Father's Day card and gift

Photo: Thinkstock/Jupiterimages

I feel like I've just been let in on a huge secret about men: They are wildly, massively and intensely more sentimental than they're usually given credit for. I interviewed some dads this week, and man, get 'em talking about their families and their sweet, protective sides shine with heart-on-sleeve openness. They all champion their family's happiness in the most direct way possible. It's easily summed up in one word: security—emotional as well as physical.

I inquired about their favorite Father's Day traditions, as well as any ideas on how to make new ones. It's Dad's day, but across the board, the dads all want to share the spotlight and celebrate their whole family. Also, they shared a common desire to stay connected. Not something you often hear from men? I always thought of that as more of a woman's motto. But each one had simple plans to accomplish just that. Here are some heartfelt ideas—inspired by the dads I spoke with—to enhance family connections on Father's Day.

The Council of Dads—top row, left to right: Ben Edwards, David Black, Max Stier, Jeff Shumlin; bottom row, left to right: Joshua Ramo, Tybee Feiler, Bruce Feiler, Eden Feiler, Ben Sherwood

Photo: Bruce FeilerĀ 

The Council of Dads
After being diagnosed with cancer, best-selling author Bruce Feiler was consumed with fears about how his twin girls would live in the world without their dad's love, guidance, approval and voice. "As soon as I said the words The Council of Dads," he told me, "they filled the room. I knew it was an old idea with contemporary relevance."

Bruce contacted six friends from different areas of his life and asked them to collectively help be his girls' dad—to be his voice throughout their lives. What transpired after this request changed the lives of everyone involved. Bruce's friends forged a deeper bond with him. His wife Linda, who would be responsible for managing the council, knew they were creating this for the girls, so everyone was surprised to find the council was really a guide for all their lives.

And the girls gained six amazing friends who will forever be their council of dads...and fantastic models of what it means to be a friend. Each dad had his own life lesson to teach: Remember your childhood and where you came from; be adventurous; live the questions; don't see the wall; live life to the fullest; harvest miracles.

Bruce beat the cancer, and now he doesn't know how he was a parent before he had his council. Teaching far beyond its original purpose, the council has become a lesson about relationships—for everyone. "Creating a council of dads is a gift for any father," says Bruce. "It was incredibly powerful to tell my friends how much they mean to me. Illness was a passport to intimacy." He has shared what he learned in his new book, The Council of Dads. Start your own council with this step-by-step guide. Ladies, there's no reason you can't start a council of moms. Let's just say every parent of a teenager could use some help and support!

Oh, and Bruce's tumor was in his left leg, so walking was the first thing he lost when he got sick. This Father's Day, his girls have informed him he is getting breakfast in bed. His gift to himself? To take a walk with his family, he says, "and make a memory."

Create traditions like the Sanitsky family
The Sanitsky Family

Photo credit: Sanitsky Family photos

The Circle of Trust
Never mind that our neighbor Bob Sanitsky is a super-successful producer and former bigwig talent agency executive. He's a major deal to our family because he plays fill-in dad to our 3-year-old daughter Ava when my husband's out of town. I absolutely love the way kids talk to the famous and successful in an everyday-people kind of way. Kids either like and trust you, or they do not, and Bob's a keeper—a solid, trusted friend and adviser.

So in anticipation of taking Ava down to Color Me Mine to make a fabulous painted creation for him, I interviewed Bob about his favorite Father's Day traditions and whether he had any new ones on the horizon. His three kids range from age 11 to 19; together with his uüber-cool wife Ellen, the annual event always includes going to dinner and then a movie together...which Bob picks. "It's usually something they would never see otherwise," he says with a laugh. "They moan about the selection, but in the end, they always thank me for taking them." Past titles include March of the Penguins and Young at Heart. "This year, I think it's going to be Babies, a documentary about four babies from different cultures around the world."

Bob's been given some priceless gifts throughout the years: bookmarks, mugs, money clips, frames and the requisite pile of really horrible ties. He loved them all, of course, but is mostly looking forward to card unveiling this year. When I asked his daughter Mia what she is going to write on her card, she answered, "I want to him to know that I appreciate him, and that he can trust me to become the person he raised me to be: a good person just like him and my mom." When I asked her if she knew that was probably every parent's dream, she said, "Really?" Yes. Really. And all the dads I spoke with said homemade cards were the number one gift they were looking forward to!

Bob's new tradition: Don't spill the beans, but he's decided to turn the tables on the kids and get them a gift for Father's Day. At first I didn't get it, but then I remembered a friend of mine who sends her mother flowers on her own birthday, saying, "Thank you for giving birth to me!" So the new tradition begins with the words, "I love being your dad," and I know the kids are gonna love this one.

5 more ways to make Father's Day extra special this year
Father's Day Cupcake Cups

Photo: Allana Baroni

The Experience is the Gift
Here are a few more ideas to get you out and about with your dad:

Personalize the Invitations
To turn a trip to the theater to see Babies into a Father's Day celebration event, it's as easy as printing a few baby pictures of your kids to use as personalized movie ticket invitations to the family.

The Race Is On
Check out air races, car races and horse races in your area, or make your own obstacle course race in your backyard or the local park.

Kicking, Screaming, Throwing (not what you think!)
Kick the soccer ball around with your dad, check out a concert together or go with the classic Father's Day experience of taking in a baseball game...pro, semipro, college, Little League or a neighborhood game will do the trick!

Plant a Hamburger Garden
If dad's a grill kind of guy, plant vegetables that he likes in his hamburger . Include essentials for his favorite burger: tomatoes, heirloom lettuce, arugula, garlic, peppers, onions, cucumbers, eggplant, etc. Give him a farmers' market basket filled with the fully grown version so he knows what you've planted for him. When your crop has matured, throw another burger fest in honor of your pop. 

Dad's Day Dessert
Extend the tradition by making a big deal out of dessert on dad's day. For colorful dessert shots, fill 2- or 3-ounce glasses (plastic is fine) with brownie bites and ice cream layered with whipped cream. Top with the number of candles that corresponds with the number of years your daddio has been a father. Make a wish, Dad!

Celebrate the dads for sure, but also make it a holiday for everyone...and enjoy!

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