April 25, 2007
"WAIT 'TIL YOUR FATHER COMES HOME"
It was a million years ago but just writing those words sends a chill up my spine.
When I was 11 years old, hearing those words out of my mother's mouth meant I had done something wrong and when my father came home he was going to hit me either with his hands or, if the crime was bad enough, with his belt.
Before anyone goes into convulsions, let me assure you that I wasn't an abused child. I was a very loved child. Parents spanked and hit their children for misbehaving when I was a child.
For me the waiting was worse than the punishment. I always believed the statute of limitations on an infraction was five minutes. My parents believed it was something like 24 hours. So when my father came home at 7 p.m. on the dot my mother would say, "Do you know what he did? Do you know what he did?"
Since it was not the era of cell phones, my father didn't have a clue. My mother would tell him the infraction. "He threw water from the upstairs window on his grandmother and her friends." (It was an accident, I swear.) Or "He disappeared for five hours and didn't come home, I was going to call the police." Or "He took his water gun and shot his brother in the eye."
"You what? You what?" my father would sputter as he put down the newspapers he carried home every night so that he could administer the punishment.
The minute my father took off his belt I would immediately go down onto the ground and roll myself into a ball. He swung his belt at my legs and kept repeating, "You little bastard, you almost blinded your brother." Three or four whacks later he would stop. It didn't hurt that much but I remember thinking I should at least start to cry and I did.
We have evolved for the better. We have gone from hitting to "spanking," as in the show "Dennis the Menace," and today kids are being given a "time out," as though punishment for bad behavior in life is like stopping a basketball game for a rest.
Which brings me to Alec Baldwin, who I have pummeled in this column many times. Let me give you the good and the bad about Mr. Baldwin. The good: He is a great actor. Not just good, but great. Watch him on his show "30 Rock" and you'll see he is also an incredible comedian.
Now for the bad news. His politics suck. He disappointed me and the nation when he went back on his promise to move to Canada if George W. Bush won the election the first time. He has a foul temper and, well, I can go on and on.
However, if you have been reading the papers and listening to the radio, Mr. Baldwin is being jobbed on the latest caper. It seems that an enraged Alec Baldwin unleashed a tirade of threats and insults on his 11-year-old daughter, called her a "thoughtless little pig." Mr. Baldwin called his 11-year-old daughter and started screaming because she hadn't kept a phone date to talk to him as part of his custody arrangement with his wacky, washed-up, but still beautiful ex-wife, actress Kim Basinger.
The tirade was on a recording machine and was released to the press and everyone in the world heard Mr. Baldwin yelling at his kid. Now let me invoke The Baldwin Guidelines for screaming at your child. What did he say? Let's just examine the last part of his message:
"I am going to come out there for the day and I am going to straighten your ass out when I see you. Do you understand me? I'm going to really make sure you get it. Then I'm going to get on a plane and I'm going to turn around and come home. So you'd better be ready Friday the 20th to meet with me. So I'm going to let you know just how I feel about what a rude little pig you really are. You are a rude, thoughtless little pig, OK?"
I want every parent over 35 reading this to be honest and truthful about this. You know what Baldwin said. Have you ever said worse to your own child? Of course you have.
This is a child who is being pulled apart by a horrible divorce. I was lucky. When I was punished my parents were united in their disgust for me. In my old neighborhood there was no divorce. The closest I ever heard of anyone not living with his spouse was my mother's cousin Patsy, who I believe had two, maybe three, wives and quite a few girlfriends at the same time. Patsy with his rakish Earl Flynn mustache was quite the player in those days. He died (I believe quite young) of exhaustion.
So I may be wrong, but when I read every word of Baldwin's rant at his daughter I heard love. If he didn't love the kid he wouldn't have left the message. If he didn't love the kid he would have hung up the phone and gone on with his successful career. Is there anyone out there who in a moment of anger has not said worse to their children? I have never ever raised a hand to my children and can only remember shouting in anger, great anger, at one of my children - no need to name names, he knows who he is. He's turned out to be a great person.
So who is the real villain here? I say it's Kim Basinger. She released the tapes. In her desire to hurt Baldwin she did irreparable harm to her child. The call didn't do the kid any harm. Yes the word 'pig' was horrible and out of line but in reality the fact that the whole world got to see and hear her father screaming at her will stay with this child forever. This is a custody fight.
This is a rotten tactic in a custody fight.
The fact is there are no winners in a custody fight. Only losers and children's lives shattered.
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