It is easier for me to write about mothering than it is to write about fathering.

This is a curious truth since I have never, of course, been a mother. But, to my eternal joy, I am a father times two.

When I look at the mothers I have been privileged to observe most closely in my life, I am filled with awe and admiration. It is  easy to write about the consistent light, beauty, love, and nurture I see in their relationships with their children.

When I look at my own career as a father I mostly see the cracks and flaws in my performance of this noble role. To be honest, I am not even sure I know what fathers are for. Once things get under way, our role seems less clear in the lives of the children we have helped launch on the uncertain journey of life.

The role of the mother seems more obvious and natural. We fathers have to create a function in the lives of our progeny. And, too often, the role I have assigned myself as father has fallen sadly short of any vision of fathering to which I might, in my more lucid moments, have aspired. I have chosen to play the role of law-giver, judge, and referee. I have sought too often, by sheer force of will, to control the little universe of my family.

I might have said at the time, if you had asked, that I was only seeking to keep everyone safe and secure, surely a father’s role. But I would have been lying. The truth is I was hoping to present myself to the world as a strong, “successful” parent. I was hoping that our orderly family life would prove what a fine job I was doing as a father. The person I really sought to protect was myself. It was my image that was my primary concern. When the world around us was coming unglued, as it so often does, I wanted to be seen as strong and in control. I aimed to create a world in which nothing could go wrong, so that I might experience the world as a safe and secure place.

But there is no such world. Things do go wrong. People get hurt. Expectations are not fulfilled. We are let down even by those we love. We fall short of our most cherished ideals. No matter how capable, smart, strong, and healthy we may be there will always be pain and brokenness around some corner down the road.

So, my understanding of fathering has shifted to a more gentle place. It is not my job to create a perfect and secure world in which there are never any bumps in the road. It is my job to embody for those I love the reality that, when things go wrong, there remains a steady place within that never lets us down. When things hurt there is always a deeper reality where I know all of life is held.

I do not want my children to think that their function in life is to avoid any possible hurt or the slightest hint of vulnerability or failure. I want them to know that they are not defined by the hurts and failures that have already occurred and will continue to happen in their lives.

They are defined by the deep truth and love that reside at the heart of their being.

As a father, I want my children to look in my eyes and see reflected back the reality that, no matter what may happen to them, no matter what they may ever do, they are unreservedly loved and totally beautiful.

I want them to know that the love I carry for them is but a small reflection of the love that beats at the heart of the universe and that will never let them down.

Today that is what I hope to achieve in my fathering. It is a little easier and more hopeful than trying to create a world in which no one ever gets hurt or feels sad.