by Hanna Benfield
Hanna Benfield is the wife of Bobby Benfield, Twigtale's CEO. She is a stay-at-home mom to their two boys, and an aspiring entrepreneur. We reached out to Hanna and asked her to share a Father's Day story (without telling Bobby). Her essay perfectly illustrates the qualities that set Bobby apart as a Dad. We couldn't help but notice how similar they are to what Bobby admires in his own father, who he wrote about this week (see his essay here).
I can still remember day-dreaming as a young girl about who I would marry. What this man would look like (Alex P Keaton, of course), where he would be from (Southern California, obviously), how we would meet (the beach, not surprisingly), and the family we would have (two sets of twins, yikes!). As I matured, this list began to include the more important elements of emotional support and fulfillment, intellectual challenge, and most importantly the ability to be the best father to our family.
When I met Bobby, it was clear to me that he was my perfect fit – the match that I had been waiting for all those years. Here was my attractive, California beach guy. A collegiate athlete, turned zen yogi and master swimmer. He was emotionally mature, selfless, funny, and smart. I could be myself around him, unashamed for all my flaws because he loved those too. But I have to admit that as well as I knew my best friend then, I couldn’t have known what an amazing father he has turned out to be.
Fifteen years after I met the love of my life, we have been blessed with two amazing young sons. They are independent, funny, headstrong, curious, caring little men. They spark our lives with their unique style of joy and energy (and sometimes a little stress!) that keeps us on our toes. As their mother, I try to be there to support and nurture them. But they need more – something that I can’t give them alone.
They need Bobby. Bobby is the cornerstone in our home – the pillar of patience, reflection, and support. The Ward Cleaver to our Wally and Beaver. He is a thoughtful parent who is intellectually and emotionally eager to merge progressive parenting with traditional values. In those more stressful circumstances, he consistently reaches beyond the “knee-jerk” reactions to loving coach and guide our boys. And he is still a kid at heart, happy to play all day on the beach, hit the court and the field, or joke with friends he’s had since he was 12. For all these reasons, our boys love being by his side. Not surprisingly, the first question out of our two-year old’s mouth every morning is “Can I see Daddy?”.
But I want to take this one level deeper and commend Bobby for HOW he parents our boys. And it’s a nuance, but an important one: Bobby meets our boys where THEY are on their journey…not where HE wants them to be.
Last weekend, Bobby and our older son went to the park to play baseball. Our son is in his second year of little league and this year he moved from Tee ball to 5-pitch. For his nascent hand-eye coordination, 5-pitch is really difficult and emotionally draining, as he strikes out over and over again while the other boys are getting hits. Seeing this, many people would haul their son out to the ball field and run drill after drill to help them improve, barking “Come on…just pay attention! Swing faster…no swing slower!”
But Bobby sees it differently. He knows that our son needs to build his confidence and sense of self-determination along with his skills. Bobby also wants to cultivate a hobby that will bring life-long joy to our son, not just short-term skill improvement. So, when I met them later at the park I had to smile: for there was my ex-starting pitcher husband standing at home plate, a tiny bat in his hand, taking pitches from his son. Not “showing” him how to bat or giving “instruction”, but letting our son sometimes strike him out, sometimes roping one to mid-field, sometimes letting our son chase him to make an out.
And then my son took the bat. He set up just like Daddy, marking the line in the dirt with his bat and setting up his feet like Daddy. And when he made hits, Bobby chased him around the bases. And when he struck out, they simply tried again. The whole time our son was grinning from ear-to-ear (and oh, by the way, he improved A TON). Bobby met our son where he was in his path, and it was magical...
Recently, I heard a guest on the BBC talking about, among other things, what drives confidence in children. While the presence and affection of the mother was critically important to the development of the child, it was the acceptance and approval shown by the father that made the biggest difference in the child’s confidence and ultimate success. The kicker is that this interaction between children and fathers is becoming harder to achieve given the 24-hour, non-stop requirements of work and the “always-on” technology-driven world in which we live. It takes even more concentration and determination for dads to find those special moments with their kids.
So, on this Father’s Day, I want to honor the special fathers in our lives. For all they do to keep those countless plates spinning in the air, while also finding the time to turn off and just be present with our kids. For meeting our children where they are on their journeys and helping create strong, happy, and confident human beings. As often quoted, some superheroes don’t wear capes…