Elisabeth Röhm’s Blog: Helping Your Child Find a Focus
|Robert Evans Studios|
Elisabeth Röhm, best known for her role as Serena Southerlyn on Law & Order, has a busy 2011 ahead of her.
In her latest blog, Röhm discusses her and fiancé Ron Anthony‘s hopes that their 3-year-old daughter Easton August will develop a passion for a discipline — but doesn’t want to push too hard.
I was thinking last night about a particular incident that happened while I was on a job a few years back. It’s come up in my memory several times since the event occurred, and I must say that it left a bad feeling with me.
My character had to witness her brother jumping in front of a subway while she was holding her baby. The production cast triplets as it was a long scene. Throughout the hours of shooting, the parents would swap out the babies so as not to exhaust them.
It was a horrific scene to shoot, but what was even more complicated were my reservations to emote into the bundle of joy in my arms. Not yet a mom, I enjoyed spending the day with that family and cuddling their three adorable baby girls. But to be honest, I’ve often thought of them and the strange impression that was left on them that day.
I know this an extreme example, but it has made me contemplate child acting as a whole and whether or not I will let Easton explore it. Even on a recent film with a 10-year-old, I was a little bothered by the range of emotion he had to witness from me. I remember thinking, “This could give someone nightmares.” But it’s a gift to be able to be creative and express yourself, that is for sure.
One of the things I’m always impressed with when I work with a child is that they have incredible perspective and seem to be able to move in and out of scenes with ease. Child acting has become one of those controversial issues because so many of them crash and burn. But the question should not be whether or not it is appropriate for a child to act but rather, how should one parent a child actor?
Fame, fortune, playing with the fire of emotion is adult stuff in a sense, but I think it’s a gross generalization to say acting is not for kids and that it should be left to the grown-ups. What about the ones who love, grow and mature with it and have a great time along the way?
I’ve known many of them to embrace the adventure and imagination of it. I was working with a boy recently on a film in the Louisiana Bayou and he was just STOKED to be working in the swamps where alligators could be, dying to tell his friends at home of his experience!
Some of them just love it and have a real gift for accessing their emotions unlike any adult. I could give countless examples, but one in particular stands out — I was awestruck by a 5-year-old girl who was simply a doorway into human emotion. I was able to work with her, connect with her, and even learn from her vast skill and fluidity. She flowed and it was a thing of beauty.
I think of movies like On Golden Pond, Paper Moon or The Kreutzer Sonata and the idea of acting with Easton one day excites me. Performances from a young Diane Lane in movies like The Outsiders or Jodie Foster in Taxi Driver are a powerful indication that some kids are born to perform. But each child is different and handles pressure, responsibility and competition differently. So, where does a parent draw the line?
I look forward to discovering the discipline that Easton gravitates to and wants to express herself with. For Ron and I, it wasn’t in the arts that we found our voice, rather it was with sports. Same difference though, really. All require an adult-like focus, structure and delivery. It’s important that it’s about having a good time too though, right?
In my childhood, I competed on a professional level as an equestrian. Four plus days a week at the barn taking lessons, practicing or tending to my horse. I wasn’t hanging out with friends after school. On the weekends we would wake up at 5 a.m. and drive to the latest horse show.
It was my life. I loved horses and they were at the center of my little world. My friends were other riders ranging in age from 6-60. It was an unusually strenuous and competitive childhood, but my heart was truly in it and I was not pushed to perform, only supported to achieve whatever I had a desire for.
I don’t recall feeling overwhelmed at the thought of winning or losing and I do recall my mother impressing upon me the value of my enjoyment. “Just go out there and have a good time,” she’d say. “You can do it until you don’t want to do it. You have the right to change your mind,” she’d always add.
I never felt her pushing me to win her approval. Instead, it left an indelible mark that discipline and a daily purpose was essential and most of all, fun! On top of that riding kept me out of trouble, which was good for all of us!
Ron and I have talked about how important we think it will be for Easton to have a discipline. At a young age, he had a gift for tennis and a daily routine with his pursuit of the sport. It filled his hours with a sense of place and expression. Not to mention it just feels good to exert yourself and to be good at something!
We hope that Easton will have a passion early on, whether in the arts or sports. But then comes the question of pressure, stress or the feeling of inadequacy when the parent is pushing their success and not doing enough listening to their child.
Remember in the The Blind Side, when Sandra Bullock’s character had to check herself and ask Michael if he really wanted to play football and go to Ole Miss at all? She realized that she had been pushing so hard she’d forgotten to ask the simple question, “Do you want this or are you doing it for me?”
PEOPLE.com readers, will you help your child pursue a professional career? There are undeniably great qualities that are acquired when you work hard, achieve and feel the fulfillment of your pursuits. However, on the flip side it is essential to childhood to have fun, be free and easy and have many lost hours.
I believe both are important and do-able. Where do you stand, moms? I rely on you to share your pearls of wisdom!
– Elisabeth Röhm
Robert Evans has photographed parties for Christina Aguilera and Jim Carrey, and is also known for photographing some of the biggest celebrity weddings in the last 10 years, including Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston and most recently, Shania Twain.