‘They Grow Up Fast’ was labor of love

Michael Miller  ·  Aug 01, 2016

It was a pure act of love.

They Grow Up Fast is a video compendium of his four children—Alexandra (“Xan”), 10; Emmy, 9; Zoe, 6; and Knox, 5—being born and growing up over the past 10 years.

“I had been shooting all this stuff (of his children), and I knew one day I wanted to do something with it,” he says.

Each year Darren has edited the new footage.

“Before I knew it, 10 years had gone by,” he says. “I was really coming to grips with all the things I had learned as far as becoming a family. I was like, ‘Wow, I learned all these lessons, and we’ve grown as a family.’ I started stringing all these things together.”

He gave a rough cut to author and friend N.D. Wilson and asked him to make some notes. Wilson responded with an overview of what he saw happening with Darren’s story, “things I didn’t even see.” N.D. sent back some notes and a narrative for a voiceover, and Darren added personal information into it.

Even then, it was really just for fun and family documentation. Darren’s wife, Natalie, had been asking him for years to assemble the footage so it wouldn’t be lost, and Darren was planning on giving her a DVD as a present sometime: “Here, honey, here’s a movie of our life. I finished it.”

As he showed it to people, however, he kept getting “this great response.”

“People were coming up and saying, ‘Man, that’s really inspiring me as a parent, as a father.’”

Now, They Grow Up Fast is slated for release this fall.

Every parent can relate to it, and learn from it to seize wonder from the time they have with their children while they can.

Darren’s love for his children comes through when he talks about his little stars.

“My oldest daughter is Xan (‘zan,’ from Alexandra),” Darren says. “She has definitely inherited the theology gene. She already wants to read as many commentaries on the Book of Revelation as she can. She’s also supercreative artistically, but it flows over into thinking about the Bible and theology. She keeps me on my toes.”

Emmy is the family’s “little mommy.” “She’s strong, she wants to take care of everybody. She is the complete servant. If there’s a new kid at school, she’s the one there for them. She’s sympathetic and empathetic, but tough.”

Zoe, who was born in the front seat of the Doanes’ SUV, is “full of life,” Darren says, so “she is her name” (“Zoe” is Greek for “life”). “I always call her confident,” he says. “At 3 years old, she was tying her shoes. She would come out of her bedroom fully dressed in an outfit. She’s a little workhorse.”

And then there’s Knox, the youngest and the only boy. “He is probably the most laidback, cool kid I’ve ever met,” his dad says. “He can just hang out. I’ll take him to work sometimes. When he was four, I could just throw him in the car and run errands with him all day. He’s like this friend I’ve never had.”

None of it, obviously, would have happened without Natalie Doane, who keeps the family from spinning out of control.

“She gets the award every year because she has to put up with me,” Darren says. “I get in a lot of trouble. She is the one person that keeps me centered, keeps me focused. She’s beyond loving. She has kept this family from entering into full chaos.”