Speak for Yourself

For years, I was pretty much indifferent towards The Baldwin Brothers. I'd have been hard pressed to tell Alec, William, Daniel and Stephen apart, even for a million bucks. I had no idea there was also a fifth Baldwin, cousin Joseph. But that was before I met Jack Donaghy, the character Alec Baldwin plays on NBC's "30 Rock".

And fell in love.

With the character, mind you, Alec Baldwin's not even my type. Come to think of it, neither is Tracy Jordan, I mean, Morgan, but I depend on the comic relief they give me to pave the occasionally bumpy road of motherhood. Race, age, body type is unimportant: men who make me laugh just have me open. My surprisingly unjealous (and quite hilarious) husband is aware of this, so it's all good. He knows his wife has needs: I have to laugh. Often. I depend on comedy the way some women crave chocolate. And we know what they say about chocolate.

So naturally, I was stunned upon hearing the verbally abusive voice mail message Baldwin left for his eleven-year-old daughter, Ireland, last week. Once I got over my initial embarrassment that I, along with the rest of America, was eavesdropping on a message that really wasn't meant for my ears or anyone else’s (except his ex-wife Kim Basinger’s, apparently), I was shocked. It was hard to believe that such words could come out of the smiling-eyed actor’s mouth while he wasn’t even in character for anything. Towards his child.

And then I got mad. But not for the reason one might think.

I was miffed because anyone who’s ever been a parent (or has ever had one) knows full well how unperfect we are. Half the time, we’re winging it. Hopefully, we do our best to stay calm under pressure, remaining conscious of the words we use. We do this because we love our children, not because we don't want them to write a tell-all about us one day. Or maybe for some people it's a little of both. Either way, I don’t condone using harsh language with children. I hate hearing teenage mothers threaten to beat their babies with Snapple bottles as much as the next person does. But what prompts strangers to program C.P.S. into their cell phones, threatening to push the button at a parent’s first false move?

Such was the case one chilly Mid Hudson morning I took all three children out for a walk on the college campus where my husband teaches (and where, coincidentally, we reside), only to discover it was actually effing freezing. We weren't even a stone's throw from the house before I decided to corral the kids and turn around to head back. But my oldest had other plans, which included romping in the grass like she was the missing half-sister from The Sound of Music. After six pleads to coax her indoors, I lost it: "Come on. Now. Come. ON!". And then, as if they'd been hiding behind bushes or something, two undergrads appeared out of nowhere, glaring at me like I was Joan Crawford . I swore I saw the shorter of the two with one finger on her cell phone, daring me to make her press send.

To this day, I still wish I'd told them to mind their own business, but it's okay. They'll get it eventually.

I guess that's what irritated me about all of the heated, passionate responses to Alec Baldwin's hissy fit. Most people without children have no idea how emotionally taxing parenting can be. And most people of the parental persuasion can admit that they’ve lost their temper at least once. Or twice. Or more. I've never used scathing, diminishing language with my kids (and don't ever plan to), just as I'm sure that most people reading this haven't either. But I can remember times when, to put it gently, I could have said things a little differently. Most parents can.

Don't just sit there and act like you can't hear me.

I have no idea what prompts a dad to sound like he wants to jump through the phone and strangle his daughter. It's terribly sad that young Ireland has to be stuck between her parent's bitter divorce. One minute, her dad's playing "This Little Piggy" with her, the next thing she knows, he's calling her one. Nothing good can come out of that. Eleven is a tender age: hopefully she won’t end up on a the couch of a Beverly Hills therapist for the next twenty years, too weak from anorexia to get off of it. And hopefully, her dad will realize that she’s the one who deserves the apology, not us; we'll be fine.

But until then, I refuse to join the ranks of people who are insisting that Alec Baldwin does community service or pledges $10,000 to the Boys and Girls Club to make amends. I refuse to contact whomever the attachment parenting version of Al Sharpton is to organize a march. I refuse to applaud Baldwin for threatening to quit "30 Rock" in order to become the poster boy for "parental alienation issues" (come on, Tina, can't you talk some sense into him?).

Most importantly, I refuse to stop watching my favorite sitcom just because one daddy had a bad day; it brings me too much joy. As the old adage says: when mama's not happy, ain't nobody happy. And we wouldn't want that now, would we?

On Friday my posts also appear as an online column for Time Out New York Kids. Visit them at Time Out New York Kids for more city-specific parenting tips and diversions. The regular column will be called Not the Nanny, which pretty much answers the crazy looks I sometimes receive when I'm out and about with my rosy-cheeked son.


Anonymous said...

At last I come upon a voice of reason in this Alec Baldwin story! There's no excuse for his behavior, but as a parent I can completely appreciate the feeling of being pushed to the brink by your kids. I also have no idea why Alec should have to apologize to or focus on anyone other than his daughter. Thank you Mrs J. My 'drug' of choice is that delicious 1 hour block of The Office/30 Rock, and AB figures prominently in my addiction. -- astrid

Life in Fitzville said...

This is so close to what I was feeling reading all the media hype, but couldn't put it into words. It's hard parenting to begin with, I can;t imagine parenting int he spotlight.

Lori said...

Your story about your kids and the two glaring students, who suddenly materialized out of nowhere, reminded me of something that happened years ago to my husband and son.

My spouse and our then toddler were visiting a bookstore when it became obvious that a diaper change was in order. With diaper bag in tow, the dutiful hubby took our little one into the men's room and hoisted him onto the changing table.

Unfortunately, the height of the table must have given the kid vertigo or something because he commenced to shrieking and struggling against his daddy's efforts to get him out of the dirty diaper and into a clean one.

According to the hubby, the commotion drew the attention of a Barney Fife type security guard, who marched in looking non-too-pleased. Rather than utter a word, the hubby said he issued deputy Fife his best, "Man, if you say jack-squat to me, I'm taking you out!" scowl.

Evidently, it worked because after assessing the situation for all of five or six seconds, the guard barked some kind of "daddy on diaper duty" code into his walkie-talkie and left the area (LOL)
Lori D.

Keith said...

I totally hear you. My guess is that Alec loves his daughter so much and is so hurt by the way things are going down that he just cracked. True love will do that to you. If he didn't care about his little girl he would have never said a word. He wouldn't even have been waiting for her call. On that recording was the voice of a broken-hearted father, not a bad parent.

Mom101 said...

I'm so with you. I think this is a case of a guy with a really bad temper who also happens to love his kids a lot and is frustrated by the politics and strife coming between them.

As for the nosy parkers of the world - ugh. Like there aren't really injustices to get your panties in a wad about besides a mother scolding her kids appropriately. Maybe if you hadn't made your daughter a dress out of the Captain's drapes they might not have noticed her as easily though?

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

Thank you. Yes, Alec shouldn't have lost his temper but this backlash is crazy. My parents did yell at us from time to time and we're fine.

I wish more of these Hollywood brats had parents who would "straighten them out" instead of trying to be their best friend.

p.s. Alec is hilarious on 30 Rock and was excellent in the Departed, Glennary Glenn Ross, etc.

Liz said...

I 100% agree with you. We all have no idea what's really going on behind the scenes. Who knows what the daughter has been saying back to him. And, I've been there when my youngest is trying his darndest to escape from me in the grocery store parking lot. I'm sure Someone could videotape me and say, "Look at that crazy mother yelling at her son like that!"

I feel for all of them. Like the old saying goes, it's an A-B conversation and we need to C ourselves out of it!

lori said...

Hey Mrs. J,

Once again you've proven that we are so on the same wavelength.

Honestly, when I heard the recording, I kept waiting for the really, really bad stuff to come on. Yes it was painful to hear, but um, if someone recorded me while I was yelling at my son to stop yelling at his brother....oooohhhh I hate to imagine.

I'm not saying what he did was okay...I'm just saying I understand why he did it.

Thanks for posting.

lori t

Maia said...

I actually couldn't bring myself to listen to the recording (though I did read the transcript). Sometimes I catch myself thinking that I am my most basic self with my son - meaning that the love and affection I show him is as unguarded as the annoyance or impatience he can also elicit from me. There's no one I love more, but also? No one who can push my buttons as skillfully as my kid.

I really hate that Baldwin used the language he did with his child, but it was probably more damaging to her that the message was made public. If Basinger was behind the leak, she should feel just as guilty. But people living through difficult divorces sometimes do insanely inappropriate things - things that they can only see as wrong in hindsight.

That said, I won't stop watching 30 Rock - it might be the funniest show on TV right now.

Aly Cat 121 said...

It's funny cuz the first thing I wondered was "how did the news media get a hold of a private cell phone recorded message?" It seemed a little TOO easy. My mom was a divorce lawyer for 20 years and you'd be AMAZED at the sh*t divorcing couples pulled on each other, and loorrrd don't let kids be involved. Messy don't even describe it.

And with all the abused kids being sexed by priests, family members, and caregivers not to mention those who are being beat nearly to death and ill cared for by foster parents and parents - folks have the nerve to be pissed about what some dayum celeb does. No wonder pedaphiles and such get to roam free to really f*ck kids for life. No one seems to care about the "common kid" *shakin head*

Anonymous said...

ok... so you people say that Alec Baldwin "lost his temper" when he berated his little girl and called her names I KNOW my parents would never say to me. I understand a parent losing their cool, I myself have lost it a couple of times, but never to the point where I was calling someone I love a worthless piece of crap. If this man truely felt bad about what he did, he could just apologize and PRAY his daughter forgave him. And if she didnt, that should be her choice.

It will be interesting to see what you people say when he hits the kid. "He just got a little upset...." PLEASE

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