Bruce discusses the Secrets of Happy Families on the latest Digital Dads podcast.
From the New York Daily News.
Bruce Feiler’s twin daughters, Eden and Tybee, were 3 when he was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer in 2008. Just days afterward, the best-selling Brooklyn author came up with the idea of asking six friends to look out for his daughters should he not survive. Feiler’s moving new book, “The Council of Dads,” tells their story.
How did the Council of Dads come about?
It was a reaction to a fear about what my daughters’ lives might be like without me. The first thing I imagined was all the things I would miss … all the questions they would have. “What would Daddy think about this?” “What would Daddy say about that?”
Where did the idea spring from?
I awoke from a half sleep, and there was … this letter forming in my head to my closest friends asking them to be there to answer my daughters’ questions. I said out loud, “I will call this group of men the Council of Dads.” As soon as I said those words, it seemed like they lived in the room.
How did you choose the members?
I was trying to fill the dad space. My wife, Linda, and I agreed that we should pick people who embodied all sides of me, each phase of my life. There is a travel dad. A make-your-dreams-happen dad. A values dad. A playful dad. A thinking dad. A nature dad. Now I kind of think of it as a team of godparents updated for a modern age.
How did it affect your friendships with the men?
The first time I read the letter to a friend I’d chosen, he’s crying. I’m crying. He said yes, and I was taken aback. I hadn’t realized this was a request you could turn down. In the end, they weren’t family, they weren’t just friends anymore. We − my wife and I and the girls − just had this whole new relationship in our lives.
It also changed your life?
The Council of Dads turns out to be less about parenting and more about friendship. We all think there’s a divide between family and friends. And when you have children, you can be so busy you think you don’t have time for friends. This built a bridge between our closest friends and our closest treasures, our children.
How did the Council work?
They never came together. They would come to see me in the hospital. But what started happening is that they would always build in time to visit with the girls. These aren’t just Daddy friends anymore. They are friends of theirs. The girls have nicknames for all of them.
You’re cancer-free. What is the status of the Council of Dads?
There is something incredibly powerful about telling your closest friends what they mean to you. It’s like we’re friend-married now. It’s like “till death do us part.”
The Council is an idea that is catching on.
The word has gotten around, and others are forming their own councils. I’m seeing divorced women do councils of dads because they want the male voice in their children’s lives. Women have councils of moms. I’m involved with a special program with the military to form councils of moms and councils of dads.
What do your daughters know about the Council?
They know they have a Council of Dads. They don’t know that the shadow of mortality hangs over the thing. I want to be honest with them, but not too honest.