in fact, he screwed up.

    To those claiming he is in the clear because as an academic he’s allowed to be ignorant of cultural trends, well, he’s a dad, and he’s responsible for his child’s well being. He should have read the label. If you asked him I’m sure he would agree. If you asked the kid’s mom, I’m absolutely sure she’d agree.

    To those of you claiming that he should be able to give his kid whatever he wants, you’re on a very hazy line that quickly moves to ‘he’s my kid and I can do anything to him that I want’. Ignoring that, because it’s boring, I’d like to point out that he was in a public place on private property (I’m guessing the stadium is privately owned, I don’t know). In that situation he doesn’t get to make the rules. If he’s in his own house it is a different story.

    This went too far. The most likely reason is that the father didn’t react properly. At some point he probably said something that either pissed someone off, or made the cops suspicious. Who’s to say he didn’t buy the drink on purpose. He probably hates baseball.

  54. These comments are made of hysterical. Parents are dumb, kids are dumb, cops are dumb. Everybody is dumb, that’s why this whole thing happened when it shouldn’t have.

  55. So if this cop had seen my parents buy me a
    grasshopper drink when I was 8 I could have
    gone to live with a nice foster family?

  56. I don’t know why I’m getting singled out when I’m making the same points as several other people…or why folks are putting words in my mouth that I didn’t say…but hey, it’s the internets, what can I expect?


    When did I ever say he’s not allowed to make mistakes? I never even went there…it’s irrelevant because mistake or not the resulting action is the point. Yeah, it was a dumb mistake. But it was his mistake. No one else’s. I never said he couldn’t make a mistake. Make all the mistakes you want. I make mistakes. You make mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes. I’m know this. I’m no idiot. But mistakes aren’t some magical state of being that grants you infallibility.

    Mistake or not, it is his responsibility. That is the point. If he didn’t want that responsibility, then he should have thought about that 7 years ago. He made a silly mistake at a ballgame and now he has to go through all this bullshit. It sucks, it’s not fair, but that’s his problem.

    You really want to claim he did absolutely nothing wrong? It’s okay for parents to blindly hand things to their kids without looking at it? Yes it was a mistake, a lapse in judgment in what is obviously otherwise a very intelligent man. But it is his fault for not looking. It’s his kid, it’s his job to look. I still maintain that he shouldn’t have gotten punished so severely, I don’t think he should have suffered at all, but he can’t blame anyone else for letting that drink get into his kid’s hand in the first place.

    And please, leave my childhood out of it. That’s just inappropriate and low. Not to mention irrelevant to the argument. But I feel obliged to say in defense that my parents did a great job that did involve some mistakes and I’m doing alright. No surprise, no biggy. I never claimed that this guy was screwing up his kid for life or being a bad parent. All I’ve ever said is that he just should have looked. He didn’t. Oh well. Maybe he will next time.

  57. When my mom was a kid, about eight or so, in Munich, Germany, my grandfather used to send her down to get him a beer, and she’d sip the foam off while carrying the mug up the stairs back to the apartment. She grew up fine, no developmental problems.

    (This was after WW2, so I don’t get to end with a punchline about the modern US making the Nazis look sensible.)

  58. So, we’ve got a guy who knows very little about alcholic drinks. He goes up to a counter and says “lemonade”. The guy gives him a “hard lemonade” instead. Not being conversant with such things, he probably thinks “hard” is some branding gimick – like “classic” or “extreme”. He then hands it to his kid. Hijinks ensue.

    If you order an orange juice, do you expect to get a screwdriver? It looked like what he ordered. He probably never even looked at the label… why would he?

    Honestly, the only real stupidity is that the guy at the counter didn’t give him the right drink.

  59. Almost every comment in this thread has been based on a judgment of the character of the father. Not one of us knows him personally, so not one of us is qualified to say what kind of person he is.

    Instead, lets make judgments based on general human nature, in relation to being at a baseball game with your son. These are typically loud, crowded public events. The point of being at a baseball game is not to put on a labcoat and magnifying glass and examine every line of every label of everything you give your children. Do you ask for an ingredients list on the popcorn? Do you ask for a fresh batch of cotton candy made in a hermetically sealed canister? Do you demand to know exactly how many peanuts are in that bag? No. You don’t. You trust that there aren’t going to be nails and razor blades and broken glass in those things. Plus, you trust that when you order a Lemonade, what you’re handed is a Lemonade, not a malt beverage. The concession stand worker made a mistake, the father didn’t catch it, and didn’t recognize the label. If you don’t know what hard lemonade is, and you don’t intentionally order it, it will come as a surprise when you get it and find out it has alcohol in it.

    The authorities well overstepped their bounds and to say they overreacted would be a colossal understatement.

    If you’re out with your child at a baseball game, you’re not there to read labels, you’re there to enjoy the baseball game and the company of your child.

  60. As many have pointed out, this is certainly child abuse, on the part of the state.

    @ # 22, There are a million stupid products out there. I’m supposed to know about Mike’s Lemonade? Why? Why in hell am I supposed to pay attention to it or any ads or any commercials?

    Yeah, you’ve got booze that seems like it belongs in the ice cream truck, you’ve got energy drinks with macho packaging that looks more like hair tonic, you’ve got ice cream and cereal and candy in colors that glow in the dark and why in hell should anyone have to keep track of it all? I am a mom. My kid ate some horrible junkfood at times. I didn’t read every effing label. Parents who did creeped me out. I didn’t, and don’t, pay a lick of attention to ads for beer or breakfast cereal.

    I stop to admire a wildflower while walking with some undergrads. “Look, here’s a trout lily.” And they are amazed that I can tell one flower from another, one tree from another, one rock from another, never mind the insects and what all else.

    “How can you remember all that stuff? ”

    They’re amazed. They shouldn’t be. They know hundreds of different brands of worthless products and logos and commercials.

    I don’t know more than they do, I just chose to focus on different things than they do. Those trout lilies have been around for millions of years. It’s probably worth my while to learn about them.

    Mike’s alcoholic lemonade? I don’t think that will be around so long. I don’t believe it will last to the end of the decade. And that Smirnoff’s Twist crap? Someone (a total lowlife, I might add) left a sixpack of it in my fridge once. As far as I could tell, it was made by soaking urinal candy in sugar syrup. Nasty, nasty, nasty.

    If I want alcohol in my lemonade, as I sometimes do, especially when I have a head cold in the winter time, I make my own. I squeeze lemons and use honey and some hot water from the kettle and pour in a little scotch.

    But I don’t drink the prebottled corn syrup and emulsifiers with artificial lemon flavoring commercial lemonade, especially not the kinds with alcohol. Pleh! Pleh! Pleh!

  61. What about the vendor’s responsibility? A middle-aged guy with a kid in tow asks for lemonade, and he gives him a girly-drink? What was the guy on, that he couldn’t parse the situation well enough to give a plain lemonade, or to ask the father whether he wanted a plain lemonade or an alcopop? I’m teetotal, and I’ve drunk lemonade in pubs, bars and clubs, and nobody has ever given me an alcopop when I’ve ordered a lemonade. If you’re going to lock people up for child abuse — while screaming “Responsibility!” at the top of your lungs, as though that justifies the most extreme action — then the vendor should have his licence taken away, at the very least.

    By the way, when are they going to lock away that woman who abandoned her eight-year-old kid to find his own way home, and who featured on BB not so long ago. Where was her sense of responsibility?

  62. Notes to self: childless people commonly enjoy self-righteous, delusional expectations regarding parenting and BBers continue to enjoy blaming the victims.

  63. That’s a little crazy and seems like the opposite of “protect” to me. Another example of application of laws that have the opposite effect of what may be originally intended.

    I tasted my dad’s beer when I was around 7. One “eew” and that was it. Sure didn’t grow up to be an alcoholic!

  64. I guess my Parents should have been sent
    to Sing Sing prison as I was allowed a half
    glass of wine at the dinner table.
    In any event a friend of mine brought her
    kid age 7 to an Emergency room and the Dr.
    called the Police and Social services guess
    for what?
    The family cat scratched the kid on
    the arm.No real ill effects from the cat
    scratch ,but the Parents in NYC were in
    trouble for awhile with Child Protection
    services. For nothing really.
    I wonder how i survived childhood during

  65. Very well.

    You did it, you are responsible. Raise it, love it, teach it, protect it. You died the day it was born.

  66. Oh all you sillies out there,

    Anybody who wants to place blame on our haplessly caricatured professor, I would point you all to “Free Range Kids” at http://freerangekids.wordpress.com/ — there is an interesting look at the dangers of over-supervision there. Also, I suspect that many here impugning dad are not in fact parents themselves, and misunderstand the difference between fanatical fear, due diligence, and realistic parenting.

    I agree fully with #21 and #23 (SYNCHROTIC and PFFFT). We’ve become too litigious and too authoritarian in response. So what’s the solution? How do we re-emphasize personal responsibility, and reaping one’s own punishment from personally-sown seeds? That would be far more interesting a conversation, but unfortunately I haven’t a clue.

  67. I don’t think it’s that unusual NOT to read the labels of foods- especially if it’s common food item bought from a concession stand. How many people who get their soda in a plain styrofoam cup ask to see the nutritional info of their drink? Of their kids’ drink? How many people ask if the root beer is A&W (which is caffeine free) vs Barq’s? (don’t ask me why I know this)

    I’ve been known to obsessively read the back of cat food tins and then turn around and feed them tuna without reading the label because somewhere in the back of my head I assume that canned tuna=tuna + brine, because every single can of brined tuna I’ve ever looked at read like that. Lemonade = sugar + lemon flavor + corn syrup + coloring + preservatives… reading every single label on every single food product that you ever touch comes across as a little OC, unless you have good reason (like severe allergies, or religious proscriptions).

  68. Pipenta, both this comment and your reply to Clay Shirky’s essay are absolutely brilliant and get right to the heart of the issues. I’m not sure whether to fall madly in love with you or merely lobby to have you become a full-time Boinger.

  69. But mistakes aren’t some magical state of being that grants you infallibility.

    Best. Blog. Comment. Ever.

  70. Dear Zippy

    I concur, she must be acquired for the Collective. I trust that the squad has been dispatched. Soon Pipenta too shall know the glory of the Grand Union of Boinger Minds. I shall personally see to the polishing of her vat. Does any here wish to dispose of her coarse, mortal vessel?

  71. @88 I have seen to the surface grinding and shot peening of a new plastron for her. It will be a glory to behold.

  72. We are sooo only hearing one side of a story here.

    The father as “all American joe at a ball game” falling victim to the Big Brother evil State. And everybody sooo wants to believe it so we can all hate the government.

    So he’s an academic, does that mean he couldn’t be some sort of extremist Libertarian who serves his 7 year old alcohol all of the time? Of course he would be denying that, now wouldn’t he, once the state took his child away from him.

    When I was like ten or eleven, I once saw some “hard cider” in my fridge my dad had bought and tried it, thinking it was just apple juice. A couple sips told me it wasn’t, and I didn’t like the taste at all. So the fact this kid of seven was drinking away at “hard lemonade” without trouble sure leads me to be suspicious it wasn’t the first time he tried it. Alcohol does take some getting used to after all, a lot of you just don’t seem to remember that.

    The fact the father is a college professor is presented to absolve him from any complicity in giving a child barely beyond being a toddler alcohol. How could he have knowingly done such a thing when he’s edumacated?? Thing is, I’ve known some pretty wacked out college professors myself, and some real drunks too.

  73. #89, Bruce Arthurs Author Profile Page:
    “Snapple Lemonade. Next question!”

    Ok, well, what alcoholic beverage comes in a 16-oz Snapple bottle?

  74. Y’know, I grew up getting the tail end of beers from my parents. I was allowed a glass of wine with Christmas dinner.

    I have grown up neither to be an alcoholic or developmentally disabled.

    In fact, I’m an academic.

    I know what Mike’s Hard Lemonade is, but that’s just because I was in college when it came out and I had a girlfriend who loved ’em. If I were older or didn’t drink myself, I can totally see how this could happen. “You want a lemonade? Sure, just a sec… SIR! Lemonade, please!” The rest is history.

    And yeah, a lot of academics–the good ones, anyway–are totally out of touch with reality. As you can no doubt surmise, I’m not a very good academic. Anyway, oftentimes when chatting with the really hardcore researchy types around the university water cooler, I’ll bring something up that I think is extremely well-known to people roughly my own age and will get total blank stares. E.g.:

    “What’s an Xbox?”

    “You can download TV from the internet?”

    “Have you seen any of these ‘miniseries’ I’ve been reading about on television?” (“Miniseries” pronounced as: mih-NIH-sur-eez)

    They’re clueless. If they weren’t paid to fixate on something, they’d be totally useless in society.

    This “protect the children”-ism must end. I was just out at a bar with my friend who have a baby. There was smoke in the air and alcohol everywhere else. I’m pretty sure the kid is going to be okay. In fact, her language development will probably be much improved, being out in adult society instead of having the Teletubbies coo at her and turn her into a moron.

    The world isn’t safe, but it’s not particularly dangerous either. Let’s all calm down just as soon as we publicly lynch everyone involved in this gross miscarriage of justice.

  75. Man, MY state is really hard on Alcohol Abuse. Serving a beer and a shot at the same time can get ya arrested. As can serving a gentleman 3 beers, even if he’s at the bar with two buddies.

    So, if this happened in my state, the guard would have apologized profusely, found out who served the father, and sicked the cops on that guy. Then apologize even more, and say please don’t sue us for the mix-up.

  76. Did you really think that we want those laws to be observed?” said Dr. Ferris. “We want them broken. You’d better get it straight that it’s not a bunch of boy scouts you’re up against – then you’ll know that this is not the age for beautiful gestures. We’re after power and we mean it. You fellows were pikers, but we know the real trick, and you’d better get wise to it. There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What’s there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced nor objectively interpreted – and you create a nation of law-breakers – and then you cash in on guilt. Now, that’s the system, Mr. Rearden, that’s the game, and once you understand it, you’ll be much easier to deal with.

  77. @#25 – “A person may purchase an alcoholic beverage for or give an alcoholic beverage to a minor if he is the minor’s adult parent, guardian, or spouse”

    The minor’s SPOUSE? That’s just creepy.

  78. @ Underrat (#99)

    The minor’s SPOUSE? That’s just creepy.

    Why? Given the amount of teen pregnancies, a lot of people do get married before they are eighteen. Hell, look in the country and you’ll see what I mean.

    In those cases, the spouse could be a minor, and the other person not.

  79. Meltin,

    While I certainly understand that it does happen, it doesn’t mean that it’s a good thing when it does.

    Kids should not be having kids.

    I’m sorry, but I don’t take it too well if I see even just a 21 year old (let alone a 30+) guy tagging an under aged young girl.

  80. I’ve been to a few MLB parks and I’ve NEVER received a glass bottle. *Gosh darn it* that’s a projectile that one could throw on the field! Safety first at these ballparks! Everything has been given to me in a plastic cup or bottle, so I am surprised that the Prof even had a bottle to look at. Not that it would have helped… the information about it being a ‘malt’ beverage is hard to read at best, and that’s looking at an undamaged label. If the bottle had been in a cooler of ice, the label might have been water damaged, or non-existent.

    Also, the article doesn’t mention if the vendor was behind a counter, or one of the isle-climber style vendors. I can see that the chances of miscommunication would go up if he was purchasing off of an isle-climber vendor, and the chance that the label would be damaged would increase as well.

    And, yes… I agree with #71: companies try to blur the line between products – having root beer or Jones cola packaged in beer bottles, having alcoholic beverages look like kool-aid, and to confuse matters more they use clever descriptors like ‘x-treem’, ‘propel’, ‘hard’ or other non-useful terms.

    If I ordered lemonade and got what he got, I would think that I’m not up on my lemonade brands, instead of my alcohol brands. I have a hard enough time keeping up on the dozens of brands of water that are made jazzier by marketing.

    As a note, it’s not up to a parent to be aware of every advertising campaign informing us of every product being brodcast on every station. It is possible that he had no idea that the brand even existed. Case in point: I couldn’t name you one American Idol contestant EVER. Does that make me a bad parent as ‘I should have known due to the amount of marketing’? Just because something is marketed to a niche audience does not mean that everyone outside that audience has a responsibility to know about it.

    The fallout from this is even sadder. The son and family have been, at best, inconvenienced, at worst traumatized, humiliated, and may even be ostracized by the neighborhood/community.

    Now that the father has a record with child services and the police, he will probably never be able to become a Scout leader, little league coach, parent helper ona school trip or any other ‘supervisory’ roll in an activity with his child. I wouldn’t be surprised if the school he teaches at has some sort of rules around this type of interaction with child services as well, as some of his students *may* be minors (slim chance I know).

    All because, it seems, (according to the linked article) that the family didn’t watch a lot of TV and weren’t a victim of marketing. But isn’t less TV and marketing exposure what we all claim to want for our kids anyway?

  81. Two things about the issue of the bottle:

    1) Mike’s Hard Lemonade doesn’t come in glass beer bottles anymore, it comes in plastic bottles that could easily be mistaken for soda or juice bottles. This may be a regional thing, I live in Washington State and don’t think I’ve seen a glass bottle of Mike’s for about a year, and I CERTAINLY don’t think they would sell them at a sports game for safety reasons.

    2) It is entirely possible he looked at the bottle to verify it was lemonade and didn’t notice that it was alcoholic. It would take a lot more than a cursory glance to overcome the confirmation bias of assuming you were handed a regular lemonade.

  82. Speaking of bottles, people are saying that the professor should have seen the “premium malt beverage” line on the bottle – quick Google image search on “Mike’s Hard Lemonade bottle” brought back stuff like this:
    Mike’s Hard Lemonade bottle
    Mike’s Hard Lemonade bottle
    Mike’s Hard Lemonade bottle
    Mike’s Hard Lemonade bottle

    I’m not seeing any plain references to “premium malt beverage” on the label… if I didn’t know what the stuff really was, at a cursory glance (after ordering lemonade) I can easily see someone accepting this as lemonade…

  83. Dead Air is an appropriate name. Are you intentionally trolling? My kids drank putridly sour milk once and never noticed a thing — I nearly passed out when I happened to get a whiff. My son (about 5 at the time) did admit afterwards that it seemed more like yoghurt, but … notice the alcohol when it’s intentionally masked under corn syrup? Not a chance. You don’t have kids, do you, he said with no perceptible question mark.

  84. @92: Mike’s tastes like candy and I can’t imagine any child NOT liking it. FWIW, at least one baby I know likes the taste of beer and wine and would happily down a sippy cup full if he were given the chance.

    I’m all for the state snatching away babies that are being physically abused or are otherwise in _immediate_ danger, but isn’t there some middle ground in these cases that involve sending the kid home and having a followup interview the next week?

    This isn’t meant condescendingly, but maybe it’s hard for some to understand magnitude of this because your children are not your entire existence. You know that guy locked in the elevator for two days? I think many or most parents would agree that this would much, much worse.

    It’s terrifying to think of the government taking your child away for the sort of mistake that an average parent makes daily, or creating some bureaucrat’s idea of a “moral hazard,” or because of a complaint filed by an angry neighbor. There are certain things you just. don’t. do. without a _really_ good reason. Breaking up families, even temporarily, is one of them.

  85. #94, Lilith999:
    “Ok, well, what alcoholic beverage comes in a 16-oz Snapple bottle?”

    Mickey’s Beer, aka Mickey’s Fine Malt Liquor (for various values of “fine”).

    Not 16 ounces, but similar in shape to the Snapple bottle.

    Really, you’re trying to object now because the Snapple bottle isn’t exactly the same size and shape as a Mike’s Hard Lemonade bottle?


    Just keep moving those goalposts, Lilith…

  86. It’s possible that the father didn’t grow up in the USA. I don’t think we have Hard Lemonade in New Zealand. I didn’t know what it was until I came to the US. For us Kiwis “lemonade” means something like Sprite of 7-Up.

  87. In fact, her language development will probably be much improved, being out in adult society instead of having the Teletubbies coo at her and turn her into a moron.

    That’s one of my pet peeves. How are children supposed to grow up to be adults if they spend their lives exiled to the designated children’s area? You spend eighteen years being treated as a baby and then get a quick lecture on how to be an adult before being sent out into the world. It doesn’t work.

  88. @#95
    “This “protect the children”-ism must end. I was just out at a bar with my friend who have a baby. There was smoke in the air and alcohol everywhere else. I’m pretty sure the kid is going to be okay. In fact, her language development will probably be much improved, being out in adult society instead of having the Teletubbies coo at her and turn her into a moron.”

    I agree with you, having worked with academic faculty, it’s not surprising that the father just didn’t notice, or suspect it might be alcohol laced lemon-flavored fizz water.

    And I agree with with many here that the response was over-the-top, which seems to be the default these days. You take a picture of a great piece of architecture, you’re a terrorist, etc. Too much wasting of precious resources on inappropriate overreactions.

    But, I must say, Kyle, that you did not stand up and demand that your “friend” take the child out of the bar immediately is a true failure of conscience. That that child was allowed to remain in a tavern is a true tragedy. I mean, is there nowhere a guy can go and have a beer and chat with his pals, and not have to hear the squalling of rugrats?

  89. In any case, this has reminded my of the Limoncello bottle back home.

    That stuff tastes like furniture polish. Maybe I’m being provincial, but I prefer my liquor not to be greasy.

  90. Why does it seem like law enforcers in this country are becoming more and more stupid everyday? Honestly, it’s like they tell them in training, “Be an idiot and a douchebag whenever possible.” I respect cops and guards that aren’t idiots, but these? Ugh.

  91. Unfortunately, this type of incident is all too common. CPS routinely seizes children based on third party reports of abuse and neglect (see Texas).

    Moreover, the threshold at which abuse and neglect is claimed has fallen dramatically over the years. In some sense this derives from community norms; in upscale neighborhoods giving a swat to a misbehaving child will invariably lead to a complaint being filed. We are quickly approaching the point where talking harshly to your child can lead to trouble with CPS.

    The most alarming thing is that this is done without due process as the child is taken before the case is fully ajudicated. I understand the conundrum of leaving a child with a potentially abusive guardian, but civil rights must come before “what-ifs”.

    The irony here is that the cure is usually worse than the disease: foster care is a derelict institution in and of itself.

  92. Matt, I don’t know if law enforcers are changing. But there’s obviously a problem with anyone wasting tax payer dollars on this kind of crap. Okay, so the kid was buzzed. Where’s the tragedy here?

  93. The important thing to keep in mind here is that these laws only inconvenience the common sort of persons. People of quality are of course exempt from such considerations, save only they might be looked askance by Society for a poor choice of domestic servants. I really don’t see what all the brouhaha is about. If this scrivenor or schoolmaster, whatever he is, is incapable of maintaining proper household staff to accompany his children at public outings, well then serves him jolly right if the local constabulary takes an interest in his affairs.

  94. I’m surprised no one has pointed out that aside from the mental anguish the child probably felt being taken away from his parents, in Michigan children in the care of the state are themselves in significant danger fare well

  95. so THATS why they call it the Wolverine State:

    • A 2-year-old boy beaten and burned to death in a foster home that had been cited for maltreatment nine times before he was placed there.

    • A 14-year-old girl diagnosed with depression who hanged herself in foster care after the state failed to address her mental health problems.

    • A 15-month-old girl beaten to death while staying with her mother and grandparents in foster care after suffering previous abuse that resulted in a fractured skull and a burned foot.

    • A 7-week-old boy who appeared to have suffocated from a pillow on an adult bed.

    • A 3 1/2 -year-old boy who died of head injuries in the foster home of a woman found to have abused her own daughter the previous year.

  96. Cheesus, cheesus. Why the hell was this kid sent to foster care? Cheesus. So he made the mistake of not looking at every single bottle the kid was drinking? He ASSUMED he had asked for lemonade, and it didn’t occur to him to think hey it might be alcoholic? Dumbass. Maybe he often looks at labels, but they were at a sports event, and many times, people who are careful elsewhere would say, it’s a special event and eat hot dogs and junk food they wouldn’t eat anywhere else, which I say is no big deal! What? You check every single item of food you eat? Oh, and he should’ve known it was alcohol. Why is the excuse that he’s an academic? Does he have to be an academic not to be aware of television? Many people aren’t which is a great thing.

    I think trans fats are more of a health danger to a kids diet than a touch of alcohol. What’s next? Throw people in jail for eating McDonalds. As tempting as it sounds, you can’t do that.
    Cheesus. Why was this made in such a big deal? Are people this dumb? If the child was habitually seen toting alcohol around, then I understand.
    Americans…. stop the insanity! Seriously.

  97. To those who say it couldn’t happen in another free country, think again.

    In the UK, the father would likely have been arrested and had a DNA swab taken, fingerprinted, and he’d have been put on the national police DNA database.

    In the UK, even if he wasn’t charged, his DNA details would stay on the database. You don’t get the choice to remove them. (I don’t know if they keep the fingerprints).

  98. Synchronicity. Just last week, I saw an Indian movie on TV. The hero is a cop whose wife died in child birth. Years later, the child is in a car with the nanny and driver. She’s very thirsty and begs for a drink. Nanny tells the driver to stop, and buys a packet from a road side stall. Unknown to them, they vendor gave them the wrong packet. There’s the normal one, and the “special” which is filled with some alcoholic drink (I’m not sure what), sold surreptitiously only to “regular” customers.

    The child ends up in hospital. Father rushes over, and the doctor tells him she has alcohol in her system. Does the state take the daughter away from our hero? No. Does our hero blame the nanny? No.

    Dad soon finds out that there’s a syndicate that sells alcoholic drinks disguise as soft drinks. He catches the vendor, beats him up, puts him in jail, and threatens to kill him, even going so far as to pretend to execute another prisoner (actually a police officer in disguise) in front of him. All this to get him to rat on the big boss.

    Note: I’m not sure if this sort of thing happens normally in India, but in Indian movies, it is common for police brutality to be applauded as a way to punish the bad guys, to get confessions, etc.

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