Book Review: “A Promise To Ourselves” by Alec BaldwinWritten by: Alison Print This Article
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Until you have personal experience of divorce and child custody litigation, it would be difficult to understand or appreciate what Alec Baldwin (with Mark Tabb) writes about in his book A Promise to Ourselves: A Journey Through Fatherhood and Divorce.
Many, I think, would consider his book as being some far-fetched Hollywood gossip and a way to gain more celebrity status, or even a way to defend his case and blame it on the ex. I suppose it’s hard not to be influenced by the roles actors play in movies and what you read in trashy magazines and newspapers. To me, Alec Baldwin certainly doesn’t have the “nice guy” reputation — if anything, it’s more like the “womanizer”. Then again, Kim Basinger is no angel, either.
Surprisingly, my initial cynicism of his book disappeared quickly. Having read only two pages into the introduction, I had an instant affinity with the divorce and custody issues he addresses and his motivation for doing so. It was actually hard to put the book down because almost every page after that, however negative and critical, rang true. Even with his kind of fame and fortune, Alec Baldwin is not immune to the endless frustrations and the extensive emotional, mental, physical and financial drain that is sadly all too common when dealing with the American family law system and it’s players of judges, attorneys, court ordered therapists and evaluators, and Child Services caseworkers.
My personal experience of divorce and custody litigation is that of a supportive partner to a wonderful man and loving father of three young children. Unfortunately his ex has been very uncooperative in co-parenting, so even after years of court hearings, therapy sessions, and investigations, the custody battle continues. His ex also has exhibited many of the alienating behaviors similar to those of Alec Baldwin’s ex, even to the extent of distorting and twisting reality, manipulating people to take her side, and false allegations of domestic violence and child abuse.
Prior to this relationship, I could never understand how a parent, particularly a father, could give up and walk away from his own children during a divorce. I also had little awareness and understanding of how the family law courts operate and what Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) is. Without witnessing it firsthand, I would not have believed that the system is so defective, slow, and biased, and that parents could be capable of hurting their own children in such an insidious and subversive way, using them as pawns to get an upper hand and to wrongfully play the system to their advantage.
There is no doubt that men are also capable of alienating their children from their mothers. But alarmingly, whether you like to hear it or not, the reality is parental alienation is perpetrated overwhelmingly by women against men. Not that this gives men an excuse to give up the fight for their rights as fathers, but it sure is little wonder that many of them do end up walking away from an already bad situation made worse and worse by the family law system and the professionals and ex-spouses who are unscrupulous and willing to play dirty.
Amongst all the doom and gloom of divorce and custody litigation, Alec Baldwin does offer a glimmer of hope for those who have or are going through the painful journey of fatherhood in the middle of a contentious divorce. He gives some practical advice and insights about prenuptial agreements, choosing the right attorney, divorce and custody strategies and how politics and feminists groups have influenced family law and impacts custody. He also writes poignantly about how the inevitable passage of time affected his relationship with his growing daughter and urges readers to make a promise to themselves to not give up.
I wanted to give up many times. I know there are countless others who now feel or have felt the same. However, a therapist whom I met in New York emphasized to me the concept of latent learning. Everything you say, everything you do that is communicated to your child, is recorded, both in the child’s mind and soul. He told me that one day, regardless of my skepticism, everything that I have done will be remembered. Every joke I told, every trip we took, every odd or silly moment. Every instruction I gave or mistake I made; all the good and all the bad. Your child may not bring it up. But it is there. You are a part of your child. You are half of your child. Do not ever, ever forget that. No matter how hard it gets.