The Strength to Stay Present

by Bobby Benfield, CEO

Despite working in Internet world for over 15 years, I’ve never blogged. By nature, I’m a private person.

I can’t think of a better time to come out of my digital shell than to talk about the mothers in my life.

First, there is my own. She’s unfortunately no longer with us. I miss her dearly and will cherish my memories of her forever.

She taught me many things in many ways. I didn’t always make it easy. You could say I was a “spirited” child. I dared her to pour grape juice on my head. And, she did. I cut my own hair in chorus practice, only to have it all shaved off immediately thereafter.

Then there was the time I put Matthew Baizer’s math book in the USPS mailbox. We were waiting to take the public bus home from school, and Matthew was ribbing me. I decided to up the ante and drop his book into the mailbox. He of course marched straight back to school and told the principal. When my mom was called to school to pick me up, she was NOT happy. We went straight to the post office, and despite mom’s passionate appeals, Mr. Postman said it was gone forever. Needless to say, I had to buy Matthew a new book.

Now I’m blessed to have two of my own “spirited” boys. They’re very young and utter jewels in my heart, and early returns suggest that turnabout will be fair play. My wife Hanna, their mother, has temporarily deprived the business world of her tremendous talents to stay home with our boys during their early years. And I now bear witness to the application of her tremendous talents to them.

Parenting has changed quite a bit since my Mom (and Dad) had to weather me. Self-proclaimed experts abound, and it’s hard to separate the wheat from the chaff. We fall on the progressive side of the spectrum and believe in the benefits of emotion coaching, among other things.

My two sons were recently going at it, and I watched my wife gently pull them into her lap and put her arms around them. This is what I overheard, as I stood idly by:

“Do you feel like your body has so much energy it can’t stop?

I know how that feels.

It’s hard to do.

Let’s see if we can try together.”

It worked like a charm, and I was amazed. My brain wants to get there, but my mouth just doesn’t play ball.

Who knows what my little guys will become and how nurture will commingle with nature. Viewing the glass as perpetually half-full, I think they’ll contribute positively to the world. Others might disagree, but I think whatever my parents did with me worked out well enough.

What unites the two approaches: unconditional love and presence (“mindful parenting” in modern parlance). My mom was present for me every step of the way, no matter what I threw her way. When Hanna is with my boys, she is all-in with body, mind and soul. And our boys – from their first days – have been able to tell. I can see it in how they relate to her.

In this age of distraction and impersonal touch – replete with text messages, sound bites, lists (#nomorelists) and media around the clock, staying present is not so easy. It’s even harder when boy energy and unformed synapses make your house like the WWF. But Hanna does it time and time again – with grace and love.

So, all hail the mother. Or at least I’m going to hail the mother that is now in my life. I celebrate and admire Hanna now and always for so many things, not the least of which is her unfailingly personal touch and the strength to be present for my boys (and me) no matter what circumstance may throw in her way.