I am tired of celebrities making excuses for the bad behavior of their friends. Rosie O”Donnell announced today that Alec Baldwin will be a guest on The View, Friday, April 28th. O’Donnell said Baldwin wants to discuss parental alienation. That must be a very painful topic for Baldwin, since he is alienated from his daughter, Ireland. I get the feeling that Baldwin views himself as a victim. The language that Baldwin used in a recent voicemail to Ireland indicates otherwise.
Apparently, Baldwin and Ireland have pre-arranged times set up to talk on the telephone. Baldwin lives in New York, and Ireland lives in California, with her mother, Kim Bassinger. When Baldwin tried to call on April 11th, Ireland’s phone was off. Baldwin asserts in the voicemail that this has happened “over-and-over.” Baldwin loses his temper and leaves a scathing voicemail to Ireland. The voicemail includes cursing, name calling, degrading remarks, and threatening statements, such as “I’m going to straighten your a** out when I see you.”
Some people, like Rosie O’Donnell, feel sorry for Baldwin. Some say Baldwin has been through hell and that he just “lost his cool.” Some defend Baldwin’s right to parent the way he wants to. They consider Baldwin’s tirade “discipline.” Others consider Baldwin convicted and have sentenced him a monstrous father. None of the above positions are justified based solely on one voicemail from Baldwin and countless media interpretations. It is up to family counselors, lawyers and judges to study the family’s history, and to make judgments in the best interest of the child.
I assume that Baldwin loves his daughter. Like other fathers, Baldwin wants Ireland to be confident, successful, well-mannered, and happy. I feel sure that he wants her to feel loved by him and for him to feel loved by her, as well. I know he wants her respect. I cannot imagine a father wanting any less.
In addition, Baldwin wants custody.
So, Ireland does not answer the phone. Baldwin loses his temper and severely tongue-lashes his eleven-year-old. He admits in the voicemail that he knows it is wrong.
“You don’t have the brains or decency as a human being,” Baldwin says in the voicemail. “I don’t give a damn that you’re 12-years-old or 11-years-old or a child, or that your mother is a thoughtless pain in the a** who doesn’t care about what you do as far as I am concerned.”
I wonder. What if Ireland had a legitimate reason for her phone being off? What if her mother had something to do with it? Could Baldwin have given Ireland the benefit of the doubt? What if he had made a way for her to respond without fear of an attack?
He could have left off the name-calling: “You’re a rude, thoughtless little pig.” What if he left off the insults to her mother? How would the outcome have changed?
If Baldwin had chosen to communicate in a responsible, healthy way, he might have used this negative situation to draw his daughter closer to him. Instead, he flew off the handle, disregarded her welfare and further damaged the already shaky relationship between them. His actions limit him from seeing Ireland. They negatively affect the court’s view of him as a father, and they have the potential to damage Ireland’s self-image, confidence, and security.
Baldwin needs to wise-up. First of all, what was he thinking when he left a damaging voicemail in his daughter’s phone? Common sense says to cover your bases, especially when you are a celebrity and involved in a custody battle.
More important than covering himself is learning to communicate with a child appropriately. Shooting off at the mouth accomplishes nothing good. Communicating with a child involves restraint and decency. Name calling is always wrong and is emotionally scaring. The child’s value as a person should never be in question when addressing a behavior problem.
The job of a parent is to guide the child to a healthy adulthood. Parents are role models. Problems and consequences should be stated in clear terms to the child. The love from parent to child should never be withdrawn, even when behavior is disappointing.
The voicemail could have gone something like this:
Hey, I want to tell you something, okay. And I want to leave a message for you right now, ’cause again it is 10:30 here in New York on a Wednesday and once again I have tried to call you at the time we agreed upon. Ireland, these calls are important to me, because you are important to me. When the time comes for me to make the call to you, I stop what I am doing, and I go to make the call. I make a fool of myself trying to get to the phone! You are number one with me. I can’t tell you how disappointed I am that you didn’t answer. I am hoping you have a good reason for leaving your phone off.
Ireland, I am going to fly out there next week to see you. It is important that we work this out. I am your father, and I need to be able to talk to you. I love you, Ireland, but I feel really badly about what happened today. I know our situation is hard, but you have to take responsibility and do what we agreed to do. I do my part. You have to do yours.
I’ll be there Friday, the 20th. I will make arrangements to see you. I love you no matter what.
Baldwin’s custody battle with Kim Bassinger does not excuse the verbal abuse and threats made to his daughter. Unfortunately, he can never take his words back. Words are powerful and everlasting. I hope other parents think about that before lashing out at their children in destructive ways. Baldwin’s voicemail transcript was found at: http://justjared.buzznet.com/2007/04/20/alec-baldwin-phone-tirade-with-daughter/