An Interview with Darren Lewis from Fathering Adventures.

programs for boys

In this powerful interview Jonathan Doyle talks with Darren Lewis, founder of Fathering Adventures about his programs for boys and their fathers. We learn about the incredible role that a father can play in the lives of sons and daughters and much more.

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Welcome to The Men We Need Podcast.  I have the huge pleasure this week of speaking to somebody that I have wanted to talk to for a long time, I have been an unashamed fan of his work because I think it’s absolutely crucial and you know in all the years that I have been working I feel this has been a missing link.  It’s not work that I do, but I think it’s crucial work.  So I am talking with Mr Darren Lewis who is the founder of ‘Fathering Adventures’.  So Darren welcome aboard.

DL:           Thanks Jonathan, it’s great to be speaking with you also.

JD:            And you live in a tough part of the world mate – where are you based?

DL:           Based in Townsville in North, in tropical [h] North Queensland.

JD:            [h] Tropical North Queensland where if it swims, flies, slithers or crawls it can kill you.

DL:           Er, pretty much, pretty much[h]. 

JD:            [h] So I’m excited to talk to you; there’s a lot we’re going to go through.  So let’s just begin telling us a little bit about, just give us a quick synopsis of what Fathering Adventures does.  What happens?

DL:           Sure.  Well look you know, through Fathering Adventures what we do is we provide opportunities for Dads to have some wins – you know it’s really important for a man to have some wins under his belt.  You know a man’s greatest fear is failure and quite often most men feel like failures in the home – as husbands, as fathers – and so we want to, we want to do our best to be able to really equip them and empower them to go about their roles in the best way that they possibly can.  So we provide basically opportunity, that’s really all it is, it’s an invitation, it’s opportunities for men to come, to bring their sons or their daughters and to experience some incredible memory-making moments together.  And it’s so much more than that; I mean there’s a real process involved in regards to where we want to take them.  But initially, first and foremost it’s all about relationship, you know it’s about…relationship is foundational to everything else and so everything that we do involves relationship and enhancing relationship.  Whether the relationships are good or not, you know, we want to sort of move them towards the greater end of the spectrum, and then secondly we really sort of value the importance of raising our boys to be young men and eventually authentic men and so we provide a process on you know, so that their dads within their community of men can usher them and guide them through that process. 

JD:            So of all the things you could have done in the world – astronaut, brain surgeon [h] you know, Formula One driver, you did this.  Why? 

DL:           Well I didn’t start off doing this and it’s interesting actually – what…something we do with the family is we sit around the dinner table at night and we each ask – one person each night – we each ask one another a question, it can be anything, and one of the questions that one of my boys asked one night was simply [h] that, you know, what’s your dream job and um….look that, this, what I’m doing right now – except for the financial elements you know, lacking there[h], is this is my dream job.  So I guess I started off following in my father’s footsteps really to be honest with you.  So he was in the construction industry, from a practical standpoint, he was a rigger and was involved in erecting a lot of steel-frame buildings and so forth, and I…I, you know, it’s in the heart of every boy, of every girl, of every child to really connect with their father and, and I subconsciously, unknowingly sort of wanted to obviously connect with my dad and so I sort of followed him into the industry.  I was more in the planning and proposal sort of the design aspects of the construction industry but that was actually a link where we were able to connect.  But moving into Fathering Adventures I mean I guess there’s a number of reasons.  Number one I came to recognise for myself just how much I lacked not having a relationship with my father and him being quite absent as a workaholic, um, as an alcoholic and so I guess I wanted more for myself, I wanted more for my children, I wanted more for our society and um,…and it’s such a huge, you know this…it’s such a weighty topic.  So between that, and another thing that really challenged me was this obscure ancient Chinese proverb that says ‘If you want to be happy for an hour take a nap, if you want to be happy for a day go fishing, if you want to be happy for a year inherit a fortune and if you want to be happy for a lifetime help someone else succeed’.  And I guess for me, my desire was to help as many people succeed as possible and through my counseling days, I mean we did a lot of counseling – for probably over a dozen years, of men and women – and one of the core things we kept finding, you know probably 99% of the cases, was the fathers absence or the father’s brutality in some way.  There was something, something went wrong, there was some kind of dysfunction in regards to that man and that woman’s relationship with their father when they were younger.  And so when I looked out there I realised well, there’s actually nobody else…there’s nobody out there – or very few people that I came across – who were actually doing too much to prevent the symptoms.  And so I guess that was my desire, I just sort of thought well I want to help as many people succeed and I am really able to best do that if I can help fathers. 

JD:            Oh yeah.  Well you’ve raised, I’ve been taking notes and I’ve planned about 15 podcasts with you already[h].  But I like, you mention about following your father and often when I was doing seminars I’d share the story of reading the recent biography by Hank Haney who was Tiger Woods’ coach and he shares this amazing story where, you know ‘cos Hank Haney would be with Tiger all the time, and there was this obscure piece of information that people didn’t know, which was at the peak of his career Tiger Woods got a very bad knee injury and you know it was sort of almost going to be career-ending and nobody knew how it happened.  But what he reveals in the biography is that you know, almost every weekend that he wasn’t playing golf Tiger was training with the US Navy Seals.  He had all these connections and he was training with the Seals and the other thing that he’d do is, you know sitting around the mansion when they had down-time, you know Tiger would plug into playing US Navy Seals on PlayStation and play it for eight hours at a time – this amazing behaviour.  And then, you know Haney just draws the conclusion, or he doesn’t really draw the conclusion, I sort of joined the dots differently, but you know what did Tiger Woods’ father do for a career?  You know he was a Colonel in the US Special Forces in Vietnam.  And it was just this, you know here is this person acting out, you know who had everything, but is acting out this chronic cry for validation.  And the other one is Michael Jordan who, you know arguably the greatest basketballer in history who walks away at the peak of his fame to play baseball, which coincidentally was the same sport his father was utterly obsessed with.

DL:           Right.

JD:            And it was just like so…  Tell us a little bit more about that; tell us about the cry of the heart – you mentioned before in your counseling work.  What is that?  What is this deep desire that is rarely articulated for the closeness, the affirmation, the love of the father?

DL:           Yeah look, it’s something that is essential for all of us; it’s such an incredibly deep-grown, this deep desire and as you say very few can articulate it ‘cos very few are aware of it.  But as you said though [h] you know, Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, myself, you know?  And just it plays out right the way across our society, there is such a deep desire that exists there for Dad, especially in boys and men, for them to know that their dad loves them, that their dad is proud of them and that their dad is able to affirm them and validate them and say you know ‘You’re really good at these things, you know, you have what it takes’.  It’s that core question that every boy has, every young man, and every, you know, mature aged man has.  You know, do I have what it takes?  And you know, especially when we are younger the greatest masculine influence that we have is our biological father or our father figure, you know a significant male other, whoever it is that’s in our life in the absence of dad and so, you know, what he says about us and what he thinks about us really matters.  And it all happens at a very deep level that most of us are just not conscious of but it’s there, it’s there and it needs to be answered. 

JD:            It’s interesting you say that, you know, operative at a very deep level.  I mean reading that biography I was like here is a person acting out these sort of semi-bizarre fantasies and probably deeply unaware of what’s driving them.  But something you said at the start, I really liked how you talked about you know the opportunity for Dads to have some wins and I thought it was really powerful when you said that so many men, you know, feel like failures and it’s the great masculine fear isn’t it.  And um, so…tell us about that.  Why do you think so many men feel like failures? 

DL:           Well you know it comes down to this: there’s probably a whole bunch of reasons you know from the fact that we probably have failed at times and nobody’s kind of looked us in the eye, you know our dads didn’t look us in the eye and say ‘You did not fail’ you know to kind of reinterpret what had actually happened – that’s really important for a dad to do.  But there’s also, you know the idea of um, of just, er, with our failures – um actually I’ve just lost my train of thought there Jonathan…

JD:            I do that every time I make a good cup of tea or something and it sits in front of me during the podcast and I go, that was very good.  So look well give me a…let’s take a little tangent here, tell us a little bit about the process.  Tell us a little bit about, you know, obviously I reckon these dads must turn up, you know their kids, their sons or daughters will be like you know, what is this trap?[h]  So what’s that first dynamic like when they arrive and how do you sort of provide some opening reassurance?

DL:           Okay.  Jonathan, just before I respond to that question, that question actually reminded me of what I was going to say in the answer to your last question and it was simply this: that when you look at men and you know you listen to men and you see where they are strong at, most men feel strong in the workplace.  You know most people, most men will gravitate there and you have to ask here the question why is that?  And I just, I firmly believe that it’s because that’s where we receive our training, our instruction.  You know that’s…we go to university or we you know do an apprenticeship, we get the on-the-ground sort of training and in regards to our social roles as husbands and as fathers – we don’t get that training.  You know it’s, for the most part it’s been um, you know unavailable to us.  You know when our babies are born they don’t kind of come out holding this manual to sort of say okay this is everything you need to know to raise me.  And so, you know we kind of default to where our own dads – most men do – default to where our own dads failed, or we react to it and so, and you know the common cry of men’s hearts that I hear with the dads who come along on our adventures is they say these two things.  They say, you know I believe that I’ve been a really good financial provider and I have been a very good disciplinarian; I’ve taken on those parts of that role really well and the reason why I’ve done that is because that’s what my dad did, that’s what he offered.  And one of the things that they walk away with is they go ‘Wow’ you know, like ‘You’ve just opened my mind up to so much more about my role and it’s stuff that I actually get really enthused about now, you know, this is something I’m excited about, something that I’m going to be implementing, and you know I love this why wasn’t I told this earlier?’  So I think that kind of, I think that’s the response to that first question.  As far as the second question goes, look we, we kind of…when people turn up you know they’re…it’s possible that there’s a bit of awkwardness… you know we don’t, we typically don’t do that ‘cos I build some relationship before, with the dads before they come, at least between myself and them.  I feel as thought they can get to know me on the lead up to those adventures.  Um and then we really kind of, we really kick it off… the very first thing we do to be honest unless we’re somewhere that needs to provide some kind of a site induction, is we’ll play a film clip, some kind of funny film clip in regards to a father and a son or a father and a daughter or something along those lines, and something that will get them laughing, something that will shock them, something that they will sort of think well this…you know ‘Wow, if this is where we are going I can dig this’ you know ‘this is fine’.  And so it’ll get them laughing and I’ll get up there right away and I sort of say guys, you know I showed that clip for two reasons; number one because we’re here to have fun.  And so it just kind of disarms all of the thoughts that could be going through their minds of what’s this all about, what’s gonna happen here and am I going to be kind of…is he going to shine the light in on me and kind of expose me, and you know it sort of addresses all those fears and concerns that a lot of men have.  So we simply sort of say it, we say you know at the end of this weekend or at the end of this week, you know one of the things that’s really important to us is that you can walk away and know that you have had an extremely fun and enjoyable, exciting time with us.  So you find that…you know and that’s one of the reasons why we really involved adventure.  You know there’s a whole bunch of reasons why we’ve involved adventure but for number one is it’s just, once again it’s one of those [.? 14:34] of a man’s heart to engage in some kind of adventure.  And so when you kind of throw out the, the, you know the carrot, the bait, the lure of hey come and have some fun with your son or your daughter, we’re going to organise it all for you, um you know you just find that men really respond to that.  And they’re just like ‘Wow, yeah I’d love to do that, I’ve thought of doing it but…

JD:            It’s a crucial point isn’t it?  I spoke at the World Congress of Families on the weekend and I was dealing with the light and airy topic of pornography addiction in marriage and um [h] you know one of the things I said about you know helping men, you know you’ve got to build a whole big structure about helping men recover from that addiction but I said one of them is fun.  Like I said to this big audience, I said to the men you know, ‘When was the last time you had genuine, outrageous fun?’  You know?  I mean I am lucky, I play golf every day so I’ve ticked that box [h], but I’m just like, all these guys, you could just see all these men from like 17 to 70 sort of going, ‘Ah, yeah, yeah’.  And so this need for adventure, I mean John Eldredge writes powerfully about it, but tell us what do you guys do, what sort of things do you get up to?

DL:           Well it depends on where we are at.  It depends on… on the ages of the children.  You know for our younger age-group, ages sort of 7 through to 13 and their dads – or significant male others – we kind of keep the…we want to make it as affordable as possible, so we more or less introduce them to adventure.  So during our weekends there’ll be a half-day you know professionally-guided group outdoor adventure where all the fathers and sons or dad and daughters can get in together and just share that common experience and adventure together and really build relationships amongst those pairs.  So that can be anything like sea kayaking, canoeing down a river system, high ropes, horse-riding, you know and that obviously depends on our locations.  And we want to keep them, you know we want to keep those kind of tame to suit you know that age-group?  [JD: Yep]  And also, you know mums who are kind of releasing their children um, you know we don’t want to frighten them and we want to put their minds at ease, so what we do is really, you know there’s an element of minor risk, but it’s quite risk free.  With our five-night adventures and our four-night adventures we kind of up the ante somewhat because once again, especially with our four and five-night father/son adventures that whole idea of a boy needing to be tested and challenged in his, you know in his journey, and in the process of him moving from boyhood into manhood and discovering that he does have what it takes – you know the adventures are a little bit more um, er risky, and hard.  And I mean there’s nothing that’s necessarily life-threatening but you know, it’s things like white-water rafting down the Tully River with grade 3 and 4 rapids.  You know there’s sea kayaking between Mission Beach and Dunk Island, we go out on to the reef – that’s probably not quite as risky, although for some just getting out to the reef can be quite a process.  Some can get sea-sick and er, so we go out to the reef and we do snorkeling and some decide to take on the optional extra of doing some scuba-diving out there as that extra sort of challenge.

JD:            There’s so much going on listening to that.  Like I’m sitting here going I wish my four year-old would hurry up and grow up so I could come out[h] but actually I take him out on the golf course; it’s really cute, I just bought ‘em both – I’ve got three little ones – but I just bought my daughter, my five year-old daughter her first set of clubs.  But listening to you I’m reminded of, you know some listeners would know Robert Bly who’s kind of seen as the grandfather of the men’s movement and there’s a line in that book Iron John where he talks about you know that, fathers and sons throughout most of history lived in you know incredible proximity and he actually uses the term ‘murderously close at times’.  And listening to you I think just that experience of fathers and sons and yes, daughters obviously too, but you know just that physical closeness, that tactile being with.  You know because for so many boys, dad may not be around, dad works away so often or dad’s exhausted when he gets home; you know there’s just not that, that physical level of engagement is there?

DL:           No, absolutely.  And that’s so important you know when our kids grow up so quickly, and you know we do have to ask ourselves the question of what are they going to leave home with and what sense of you know real, genuine masculinity are they leaving with?  And what kind of memories are they going to leave with?  What are their memories of me as their father? And what kind of experiences have we shared?  And you’re right, you know we live in a world that’s so incredibly fast-paced, so incredibly busy, and I think a lot of us have just been caught up into that.  It’s a very sort of easy snare to sort of get trapped in.  And yeah look, we want to once again provide those opportunities.  So it just really seals the memory.  But there’s so much more that sort of takes place.  Because it’s not just the act or adventure, it’s not just excitement…/

JD:            No, it’s not and let’s talk about that ‘cos that’s been on my mind.  Like reveal as much or as little as you want.  I’ve had a friend – some listeners would know the inimitable Robert Falzon, Robert if you are listening hello to you – and Robert recently went on one and just was blown away.  And I am a shameless fan; I want every man listening this to really get behind Darren’s vision and make time for this.  But tell us a little bit about what you do in the evenings.  I don’t know too much, but I know that it’s a really important time, the de-brief and that experience.  So what happens?

DL:           Yeah.  Look the first…so I’m going to speak about the five-night adventures here Jonathan is that…right?

JD:            Yeah go for it, yeah yeah.

DL:           Okay, so let’s just look at our five-night father/son adventures for example.  You know we have people come from all over Australia, all over the world; you know USA, Europe, you know Perth, Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra, and so on, and they’ll arrive in to YANSEL, we’ll drive up…drive up to Tully where we are for our five-night adventures in tropical North Queensland, and then when we get there we kind of once again relax them into it, we show you know that video clip and we’ll begin to speak about where we’re headed for the week, we’ll keep it reasonably light, they’ll get to go and have a good night’s sleep, a good rest, you know have a nice feed and the next day we’ll go out for an all-day adventure.  That evening what we’ll do is we’ll…I’ll actually separate the fathers and the sons and I’ll take the sons down and I’ll present to the sons from a son’s perspective and share my relationship with my father as a son and I’ll get them to do a few things.  You know I’ll get them to…write their dads a letter.  I’ll give them some questions to discuss in small groups after my presentation to them and whilst I am now headed up to speak to the fathers about what it means to be an intentional father, what’s really required from him in that as well as a bit of a briefing of some of the things that he’s gonna do throughout the week. And there’s three main things that we do throughout the week, aside from these presentations each evening – as you pointed out every evening, after having a full day outdoors, you know in the wild sort of doing incredibly fun things and exciting things – we’ll have presentations like you know ‘authentic manhood versus conventional manhood’.  You know we’ll look at the contrast between those things and then we’ll look at the four marks of a real man and then on the final evening is one of the things that I brief the dads earlier in the week for, and so there’s three things.  First of all I tell them, you know what I mentioned before about the idea of a father affirming his son and doing that publically.  And so what we do is, over each mealtime after that, so the very next morning and then that evening and then the very next morning again, we’ll have one, two, three fathers – I’ll invite them to get up and to…and they’ll  grab their son and then they’ll look into their son’s eyes with their hands on their shoulders and they’ll just basically pour that into them; just tell them that they love them and what it is that they love about them, that they are proud of them and what it is that they are proud of them for, and that they do have what it takes to be an incredible man – that dad sees that in them.  And then they’ll kind of sit down and the next person’ll have their go and it all sort of happens over the course of the week that unfolds.  Another thing we do is on the final full day of adventures we do the hike to the summit of a mountain and it’s really a symbolic thing; you know kind of reaching the summit, reaching the pinnacle and it’s the summit of their relationship and the summit of manhood, and once again, during my presentation to the sons right at the beginning I say guys there’s going to be this moment, on the mountainside, before you reach the summit, you are going to branch out, you’re going to have lunch with your dad, I really want to encourage you to ask the question, ask any question of your dad that you have always wanted to know. [JD: Wow]  You know there are some things that we don’t know about our dads and if there’s anything, any question you have, whatever it is, ask your dad right there on the mountainside.  And then I brief the dads, I sort of say guys when we are on the mountainside I have given your permission and I have told your sons to ask you anything that they have always wondered about you; it might be something that happened in your past, how you met mum, you know why did you break up with mum? – whatever it may have been and I said answer them honestly.  You know and just share your heart and share your life with them. 

JD:            Oh yeah.

DL:           And so that’s become an incredible time.   You know that…it’s as…I mean I am always humbled by that because for a lot of fathers and sons, you know they’ll say that was, that moment right there was the most powerful moment on the mountainside…of the whole week, and I’m just, I’m humbled by that because I never sort of dreamt that that would be so incredibly weighty, but there’s always stories of sons saying you know, ‘My father told me something up there on the mountain that he’s never told anybody before, and I told my father something that I have never told anyone before’ [JD: ah yeah] and it’s just this real, you know, deep relationship that’s forged in that moment.  And then of course in the absence of the son asking the question I get dad to share his story; it’s so important – you know cultures right the way down through the ages, right the way round the world have always shared their stories, the fathers, the men of the community have always shared their stories to the sons.  So in the absence of the son asking the question, and if there’s more time there then dad shares his story, something perhaps that he knows that his son doesn’t know and perhaps should know about who he is and his journey into manhood.

JD:            Ah yeah.  And it’s just…keep going yeah.

DL:           And then if the son – sorry Jonathan – then of course the very last thing we do on the very final evening after that, after the mountain hike that day is we have our initiation ceremony.  You know something that’s really critical to boys becoming men is there actually being a ceremony, a date that we can mark on our calendars in the same way that we have been able to say you know I was married on this date; you know there was a ceremony, there was a celebration and so once again, it’s this ceremony that takes place within this community of men that’s been brought together and dad really leads his son on a charge.  You know instead of now affirming him that he’s done earlier in the week it’s now a case of ‘son, you know now this is what’s coming in your life and this is now what I am charging you with’.  And that’s really unique to every father/son combination.

JD:            I was just listening to you, it’s just really moving thinking about my own father who has been dead for a while now and er, just the impact of um, you know of this stuff not happening and you used the word before where you talked about intentional fathering and your whole process is intentional and I think that’s a really crucial word.  Talk to me about intentional fathering; it’s not happening – what is it?

DL:           Well yeah look there’s you know we always say that there’s really three types of fathers.  There’s the absent father and I guess that requires no further explanation, and that can be a man who is actually physically present in the home but is absent.  I mean that was my story with my dad. Then you get, the next rung up so to speak is the involved father, you know he’s the guy who’s on the sidelines at the footie matches or the cricket matches and so on, it’s you know cheering for his son and he’s involved but he’s not necessarily intentional and that’s really the pinnacle of fathering I think; it’s just having this understanding that my boy, my little boy, or my teenage son is going to become a man – what kind of man will he be?  What does he need?  What do I need to do in order to be able to make that happen for him?  Robert Lewis in his book Raising a Modern Day Knight you know, he gives the analogy of the volleyball game, you know the three key, the three strategic moves in volley-ball being the dig, the set and the spike and so he’s sort of…he says it this way.  He says with the dig it’s about us digging into our own character and looking in the mirror, because you know who we see in the mirror is who our son is going to reflect, and so if we need to change something about ourselves now then now is the time to do it.  You know?  Not down the track but right now.  Let’s dig deep in our own characters and make those changes necessary and then there’s the set and it’s really setting our sons up with once again a definition, a vision for what it means to be a real man.  What is a real man?  What does a real man do?  Where does he invest his time and finances?  You know what’s…you know how does a real man treat his wife?  How does he treat others?  You know we need to be intentional about passing that on and teaching and training and instructing and coaching and modeling and all of that.  And that’s intentionality.  And then of course the third key move being a spike is really just once again sealing the deal; it’s finishing strong and that’s really where your idea of ceremony comes in.  And you know when a father has raised his son, has moved his son through that sort of passage, that process, you know he’s proving himself to be an intentional father.  And I believe that every father who comes along to our adventures, I believe that he’s intentional anyway because he just, at some point whether he has just Google-searched us on the internet or whatever, at some point he’s gone, you know what, my son and I could really use this, I’ve really realised that I haven’t offered this in the way that perhaps I should and I’m behind the 8-ball so what I’m gonna do is I’m gonna register for something like this now.  I’m going to invest in this, in my time, my finances, you know we’re going to jump on a plane or jump in the car and you know we’re going to make that happen.  So they are intentional before they get there anyway.  It’s really just a matter of expanding upon that intentionality.  And as I said men get enthused about this; they’re like well I never had that growing up.  You know my dad wasn’t there and I just kind of had to fumble my way through on my own you know during those adolescent years, you know with my hormones racing and my emotions you know responding and…and you know wow…I can be there, I can show him, I’ve got a place that’s more weighty, more grand, more glorious than simply you know financial provision and discipline.  And though those things are important, it just gives him once again a vision for something much more grand and they can own that together too which is what I love.  They learn these things together.  Because to be honest with you Jonathan, most men don’t know you know the answers to these things.  And it’s that old saying you know that says ‘How do we take someone where we haven’t been ourselves?’  Well hopefully through what you do, through what I do, through what others are doing we are able to help men, help take them to those places so that they can in turn take their sons.  And I’m quite, I’m always humbled too by the…what happens is is at the end of the weeks – those weeks in particular – we quite often have fathers who will sit there, we’ll be sitting around the campfire or something and they’ll kind of say you know Darren I came here for my son, I brought my son to this because he needed to know these things, but I am telling you that I think I got more than my son out of this.  You know I have recognised things about myself that I, that I can do that I didn’t think I could do, and there’s some things that I can do better.  You know so they themselves whilst we, whilst we’re not out there providing rights of passage for men so to speak, what ends up happening is that men are sort of also transported through a process themselves and they leave much stronger than which they came so… no matter where they have been.

JD:            And it’s amazing the social cost of that lack of intentionality.  Like one of the points we make in our online programme for schools is sort of, you know in the absence of men answering these core questions around sexuality, relationships, intimacy, how to be a fine man, it’s not as if these days boys just drift through with no inputs; they get huge inputs now from internet pornography, often some pretty dodgy stuff from peer groups.  So you know I think what you are doing…and I remember once speaking at – in terms of the social costs – speaking at a very, very elite school overseas, it wasn’t in Australia and at the end of it a woman came to see me and she was…I’m sure, I remember thinking she must have had a modeling career ‘cos she was one of the most stunning women I have ever seen, she was still quite young, came to see me and she said at the end of this presentation on manhood and raising boys and everything she said, you know she had four boys, under the age of 12 and you know she was…her husband was involved in you know, in business internationally and they were lucky to see him six months of the year.  And I just, what struck me was this concept of scoreboards, that in the absence of this deep, abiding sense of affirmation and knowing that interior gaze of the father, that men run scoreboards and scoreboards will be positions, finance, promotion and I’m thinking about – I never met the man – but I’m thinking about you know what is going on in you that you have this wife, you have these four precious little boys and something is driving you so hard.  I mean wouldn’t it be better to live in a mud hut and you know live on food stamps, I mean just to be with them you know like?  So…look something I wanted to ask you was…/

DL:           Just, Jonathan just one second, on that…I mean for most men’s stories I think what they are doing there is they are searching for validation themselves.

JD:            Yeah.

DL:           You know if, as you say, if I can sort of up that score in those particular areas then I am a man.  You know it’s this driven, it’s this wanting to prove, once again most times unknowingly, subconsciously, but yeah, this search for validation you know so that others can see me as a success.

JD:            Yeah look I was, I was 37 before I stopped [h].  I had to have it prized from my hands.  It’s funny[h], it’s like you know I was 37 years of age before I finally you know had enough good people around me to go you know what, it ain’t all about the external performance my friend.  And you know I’ve got this absolutely beautiful four year-old son who is just [h] in many ways the opposite of me[h]; he’s the most gentle, just beautiful little boy and you know listening to you before talk about you know who you see in the mirror is what he’s learning, and I’ve, you know just such a challenge to, to constantly be evaluating myself and where I’m at, because you know I don’t want to channel the worst of previous generations.  And so listen the question I had for you, I’ve got a couple to go, but in all this work you have done and everything you have seen, read, experienced what breaks your heart?

DL:           I think what breaks my heart most is the ignorance.  I think that we as a society as a whole don’t value fatherhood in the way that we should.  We don’t value manhood.  And so you know you have dads who, they…because we don’t talk about these things, because you know the TV Advertisements that show men on TV, or the TV programmes and so on; you know all the stuff that we get usually show men as buffoons, you know instead of good, noble, honourable, and you know men of integrity.  You know men have got I think, I believe, settle for less.  I think that there’s just a not knowing just how important their roles are; as men, as husbands, as fathers.  And so, I mean I fortunately, or unfortunately depending on which way you want to look at it, I get to see a lot of…just a lot of the rubble that’s left from a dad who’s out there, once again seeking and searching for that validation himself, when all the time, you know if I just had some time with him and helped to point him in the right direction – not that I have all the answers – but just to say listen you know, the search for validation, the hunger that you have to be significant, you know will actually come through this, for what you do in the home, for what you do with your wife and for what you do with your kids and so I think when I see…/

JD:            And that’s a complete paradigm shift isn’t it?  For most men.

DL:           Yep – absolutely.

JD:            You know that whole thing you talked about before, the Homer Simpson sort of thing where culturally we just do not put any emphasis on… and you started this podcast talking about you know dads feeling like they have some wins so they go out to the pub, they go out to the office – and we’re not critiquing that, we’re not saying it’s terrible – but we’re just going…you know they don’t realise that the most important goals they kick are going to be once they walk through the front door.

DL:           Yeah, absolutely.  You know there’s a guy by the name of Stephen Clark I think his name is, and he was… he did this, he’s a sociologist from Yale and did this study and I think he studied men for like 15 years or 18 years or something.  And he concluded his study with this sort of sentence.  He said for whatever reason men have this natural tendency to avoid social, you know social involvement.  And you know what he’s saying is there’s this passivity that we as men have inherited that really is in the way, it kind of almost prevents us from interacting with our wives and interacting with our children in a very intentional way.  And so we have to see that come down, you know for us to get a clue.  Men need to be connected with other men…[JD: Yeah, huge] and that’s just not happening enough.

JD:            Yep.  And I said that at the Congress.  And I’ve got a group – know there’s four of us, myself and three other guys.  Three of us have been friends for 15/20 years and a new guy just joined us, but I’m just like…and you know two of these guys are pretty senior people and you know they’ve got very demanding busy lives, and we just make that a priority and we are really, all four of us just… you know telling the truth.  You know Brian McClain, sorry Craig McClain who runs Boys To Men in San Diego talks about community and truth.  He said…that his programme is so simple[h], they just build a community where boys and men tell the truth and I find in my own group of men having that place where you can just be real about what’s actually happening is so powerful.  So my other question for you – I have two to go.  One was we’ve talked about what breaks your heart, what’s your best memory?  What is the most awesome thing that you came home and you lay awake at 2 am thinking that was awesome?

DL:           In what context?  Either myself or as running Fathering Adventures?

JD:            Running Fathering Adventures.  What’s one of the best memories you have had?

DL:           Yeah look um one of my best memories, you know and it’s just there’s so many, but one that sort of stands out to me was a…was a potentially tragic – and it was a tragic situation.  And you know we get all types and you know some incredibly good fathers, better fathers than me I believe, but then we get some dads who we have discussed who just don’t really know any better because they didn’t have that, they’d never received it themselves.  And so there was this one, this one…something that happened last September and we had filled our five-night father/son adventure and what had happened was this, I got this phonecall from this mother and she was distressed and she just basically said, ‘Darren, she said is there any more places left for the September five-night father/son adventure?’  And I said I’m so sorry there’s not, you know we’re already at capacity.  And she said ‘Darren let me tell you why, here’s the story: my son has just failed a second suicide attempt, he’s currently in a hospital and the town in which we live in doesn’t have a hospital for children, or doesn’t have, you know a psychological ward for teenagers or kids or whatever, he’s in an adult institution and he’s sort of really locked up there and you know we are just at the end of ourselves.’  And you know this is something that his father never knew but his mother actually said this to me, she said, ‘When I was speaking to him one of the things that he said was he said, um, you know “dad’s just never there.  You know dad doesn’t know me and I don’t know dad”.’  And I’m not saying that that was the reason why he’s tried to you know commit suicide twice, obviously he was suffering you know depression and I don’t know where his medication status was at, and, you know, who had actually been trying to work through his issues with him – I’m not sure about all of that.  But um, we thankfully, our outdoor adventure guides were able to move heaven and earth and we were able to get him there and with his father and his father was so incredibly willing and his father was just a wonderful man.  And they came along and they just had a ball.  And they went home and the mum phoned me and she just said you know, look what you have done.  ‘We will be eternally grateful for’, like ‘what you have done’, and said ‘You know, my son just had an incredible time and has just come back changed’. But then she sort of said, ‘But my husband, like he’s come back a different man and he’s completely changed and you know he’s already planning taking our next couple of…’ ’cos they’ve got three boys…so already planning on taking the next two boys and making plans for that, and just told me about how…  You know at the time this young man had left high school, he was in year 12 and he had left high school prematurely and at the time he’d actually had to take a phonecall for a potential job application whilst he was with us and we kind of walked him through that a bit and encouraged him and just, you know, told him that we believed in him, and he actually missed out on that job – the mother was… ‘Cos I followed him up, you know I like to, I don’t sort of see these people come and then just, you know, say okay thanks for coming and goodbye.  I maintain a relationship with these people for as long as they want to maintain it for.  And so I remember you know asking her well how did he go with the job?  And she said, ‘Look he didn’t get it – but he did get another job and he’s loving it’. 

JD:            Wow.

DL:           You know there’s just things that, things like the idea of accepting responsibility, that they learnt there.  And one of the things was just simply, you know dad sort of said you know we always have to be on your back to take out the rubbish each week.  You know would you do that, and take responsibility for doing that and really helping us out in that way?  And once again the mother sort of said you know what, we don’t have to ask him to take out the bin anymore, he just does it because he’s accepting responsibility, one of those four marks of a real man so…

JD:            [h] Small victories.  So I’m gonna wrap this up.  I want to ask, not so much in the context of Fathering Adventures, I’m going to give a massive plug to that in just a second, but I want you to imagine that you walk into a room and sitting in front of you you have 1,000 fathers of adolescents, and you are given the chance – you can only give them two pieces of advice – and the absolute two go-to pieces of advice about how to be an intentional father, what’s important.  What two things would you tell them?

DL:           To be involved, get involved, be there.  You know don’t be absent.  You know just once again the power of a father’s presence can just never be overstated.  So just, you know to be honest with you I don’t need two.  That for me is the fist one: dad plug in, dad whatever you…whatever it is that you feel that you can’t offer, don’t have, then do whatever it takes to get that.  Go and read a book, go and get alongside a mentor, some father that you look at and sort of see okay, he’s done well with his son and I really respect him as a father, I’m going to connect with him.  And so I guess those would be the two pieces of advice: be there and if you feel inadequate as most men do you are not alone, but get help, you know find somebody who can help you, take you to that place.  And do that unashamedly because you know you will grow so much through that and then ultimately you’ll be prepared to be there for somebody else.  I mean we need to pass this on to others. 

JD:            Yeah.  Mate thank you so much.  I just want to give a huge plug now for everyone listening, you have to go to  I’m going to put a link to it underneath the podcast but make a decision that today you are going to visit fatheringadventures, one word, and check out Darren’s site.  I have just felt such a heart for this from when I first encountered Darren’s work; I have no [h] commercial involvement with it so I’m not benefiting here, I just think there is gold here and this one strategy of going on these adventures can just have such a massive impact.  So if you are a mother listening to this, you know handcuff your husband to a chair and make him listen to this podcast.  I want you to, you know whoever is listening to this, get it in front of principals, teachers, it’s just such an important and wonderful ministry and I think the more that we can get people along to Fathering Adventures the better.  I’ve just such a heart for what this can do; for individuals, for schools, for communities… So mate, Darren to you a huge thanks mate.  I know there’s days when you are probably you know thinking how’s it all going to come together and everything but I just… mate, you started by that proverb where you talked about you know if you wanted to be happy for a lifetime and um, I think when we get to heaven and you see that big HD movie of your life you know there’ll be so many people who have been touched so a huge thank you for what you do.

DL:           Yeah, thank you and thank you for what you do Jonathan, we really appreciate you and yeah, there’s so many men out there who are doing so many great things – and you’re one of them mate so I respect you.  Bless you.

JD:            Thanks mate.  Godbless, thanks for your time.

DL:           And you.



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