Elisabeth Röhm’s Blog: Notes on Being Non-Reactive
Thanks for welcoming our newest celebrity blogger — Elisabeth Röhm! The actress, 37, best known for her role as Serena Southerlyn on Law & Order, wrapped a stint on Heroes last year and has a busy 2011 ahead of her. She can be seen on the big screen in the upcoming films Chlorine, Transit and Abduction, and plans to continue her role as spokesmom for Juno Baby.
Who knew that the road to nirvana was getting whacked by your kid? Seriously, who knew? Learning to be non-reactive in life is one of the big ones. I mean, if Gandhi can do it then so can we, moms! In pursuit of better parenting, certainly being the bigger person is a key element.
And I have found — now that Easton has entered the world of ‘the terrible twos’ — that it’s not so terrible, it’s just immensely challenging. If I’m really flowing as a parent, sometimes it’s achingly funny to watch them powerfully assert their independence. A little bit of humor goes a long way too, right?
One of the great challenges of parenting is embracing our own leadership. It’s not easy having the answers 24/7; to trust yourself enough to feel that you know how to handle what’s put in front of you by your little one. Sometimes — if we’re really honest — we are simply guessing, or basing our decision upon what we’ve heard or read.
No matter how we approach a conflict though, we are required to be all grown-up and to let go of our own childish responses in order to be solid parents (although I’ve learned that an ounce of silly goes a long way in all scenarios).
Oh, what an opportunity! Being a parent has certainly helped me to come into my own. Parenting deeply empowers our intuition, self-respect and compassion. I know we can all confirm that the patience that we’ve learned to exercise has indeed brought out the best in us.
In this new year I am faced, as you are, with a desire to become a better version of myself and to absolutely become a better mother. As I throw out all the wrapping paper and break down boxes from the holiday gifts, I am inspired to keep clearing out. I am searching for what isn’t working anymore and what is outmoded. Out with the old and in with the new! What I really want are results and I find that I’m willing to do the heavy lifting to make some changes in my life.
One of the things I really long for is to be a non-reactive person. Boy, is that hard to pull off with little ones.
I could give a list of incidents that have pushed me to the edge, challenged me to be firm beyond my comfort zone and have ultimately made me a better mother. Like the time Easton had a meltdown at her second birthday and went running to the nanny instead of me, or when she nearly blinded me with a swift kick of her UGG boot and I had to drive home with impaired vision (thankfully only a few blocks).
Do you see what a golden opportunity all of this is? I have finally begun to learn a life lesson that almost nothing but my daughter could teach me: how to stay cool under pressure — upon being violated, publicly embarrassed or simply feeling baffled by a confrontation. These are real challenges that surface every day in our lives.
Our natural instinct is to become reactive, to defend ourselves. As parents we know that this simply doesn’t work with our sweet children, for a myriad of reasons. We know that our best response is to help them, guide and correct them in a gentle, yet assertive manner that promotes growth and well-being. Most importantly we learn to not take it personally when they scream, ‘Noooooooooo’ to us and run the other direction in a room full of strangers who don’t know us and how great we really are as parents.
I’ve learned to always take a deep breath and extract myself from the equation. I think back to all the times I’ve reacted in my life and remember how the situation was worsened and not diffused.
And so, I’ve learned from my child … to think before I act. This has nothing to do with you. “It’s not personal,” I say to myself. “How can I help this little person?” I think. This process is also applicable to big people who thrive on creating a little conflict and don’t know how to manifest positive attention quite yet. I’m sure you are seeing the connection, right?
I stop. I breathe. I think. I forgive. I explain calmly. I quickly move on. IT’S NOT PERSONAL!!!! I have learned from my little one how to get what I really want in life: trust and progress.
I look at my 2½-year-old after she’s intentionally smacked me in the face because I’ve turned off Scooby-Doo and say, “You’re such a nice, wonderful and kind girl. You’re truly amazing. Nice, kind people don’t hit, or bite or yell. They use their words and are gentle.” And Easton says, “Yeah.” “You’re very sweet,” I say. “Yes, I am,” she replies with a tender smile.
Then I notice for the rest of the day that she is very nice, kind and truly amazing. (Note: this method doesn’t always work. More often than not, though!)
I’m not trying to simplify tricky matters of parenting, nor am I suggesting that we don’t create strong boundaries with our children or the big kids out there in the world. But in general I’ve seen amazing results when I step back and treat Easton or another human being as if they are behaving in the way I’d like them to behave.
My goal for the New Year when the situation calls for it, is to stand before my child or a big kid who is trying to assert themselves and help them to help themselves by not buying into the drama. I think it is truly possible to have love in your heart when you are being tested. Let’s take the path of least resistance this year. We truly stand to benefit!
— Elisabeth Röhm