So it’s father's day soon: that time of year when we look at celebrating men around the world being dads.
I’m not a father myself (yet), I haven’t really thought much past the annual ritual of getting my dear old Dad a fresh pair of socks and/or jocks, and maybe reminding him how bad his jokes are.
But the day has got me thinking - I was keen to know more about being a Father. To help me explore fatherhood I met with my Uncle Daryl, the dad of two strapping young lads, Noah (12) and Elijah (10).
To get some insight into Daryl’s world and the realm of Fatherhood, the boys and I went on a leisurely Sunday ride out to Nudgee beach in Brisbane, Queensland. Daryl and his boys try to get around by bike whenever possible so it was great to soak up the vibe this little family unit has together out on an adventure.
So Daryl, what does being a father mean to you?
Love. Sharing that love and seeing it come back to you, quicker than sunshine.
What has being a father taught you?
You can’t change another soul on this planet. To lead by example. The better father I am; the better person I am; the better character I am. I have to express that.
It means going about my day-to-day living practicing all this and being what I would ideally like my children to be.
So that’s mainly what being a father has taught me. Probably the first few years I’ve tried to do it the hard way - shout at them, put them down, or use all that emotional blackmail.
Now I just find if I'm doing a good job, they have to follow that example.
And friendship. It’s taught me a bit about true friendship. Not having too many expectations day-to-day. Kids always have their idea of what they want to do. I just try to move with that, and give them encouragement. It’s learning how to adapt, and realising that it’s not all about me.
It’s been good having kids later in life, because I was pretty selfish, and it’s taught me to put me on the back burner a bit, and put all that energy into the boys. Hopefully they can make a difference to the world.
Why do you take the boys on adventures?
Even our bike ride today, enjoying the scenery, it reminded me of the English countryside from when I was young. Yeah we do go on adventures, but it’s not always on bikes. Sometimes we go mountain climbing, we’ve climbed Mount Warning, Mount Maroon and we went up Ngun-ngun (Glass House Mountains). My son Noah just about set the land speed record getting down. Yeah, I had to catch up, otherwise he’d still be there face planted in the cliff.
Adventures are about pushing ourselves a little bit, especially with the mountain climbing. It’s about just getting outdoors really, and experiencing life. These days it’s too easy with all these devices and the internet, to just sit and watch a movie, or go on the Playstation.
What adventures do you think you’ll get up to in the future?
We’re going to New Zealand
What will you be getting up to over there?
Just a bit of hiking. We might hire a camper van, or if there’s enough to do where we are then perhaps we won’t push ourselves too much and try and have an actual holiday without much driving. Maybe we can hire some bikes out there.
How important do you think it is for your kids to go out on adventures?
I think it’s super important, especially from a young age, because then you’ll naturally be drawn to it as you get older.
Mother Nature is beyond our understanding, physically we can see what’s going on around us in the landscape, but to actually get out in nature and be absorbed in these five elements, you can’t second guess what’s going to happen.
Every time you go out, it’s always going to be different. I’m a keen photographer so I'm always trying to get out and catch a good snap. It’s about the exercise as well, just to get out there and get that fresh air in your lungs.
Kids can never get enough of it.
They’ve got so much energy, they need to expend it all otherwise they’ll use it in the wrong ways. They’ll get into the wrong habits, like watching too much TV. I think that getting out there and experiencing life is a good practice. Just to see other people that are around doing the same thing, and sharing the space, saying hello to people. It’s super important.
Teachers will be able to tell from a child’s performance at school who does and doesn’t get out there and get active. Even if it’s just bush walking or mountain biking, it doesn’t even have to be competitive. It’s just getting out there. It’s paramount.
What challenges do you face getting your children away from the vices of today’s society?
From a very early age, we haven’t watched a lot of television. We’ve really just seen a few movies, and things like that. We’ve never had any of the Playstations in the house and hence they haven’t been drawn to it. Elijah has always loved getting outside, just picking up a stick and dragging it around the garden. He’ll spend hours with a rock and a stick and he’s happy. And Noah just loves to get out there, loves the sunsets and sunrises and seeing nature change. They both love animals and love running into dogs when they’re walking.
So Daryl, is there anything else you’d like to say about being a dad?
The only thing I’d like to add is to have a good experience with your children. Just be on their level, enjoy their company and enjoy the things they love to do.
A lot of kids I see are always having to do what their parents are doing, so sometimes it’s good to just get out there, whether it’s kicking a football or going to NZ or planning a trip overseas, even if it’s only ever a dream.
I think it’s really good to find out what your kids like, and be there for them. And I’ve been lucky with my two boys, we all share similar interests, so it's less like a father/son relationship and more like a big brother/little brother relationship. We do a lot together, we eat out a lot, we go bushwalking and mountain climbing and I just really enjoy my kids’ company. A lot of other parents are different, they enjoy more social meetings with people within their peer group, or people they work with; I’ve always just loved being around with the kids. If there’s a party I’ll always sit with the kids and crack jokes and see what’s going on at school. So it’s been really easy for me to just hang with my boys.
I know that if there was any message to give, it’s that they grow up so quick. I know this time won’t come again, when they’ll be mine just to nurture and guide. So I take this time very seriously, because I know that in another five or 10 years they’re going to have partners and mates, or they’re going to head off overseas and do a lot of other things… And Dad will still be an important part of their life, but he won't be the centre of it. At the moment I'm just enjoying the 15 seconds of their time. I just don’t think you can’t take it for granted.
See also: Bottle for Botol - an Aussie initiative providing clean water and drinking bottles to school kids in Indonesia
After listening to Daryl speak about being a father, I got the impression that it takes true selflessness.
Being a father is an adventure in itself. It’s about putting aside your own ego, sometimes your own dreams to realise the dreams of your kids. It’s about nurturing and creating an environment in which they can thrive.
We all know getting out for a good bush walk clears the head and clears the mind. Teaching these values to your kids however comes with its own challenges and joys.
Sometimes as adults we can appear to act even more immature than young kids. It seems to be as we all get older we lose the ability to dream, to adapt and to learn as quickly as we once did. One thing Daryl seems to have a good handle on is not being so wrapped up in the adult world, to let go the pressures of the past, the future and truly be there for his two beautiful sons in the present.
We all have our version of ‘Adventure’ but what does this mean to all the kids out there?
After all isn’t getting outdoors, in whatever way it might be, all just a scheme to be a kid again, even just for a little bit?