It Takes a Council To Raise a Child

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I first heard about The Council of Dads from non other than the HOTY who received it from his friend Bob Miller (this is truly the gift that keeps on giving!).  “You’ve gotta read this book,” the HOTY told me. This means a whole lot coming from the HOTY because he is, ahem, not really a book guy. He’s more of a multi-paper/day kind of guy. So, upon his recommendation, I started reading it…and couldn’t put it down!

The author, Bruce Feiler, is a New York Times bestselling author who found himself faced with a particularly serious form of cancer that was eating away his left femur and thigh. Particularly devastating was the reality that if Feiler died from his cancer (and there was a very good chance that he could), he would be leaving behind a wife and 3 year-old twin daughters. Figuring that his wife, a strong and intelligent woman, would be able to rebuild her life, his thoughts turned to the girls. How would they ever get to know who he had been? His solution was nothing short of brilliant.

Feiler decided to approach 6 men with whom he had strong relationships during different times of his life (one rule: no family members). He asked each of them to commit to being one aspect of who he was, to be his voice at certain times in his daughter’s lives. Feiler’s intention for the Council of Dads was to give his daughters a reasonable way to experience the kind of dad Feiler would have been. How cool is this? I mean, as cool as it can be, if faced with FC.

The book recounts Feiler’s progression through a painful and debilitating journey with cancer via the seven chapters called “Chronicles of the Lost Year.” Boy, oh boy, can I relate to the concept of “The Lost Year.” The other chapters describe each of the 6 men recruited to be on the Council. Ok, how crazy is this: The HOTY and I actually know one of the Council members! Pretty amazing! And can I just say that he was an extraordinary choice?

According to Feiler, “part of the Council’s magic was it put six men together and let them be men. Their purpose was to help them fill the Dad space in the girls’ lives.” Another unexpected Silver Lining of the council “was that it forced [Feiler] to formalize what otherwise would have gone unsaid. It obliged [him] to sit down with [his] closest friends, tell them what they meant to [him], then ask them to play an important role for [his] daughters.”

Goosebumps.

The most poignant thing that I took away from my graduate work in Child Development is that it takes a village to raise a child. We’re not talking Africa, here. We’re talking child development anywhere and everywhere a child is.

Since Finally Five (soon to be Six, by the way!) was born, I have always engaged multiple parental figures in FF’s life…and in mine, for that matter! When I have been perplexed (or frustrated beyond f-bomb belief!), I have called on my de facto Council.  These are my go-to advisors whom I trust implicitly. They are the people (both men and women) who have the same values and goals that we do and who play a role in FF’s development, from cognitive, emotional, and social growth to discipline.

I sincerely hope that it will not take a life-threatening illness to develop your own Council. Being a part of a Council does not require having kids of your own. If you don’t have children, please consider being a part of someone else’s Council. It is the greatest Silver Lining you could ever give a child and his or her family.

This not just a book for anyone struggling with illness: chronic, degenerative, or terminal. It will grant comfort, encouragement, and inspiration to anyone who reads it: the ultimate Silver Lining!

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