Father’s Day, June 19: Have you ever heard (or said), ‘I’m only a father!’

Benjamin Pratt with his own father, the Little League coach in the upper right corner. Little Benjamin is sitting second from his right. (If you’d care to read Benjamin’s earlier column about his own father and their mutual love for baseball, click here.)


EDITOR’S NOTEAmerican Father’s Day began in Spokane, Washington, in 1910, because Sonora Smart Dodd was moved by a Mother’s Day sermon in church to approach her pastor about similarly honoring fathers. Her own was a Civil War veteran and single father who raised six children. Despite support by trade groups and the Father’s Day Council, Father’s Day was rejected by both the general public and Congress until 1966. President Richard Nixon signed the holiday into law in 1972Each year, our online magazine salutes Father’s Day—this year through this inspiring story by Benjamin Pratt, author of Guide for Caregivers.


‘I’m only a father!’


Contributing Columnist

Benjamin Pratt today with his wife Judith.

When 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 am for Baltimore. About five miles from her destination, on a busy interstate, the car broke down. She called me, frantic and scared, as the 18 wheelers sped by, 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!”

“I’m only a father,” I gently retorted. “You will have to call a local garage or towing company.”

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.

In her humorous way, with the panic over, she told the story to all her colleagues at work. They teased her for weeks with one line from the conversation, “I’m only a father.” For all the young people at the store, that became a great line, one that broke their hope for invincible, all powerful parents.

“I’m only a father,” has become one of those touchstones in our family lore. It is raised and shared in our family gatherings.

It also is often reframed by me as I acknowledge my limitations.

“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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