‘I’m Only a Father’
By BENJAMIN PRATT
AFTER our younger daughter graduated from college with a degree in interior design, she was hired by Pottery Barn to help design and setup stores across our country. When she wasn’t traveling to other cities, she would spend a day or two at stores in the mid-Atlantic region working on redesign.
One morning she left in her little car before 6 a.m. for Baltimore. About five miles from her destination, on a busy interstate, the car broke down. She called me—frantic and scared—as 18-wheelers sped past shaking her and her little car.
“Dad, I’m going to be late for work. I can’t get the car to start. What can I do? I need your help.”
That’s when I said the words I’ve got to live with forever, now.
“I’m only a father.”
I quickly added, “You will have to call a local garage or towing company.” And, an hour later I got a call that she was at work. The mechanic had come, made a minor adjustment, and she was on her way.
Once the panic was over, and with a relieved smile, my daughter told the story to all her colleagues at work. They teased her for weeks with my line: “I’m only a father.” For all the young people at the store, that captured the universal, inevitable moment of discovery: Mom and Dad aren’t super heroes.
“I’m only a father,” has become one of those touchstones in our family lore. It is raised and shared in our family gatherings. I often repeat it myself as I acknowledge my limitations and sometimes re-frame it:
“I’m only a caregiver.”
“I’m only a husband.”
“I’m only a minister.”
“I’m only human.”
The irony is that, the more I acknowledge my power and limitations, the more I discover my capacity to be present and available to others. As I shed the demands of perfection, I often experience the genuine good gifts I am capable of sharing.
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(Originally published at www.WeAreCaregivers.com.)