Amazing Dad: Bruce Feiler
Filed under: Amazing Parents
Bruce's Family: Wife: Linda Rottenberg, married seven years; Kids: Twins Eden and Tybee, 5
Bruce Lives In: Brooklyn, New York
Why Bruce Is Amazing: This dad has it all: A stellar career as a nonfiction author (one of only a handful of writers to have four consecutive New York Times bestsellers in the past decade); a smart, beautiful and supportive wife; and two adorable daughters.
But a couple of years ago, at the age of 43, he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, an aggressive bone cancer primarily found in adolescents and young adults. His first thought after learning that the seven-inch tumor in his left femur was malignant, was how his kids would fare growing up without a dad.
He soon devised a plan: He would create a "Council of Dads," consisting of six male friends representing different stages of his life and various aspects of his personality: MemoryDad, ValuesDad, TravelDad, ThinkDad, RebellionDad and DreamDad. They included his oldest childhood friend who lives in Georgia and his college roommate who lives in Washington, DC. The other four come from Vermont, California, Beijing and Brooklyn, New York.
"Five of them are dads and one isn't," says Bruce in a phone interview with ParentDish. "And this has created a problem. The one who is not a dad, Joshua, came to go trick-or-treating with them last year and it was nine o'clock and I was saying 'Come on girls. Let's go brush your teeth. Time to go to bed,' and I look around and he's stealing a candy bar from the trick-or-treat bag and giving it to them. So he's RebellionDad."
In just two years, the girls have really bonded with their other six "Dads," especially thanks to email and social media like Facebook. "It's easier to feel in touch with them every day," says Bruce. "In fact, I think my kids are more in touch with some of these guys than they are with some of our neighbors. Just because there's this desire now to keep the connections alive."
In a lecture Bruce gave at TedxEast in May, he shared a pearl of wisdom gleaned from his oncologist Dr. John Healey: 'Everybody dies, but not everybody lives.' "It sucked the air out of the room," says Bruce. "People find it so inspiring. And in a lot of ways it captures my experience. This experience has been, rather than a weight on my shoulders, it's really been an engine at my back that says, 'Get out of bed. Get out of the house. Take a kid. Take a walk. Make a memory.'"
Click below to watch Bruce at TedxEast.
Bruce is now cancer-free, but reports that the Council is stronger than ever: "I feel like parenting has become a team sport for me now. When my kids ask me a question that I don't know the answer to, I feel like I have this wisdom of these dads at my disposal."
His daughter Tybee told him: "'Daddy, I have so much love in my body for you I can't stop giving you hugs and kisses. And when I have no more love left, I just drink milk. Because that's where love comes from.'"
And that makes him a very happy dad. The one thing he and his wife have been saying to the girls throughout this ordeal is, "'That the only way we're going to get through this is to stick together as a family,'" he says.
Bruce's Wife Linda Rottenberg Says: "From his first day as a father, Bruce has instilled in our twin daughters a love of language, creativity and expression. Now five, the girls relish playing made-up games such as "Super Story Saturday," "Thesaurus Thursday" or "Twenty Questions" with their dad. While encouraging this creative freedom, Bruce also sets clear boundaries. Bedtime cannot slip past 7:30 pm; poor table manners results in no special treats; not listening to Daddy yields a loss of "grown-up points." The girlies, as we call them, know who's in charge! While Bruce is now healthy and strong, the roles of his Council of Dads continue. In the process of creating this powerful idea, Bruce taught our daughters lessons about nurturing friendship and finding hope in difficult situations. That's an amazing dad!"
Bruce's Friend Ben Sherwood, aka "ThinkDad," Says: "Bruce is an amazing dad because he listens so carefully to his daughters and dials into their unique frequencies. He encourages them to pursue their individual curiosity, ideas and passions. And he loves them with all his heart."
Bruce's College Roommate Max Stier, aka "ValuesDad," Says: "Bruce combines fun, love and learning in a mix that kids love and that helps make them grow into the best adults they can be. He is an adventurer who makes learning fun."
Bruce's Guilty Pleasures: Eating his daughters' unfinished cupcakes and drinking milk straight from the carton
Recognition: Profiled in Time and USA Weekend; appeared on the Today Show; the subject of a half-hour special on CNN's Paging Dr. Gupta.
Bruce's Best Advice: "Take a walk with a turtle. In Paris, two hundred years ago, pedestrians used to take turtles for a walk and let the reptile set the pace. So to me this is sort of a perfect ode to slowing down and appreciating life, parenting, whatever it might be. Take a walk with a turtle. Behold the world and pause."
Related: Amazing Dad: Hal Colston
Want to see who else made the list? Click here for the rest of AOL's 2010 Amazing Dads!
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.