Courtesy Elisabeth Röhm
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 — who is mom to 2½-year-old daughter Easton August with fiancé Ron Anthony — remembers her dating days, her parenting dealbreakers and wants to know your thoughts on spanking.
Long, long ago when I was still a swinging single girl, I remember going out on dates with a mission: to find out if the guy of the month was ‘the one.’ I recall bringing up ever so gently — or not so — subjects surrounding the future of my fantasy family and watching these guys’ faces tighten with the fear of commitment as they’d try to politely answer my innocent but leading questions, without getting in too deep.
I may have been doing it subconsciously, but I was not the kind of single girl, future wife and mother that wasted my time on a guy that didn’t share the same fantasy of having a family. I’d ask horrible questions like, “Where do you see yourself in 10 years?” “Do you want to have children?” “Where will you raise your family?” “Do you believe in open marriage?” “Will you raise your children religiously?” and “Would you ever spank your child as a form of discipline?”
Particular answers would have been major dealbreakers, so I felt I was doing everyone a favor by saving us all a little time and heartache. I got my answers time and time again as I went through the dating process. Keeping it light and simple wasn’t my forte because I knew what I wanted — and that was a family. Until Ron, I may have scared a few men with my straightforward approach.
When Ron and I started to date, I performed my usual ‘feeling out’ of the marriage and children issue. He didn’t run scared and he still doesn’t scare easily. I’ve gotta tell you ladies, it was so refreshing. We were off to a good start! Thankfully, he was as eager about the whole ‘future’ thing as I was. On our romantic dinners, he’d entertain my probing questions with heartfelt answers and allowed me to fantasize with him on our future together.
He handled it all with such grace and as time went by he emerged as the family man I had always dreamt of. That is … until one terrible night when the subject of spanking came up. Not the adult version! The kind that some parents feel is a useful tool in laying down the law.
Now, you must understand why I always seemed to be bringing up this issue. For me, I knew that it would be a problem and so I’d find myself seeking that answer time and time again. I was shocked when Ron said that he absolutely had no problem with the idea of spanking — but only if it was necessary. For a couple that had only been dating for several months, it was surprising that dinner turned into World War III.
We talked and debated for hours until I finally realized that I wasn’t going to be able to bend him to my will. This guy, who I really liked, was clearly not ‘the one,’ it seemed. Just like on those previous dates when the guys’ face would freeze with fear of commitment, my face obviously tightened with the same look. Ron could see that this was a losing battle. I was never going to agree on the matter of spanking. Not letting it go, because ‘the one’ never lets you go even when the going gets tough, he said, “I could be wrong. Let’s take a poll and call a few people to see what they have to say.”
I was so prepared for the challenge as we walked to his car that night. Thinking to myself, “I’ll show him. My friends would never spank their kids.” I was going to teach him a thing or two about childrearing. We piled into his Bronco, pulled out our cell phones and let our fingers do the talking.
I recall putting this friend and that friend on speaker phone as we took the poll of their opinions on the subject of: to spank or not to spank? As the hours continued to pass, it was debated with about 10 different men and women. I recall it as clear as day. As you can imagine, it was a heated debate of which both points of view were emotionally discussed by parents and future parents alike.
At the end of an exhausting night, we both agreed that spanking was not the ideal response to the naughty outbursts of children; making it once again a possibility for our relationship to grow to that next level. Ron ended up winning the role of ‘the one’ and we happily moved onto our future together. And not once, not even when he has been pushed to his limits by Easton, has he ever spanked. In fact, he is, as they say, ‘putty in her hands.’ She’s his girl and it would never cross his mind.
However, the debate amongst friends goes on and spanking is one of those issues every parent who does it or doesn’t do it, feels very strongly about. I still, of course, sway heavily to the side of non-spanking methods of discipline, while I have several friends who swing to the other side of the pendulum. Even when the behavior has been wildly disobedient, I simply will not rule with that type of reaction. It’s just not for me.
I recall being at the mall once shopping with Easton. She had absolutely no desire to be pampered with a shopping spree (can you imagine?!) 😉 and instead wanted to explore and run free in the mall. So disobedient — she threw herself down on the floor, ran around the store, tried to run out of the shop’s door to escape into the mall. She was a hot mess!
My friend who was with us said, “I’d give her a spank and put an end to this if I were you.” I responded, “No way. I would never.” She just raised her eyebrow as if to say, “Don’t let that girl run you.” We ended up leaving the store and the mall instead, based on my theory that it was punishment enough to remove her from the environment she seemingly couldn’t handle. Not to mention I was thoroughly done with the little scene myself.
Of course, I have other friends who would never consider spanking, like myself. But I have friends like the above mentioned who absolutely would lay down the parental law with a little tough love. And so the subject remains open and hotly debated by both sides.
I was once with a dear friend of mine who is a fabulous woman and has two fabulous daughters. I’ll never forget being at her house when one of her daughters ran into the street after her mother had urged her not to. My friend ran up to her 4-year-old and twisted her ear to pull her close so as to impress upon her that running into the street was absolutely not okay. Her daughter was bawling, screaming and exaggerating, “You hurt my ear. I can’t hear. You hurt me.”
It was the most frightening scene, both the running into the street and my friend’s reaction to the event. For the record, her daughter’s hearing is, of course, fine and she’s never run into the street again. Her mother intended to scare her straight — and she did.
My face must have tightened because, as I said before, this kind of discipline is such a dealbreaker for me. She could see that I was overwhelmed by her method. However, she stood firm in her beliefs and we’ve agreed to disagree. Her girls cuddle with her and feel safe with her, which is obvious when I’m with them. Whatever they are doing their family seems to be working for them.
After Easton created another public spectacle, I gave her wrist a firm tap. It just didn’t work for either of us. I told a friend about my experience and she wisely said, “To each his own.” Both of us, with our different parenting methods, agree to disagree on a frequent basis but we don’t judge each other on this touchy matter. However, I think the debate should still go on and that we should all learn from each other what we can.
What I love about you, PEOPLE.com readers, is your willingness to be honest, open and opinionated with each other as you discuss these blogs. I open this week to a respectful and non-judgmental discussion regarding your different methods of discipline. Please share — what’s worked for you, what hasn’t, have you changed your minds along the way, where do YOU stand on the subject: to spank or not to spank?
Courtesy Elisabeth Röhm
— Elisabeth Röhm