Reflection on Fatherhood in the 21st Century By Avery Gaddis

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As I reflect on fatherhood and my responsibilities as a dad, I have strong beliefs regarding the guidance and discipline I should impart on my children, Blake, who is eight and inquisitive, and a daughter, Olivia, who is an energetic, resilient two-year-old. My babies!

Achieving success and prosperity requires deliberate, thoughtful planning and execution.  As their father and one of their primary educators along with my wife, I am going to do all I can to ensure our kids are mentally prepared to make sound, fruitful decisions when they reach adulthood.  A life of leadership and stewardship of meaningful change awaits them.  Furthermore, leaving success to chance and random occurrences is foolish.  Much of my guidance is going to focus on three areas vital to navigating this fast paced, globally intertwined society.  Those areas are Development of Critical Thinking Skills, Understanding Personal and Business Finance and Racism.

Speak to a few college professors and employers and they’ll quickly affirm that critical thinking skills nowadays are less than ideal.  When opportune, I am going to convey the dangers of the herd mentality and how “going along to get along” is destructive and unforgiving.  Moreover, I will teach them useful goal setting exercises that will assist with achieving immediate, short and long-term goals. They are also going to learn how to structure their opinions and arrange thought around sound logical reasoning as opposed to relying on subjectivity, conjecture and weak sources.  My babies are going to understand that being dogmatic is futile and welcoming different ideas and opinions is encouraged.  In addition to developing critical thinking skills, I believe it’s paramount that young men and young women better understand personal and business finance.

According to Moody’s Analytics, Millennials born between 1982 and 2004, have a negative savings rate of two percent, they have little to no assets and are smothered in massive debt.  Overall consumer debt, which is debt used to purchase consumables that do not appreciate in value, hovers near a whopping $3.5 trillion and the U.S. households have an average debt of more than $130,000. Resoundingly, the Millennial Generation, as an aggregate, is the first generation expected to die broke.  Why financial awareness, basic economics and entrepreneurship are not taught in K-8 is perplexing.

Currently, I am teaching my son how capitalism works, the dynamics of globalization and more importantly, how to delay immediate gratification.  Due to his age, I have to deliver information in small packets relevant to him (Pokémon monopoly game has been helpful).  Addition, the kids are going to have a fundamental understanding of debits, credits and compound interest, which can work for or against you.  Lastly, I will help my kids comprehend the relationship between inflation, interest rates and grasp how the Federal Reserve System and fractional banking works.

Economically, African-Americans are financially paralyzed and quickly regressing.  In 2012, U.S. Census data showed median household income in the United States was led by Asians with $68,636 followed by White households with $57,009. Hispanics and Blacks rounded out the third and fourth spots with $39,005 and $33,321, respectively.  As you can see, Asian household median income more than doubled that of Blacks.  While there may be an assortment of factors for such disparity, one thing is patently certain: African-Americans, or any ethnic group, must understand that no Republican, Democrat, Knight in shining armor, pastor, etc., is going to change our situation.  Only self-determination, prudent decision making and becoming job producers instead of job seekers can bring about desired, favorable outcomes in our communities.  Blake and Olivia are being prepared to own and operate their own companies and engage in civic activities.  Getting an education, going to college just to become good employees is the old way of thinking.  In short, the messaging is going to be clear and straightforward: “Plan Your Work and Work Your Plan,” even in the face of overt or subtle racism, an experience that is unavoidable.

As the kids mature and are able to absorb the conversation, I am going to discuss racism, I will supplement our dialogue with insightful resources.  For instance, there are several books I am giving them to read and digest include Ralph Ellison’s, The Invisible Man, Gaines’ A Lesson before Dying and McCall’s Makes Me Want to Holler, amongst others.  And although a bit explicit and graphic, Donald Goines 16 books gave me an acute understanding of how drugs and lack of economic opportunities ravished urban areas throughout the United States.  When they’re old enough to handle the subject matter, I will give them my Goines collection.

Racism is forever.  As long as there are limited resources and there exist divisive, exploitative, feeble minded personalities, racism will remain and become more pervasive and potent. I am going to coach my kids on how to manage racism and dilute its ugliness, to the extent possible.  Moreover, its imperative African-American young men and women learn to deal with the anger, bitterness and resentment that is inherent in racism, which can eat at our spirits and cause loss of focus.  That negative energy and be redirected to create a powerful force that works for us.  The force is called “drive.”  The best way to grapple with racism is to be successful and help others do the same.  When you own your own business, turning sustainable profits, producing jobs and being your own boss, racism and its effects become smaller and less concerning.  When others control your financial resources, when others are in position to crush your creams and obliterate your livelihood and when others influence how time is spent with loved ones, conditions are suitable for racism to show its face. Racism is an economic construct, nothing more nothing less.

I know discussing these topics can be heavy, technical and complex.  Understanding that, I intend for discussions with Blake and Olivia to be interactive and engaging.  The last thing I want to do is lecture my kids, have their attention wander and lose focus.  I love my babies and look forward to watching them blossom into outstanding, productive leaders and beacons of light.

Avery Gaddis is Director of Urban Affairs for CT Senate Republican Caucus

He also is a business owner and entrepreneur. He conducts Small Business Development classes throughout the North East.