The Step-Parent Two-Step

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Black women talk so much about the lack of "good" black men, but what I want to know is, who's screening these applications? You know—who's making sure the men you think are so hot actually past muster? Seems like a lot of young ladies end up with down-lows or fresh-outs, putting them up in some drama you could see coming from outer space. What up with that?


There used to be a time when the young ladies would bring a young man home, leave him alone in the living room, and her men-folk would come in and give the young man the once-over—maybe slap him around a little—essentially screening his app. Those days are long since behind us—whole neighborhoods are inhabited by single mothers and men only come in long enough to play and then sneak out before the woman's children wake up to yet another strange man coming out the bathroom.

Some of us, both men and women, haven't figured out that not everyone is for bringing around our kids. Fathers need to be more vigilant and mindful of who these moms bring around their kids—and vice versa. I can tell you this from experience.

I fought harder than I should have had to in order to be in my kids' lives, and that has involved me getting background checks on the live-ins. That's right. I figure, an IQ test would probably be inconclusive, but I needed to know what kind of man is spending the night in the same house as my daughter and son. If you are a single parent in a shared-parenting arrangement and haven't done a background check on your kid's stepfather, baby mama's latest boyfriend, your baby daddy's jumpoff of the month, I'm here to tell you—you're slippin'. It's not that any of us are perfect or without sin—every black man I know has paper on him of one kind or another. But it's one thing to have a weed ticket, a shoplifting gaffe or some other kinda dime-store beef. It's another when it's multiple, current, big-ticket, box-store cases co-mingling with your seeds. Enter William Balfour. You can see from Mars that this young man's application wasn't properly vetted.

People that know me will tell you that I laugh and joke, but I'm serious about my kids. I don't bring everyone around my kids. In fact, hardly anybody. I know many single dads who may have a different woman every night, but their kids will never know. A lot of my boys tend to be reckless like that. Me? I'm selective. And while I may get a lot of applications, not every app gets reviewed or even filed. Most often, they are thrown away because with kids in the mix, you have to be careful. Any time you are in a relationship, there will be drama. Best if your kids are not involved.

I know—single parenthood can be lonely. But better be lonely than to find yourself having to talk down your paramour and convince them not hurt your child.

So ladies, if you don't have those men-folk in your life, how do you screen the applicants? I'm glad you asked. I have a few questions that will help you whittle down the candidates, and this list will help the fellas, too. Here are the questions I use to amass my short stack of preferred candidates.


Ten questions single parents should ask when screening applicants:

Are you psychotic in any measurable way?—I know. It seems too forward. But you'll be surprised at people that will just come out and tell you that they are not right in the head. We all have emotional problems—it's part of the human condition. But you can't fix people. They have to fix themselves. There's crazy, wacky and there's crazy, CRAZY. I don't know about you, but I don't need crazy in my life. Crazy, I got.


Do you dope or drink?—I don't want any dopers or lushes around my kids. A glass of wine with dinner and an occasional night of cocktailing is cool, but if you are dependent on drugs or alcohol to regulate your mood, PASS.

Do you have any felonies?—Especially violent ones. Sex offenses count.

Are you on probation?—Again, another non-negotiable. I'm sure there are a lot of good people on probation out there. I don't want them around my children. Sorry. PASS.


Do you have kids of your own?—How they treat their own kids will say a lot about how they may treat yours.

How's your credit?—A lot of us are hit, so I don't hold against anyone. But it's good FYI.


Are you employable?—That is, are you an American citizen, did you graduate from high school, get a GED and can you at least get a job at Wendy's so you can afford a taxi if I have to kick you out for acting crazy around my kids?

Do you vote?—No? NEXT.

What are your intentions?—Are we just dancing, or are we moving toward something? If not, there's no reason for you to meet my kids.


Got any life plans?—"What's a life plan?" Right. NEXT.

I know. I know. Don't thank me. I work for you.

Jimi Izrael blogs for The Root on The Hardline.

Single Father, Author, Screenwriter, Award-Winning Journalist, NPR Moderator, Lecturer and College Professor. Habitual Line-Stepper