by Jamie Bohnett
In the mid-1990’s, I was a dad of a teenage daughter and three other children under ten. Through my involvement in various fatherhood events in the Seattle area, I heard about the “Welcome To Fatherhood Party” from a dad named Griggs Irving. The idea came to him when his 32-year-old daughter was happily planning for a baby shower and his fatherly thoughts turned towards his son-in-law. What about Steve? He’s about to be a new dad. What could be done for him? he thought.
Griggs called a group of friends of his son-in-law, inviting them to a Seattle restaurant, asking them to bring just one thing to the event for Steve: a two-minute presentation of their wisdom about fatherhood. The stories and thoughts shared around the table that night greatly impacted Steve, the new father-to-be, and all who participated. The Welcome to Fatherhood Party was born!
Push the fast forward button on my life about ten years, and that teenage daughter had become a twenty-something new mom. And like Griggs’ daughter, she was participating in baby showers to help prepare her for the wonder of motherhood. My thoughts turned to my son-in-law, Sky, and I remembered the Welcome To Fatherhood Party some guy wrote about a few years ago. I pulled out the article and decided that I wanted to do this for Sky.
By the time we could put it together, Sky was no longer an expectant father, so we did it for him as a new father. He was only about two months into his journey when we invited his dad, brother, brothers-in-law and a few friends to a Sunday afternoon summer barbeque at our house. Instead of limiting it to a two-minute presentation, we asked the guys to either write something to read to Sky or, for the less expressive types, to bring some object they could give Sky to use as a fathering wisdom metaphor.
When we were done, we all gathered around him and prayed for him. He was visibly moved. Sky recalls his thoughts about the event, “It made me feel support from those dads who are closest to me. And the stories of fatherhood each dad brought to the table also helped reiterate the importance of a dad’s role in a child’s life.”
Another new father I know recently received a Welcome to Fatherhood Party, and here’s what he had to say: “It offered me a wonderful perspective on the challenges and blessings of being a new dad.” And as a participant at the gathering, I could see that for the dozen or so men who attended it became a bonding event and a positive reminder of the critical role we each play in our children’s lives.
Since that day with Sky, I have become an evangelist for the idea. In my work with dads, I know that the first few months of fatherhood are a time of real opportunity to impress upon them the importance of their new role. This is a season of wonder and openness in a dad’s life that never quite returns in the same way.
If we seriously want to change our culture by lifting up the vital importance of fatherhood, the Welcome To Fatherhood Party is a great new tradition we can use to bless new fathers and young families. It not only strengthens fatherhood but builds community among men as well. We can start with our own families, the dads in our neighborhoods or local churches, or wherever we find them.
Jamie Bohnett, married to Cindy and a father of four, lives in Redmond, Washington. He directs a ministry to fathers called the Fathering Forum and is a trained trainer of the National Center for Fathering. He has authored Like Father, Like Son and a twelve-week discussion guide that goes with the book. Jamie is available to speak to husbands and fathers about the challenges of family life we are facing in today’s culture. You can contact him and sign up for his twice monthly blog at his website.