Stuart Brady says that the Growing Good Men weekend is so good that if he were running a Catholic school, he’d make it a compulsory event.
Stuart, 46, and his son Harrison, 17, had a “pretty good” to “fantastic” relationship before going on the weekend two years ago – good but not as great as it could be.
Stuart says it’s hard to put a finger on what has changed since, but there’s a greater intimacy now – a greater ability to listen to and understand one another.
The weekend was created by the national men’s movement, MenALIVE, and will make its first foray into Sydney on 3-5 November with the support of the Archdiocese of Sydney’s Encounter office.
It will cover the kinds of topics many fathers and sons only think about when it is too late: the importance of the father-son bond; the journey of adolescence and the quest for identity; male rites of passage; and the need to deal with anger in healthy way.
“I was a workaholic,” Stuart said. “And you’re busy providing for your family, and sometimes you neglect the ones around you who love you the most.”
“But the event gave Harrison and me the whole weekend to spend together. It was dedicated to the two of us.”
He says that the most powerful moment came when he and Harrison exchanged letters that they had written to one another.
It was an opportunity to be honest with his son, and the exercise revealed to both of them that they had empathised with the struggles of the other without ever verbalising it, opening up the emotional sluices to greater bonding in the two years that followed.
Stuart said it provided a very different experience from the days of his youth, when the fathers would usually gather together for a drink and the boys were left to tear about the town.
“I try to think back to when I was 14,” Stuart says. “I don’t even know if I had (that kind of emotional connection) at all. It was missing, so it was good to have the opportunity to enlighten the spark with Harrison.”
The two share a passion for cars, although there’s been a healthy divergence in recent years with Stuart sticking to his classic Fords and Harrison preferring turbo-charged, Japanese fare.
And Harrison won’t be following in his old man’s footsteps of transport logistics but hopes to pursue primary school teaching and will do so with his father’s blessing.
The Growing Good Men weekend is a pilot event for the Archdiocese of Sydney and will be presented by MenALIVE.
The Encounter office hopes that it will lead schools and parishes to taking it on for their young men and their fathers.
Bookings for a father-son pair are $280 and can be made at www.trybooking.com/294661
Further information is available from Encounter at 02 9307 8477.