In addition to being a legendary actor, heartfelt activist, competent musician, and cultural icon of California, Jeff Bridges is a mighty fine father. So much so, in fact, that his oldest daughter, Isabelle Bridges-Boesch, wrote a children’s book about it called Daddy Daughter Day, in which her father contributed illustrations and handwriting.
Raised in Los Angeles until the Northridge earthquake hit their home with a “vengeance” — “we never slept there again,” she explained — Bridges-Boesch moved to Santa Barbara with her family at age 13, attending Crane and then Bishop Diego High School. Today, she lives in Oakland with her husband and two children, and works as a facilitator focused on empowering mothers. She still visits Santa Barbara monthly, or at least that was the usual pace in pre-pandemic times.
Their book’s release this week coincides — rather coincidentally, it turns out — with Father Daughter Day on October 11. Bridges-Boesch told me more about the project and her life recently.
How was having Jeff Bridges as a father?
It’s a tough question to answer. It’s like asking a fish, “How’s the water that you’re swimming in?” He’s the only dad I ever had, so it’s normal for me to have a famous father. And I know that it’s not normal, so both of those things are true.
There are a lot of perks. We did get to travel to visit him on movie sets and meet interesting people and go interesting places. But my parents also chose to protect us from that world, from Hollywood, so I wasn’t exposed as much as I think some other children of famous people have been.
Was he a good dad?
He was a really wonderful playmate. When he was home, he was home. He would play with us. He would enter the creative world that we had and go there with us. I think that is also unique. A lot of fathers are just unable to.
Tell me about your work on motherhood empowerment.
I had a really bumpy start to motherhood. I experienced pretty severe postpartum depression. I felt isolated and lonely. So the work I do is in support of other moms who might be feeling that way. Although the groups that I facilitate are also for moms who are seeking community, either local or virtual. We have real talk. We talk about the highs and the lows both of motherhood but also outside of motherhood, so we can find fulfillment as humans, not just as moms.
How did this book come about?
It’s funny, because the book came about in a similar way that the book begins. I came to my dad and said, “Hey dad, I have this great idea — let’s write a book together called Daddy-Daughter Day.” It was fertile soil for him, because he had recently spoken to Mike Richardson, the owner of Dark Horse Publishing, who thought it would be great if they did a book together.
So my dad was on board, and I had already written the story. Together, we unpacked the story so that we could put it in this dialogue format that the book takes.
Your dad is also an illustrator, apparently.
Apparently, yes. When I look at these pictures, it takes me back to my childhood, because these are the doodles that I grew up doing side by side with my dad.
I wanted the book to look like these books that he and I would and, now, he and my kids create.
We used to pass a journal back and forth. He’d write one page and then I’d write one page. He’d start a drawing and I’d finish it, or vice versa. That’s how we decided that the printing would be his handwriting rather than type.
Did the storyline happen in real life?
All of the things that Belle and her dad do in the book, my dad and I did. The biggest difference is that I grew up with younger sisters, and Belle grew up with a younger brother. That is a depiction of my children, because I have a girl and I have a son. It’s not always easy to share a parent.
I know that to be true of myself. When my dad came home from being away for three months, I didn’t want to share him with my sisters. But that’s also true of my daughter. When her dad comes home from being at work all day, she doesn’t want to share him with her brother. That’s a special thing that all kids can relate to.
The brother is given a somewhat short shrift.
You kinda feel bad for him, especially seeing his little green face. We can empathize with each of the characters, including the mom. Mons are often holding it all together.
Has Father-Daughter Day been around a long time?
That’s a good question. We did not know there was a Father-Daughter Day. I thought I had kind of invented it. There is a holiday for everything these days, and this one just happens to be October 11, just a few days after our book comes out. That was by coincidence. See IsabelleBridges.com and DaddyDaughterDay.com.
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