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.