This blog isn’t meant to be a condemnation of Adrian Peterson’s son’s mother. In fact, I extend nothing be grace, mercy and prayers to her and Adrian as they mourn the lost of their son.

Geontae_GlassIn 2006, Geontae, a 5-year-old boy from my hometown, went missing. He was asleep in the backseat of the car when his mother and 9-year-old sister went into the gas station. The car was then stolen with him still sleeping in the backseat. Later, the car was discovered in the garage of the mom’s boyfriend. Geontae’s body was in the trunk. The stolen car was an attempt at a cover up. The mom’s boyfriend had actually beaten the child to death days before the car was reported stolen as punishment for a bad progress report. The 9-year-old sister later testified that her mom was sleep when the boyfriend took her brother to the shed with a stick. That was the last time she saw her brother walk or talk.

Cam and AdrianThis incident was gut wrenching to me. In addition to the incident being disgusting in nature, my son was 6 years old at the time, and my family was connected to Geontae’s family. It was also a strong reminder of my responsibility as a parent to screen the individuals I allow into my child’s life and to protect him at all costs. All of this flooded my mind Friday as the Adrian Peterson story begin to unfold.

Dating is complicated from the beginning. However, as a single parent, you have added responsibility. You must consider how a potential partner will affect your child’s life as well.

What qualities should I look for in a potential partner? How does he treat people. It takes a special person to love someone else’s child as their own, and one of the first signs that they may be capable of doing so is how they treat other people. And not just how they treat the people who they are close to like their parents, family and friends. How do they treat people who seemingly don’t matter: the waiter, the doorman, a janitor? If they are rude and dismissive to them, what makes you think they won’t be rude and dismissive to your child?

A mom should also consider what kind of father the man will be. If the man is not someone I would want my son to grow up to be, why would I bring him into my son’s life as a potential stepfather? And if a man tells you that he doesn’t want to have kids or take care of another man’s child, listen and leave! We have to stop thinking that we are an exception to the rule or that we are capable of changing a man’s mind. When someone shows you who they are, believe them and act accordingly.

When should I introduce my partner to my kid? When relationships end, they usually leave a significant amount of baggage that has to be dealt with. This baggage is hard enough for adults to deal with, so why impress that baggage upon a child unnecessarily? I’ve seen young kids struggle with missing a parent’s significant other once the relationship has fizzled. I’ve also seen teenagers try to rationalize their parents’ behavior when the parent has a different partner every three to four months. Neither is a pretty sight. For these reason I’ve determined every man that enters my life doesn’t need to enter my son’s life. The only time my son needs to be introduced to my boyfriend is when we seriously begin discussing marriage. What good would it do anyone for me to allow a man access to my child before then? Waiting before introducing my child to someone I’m dating gives me the opportunity to screen them and truly determine their character. It also prevents my child from having to deal with our break up unnecessarily.

What are red flags? A history of abuse towards woman and children, anger management problems, and a criminal background are three automatic red flags. It’s one thing if you want to take a chance with someone who has this history, but as a single parent you can’t afford a gamble like this. Another huge red flag is a man who doesn’t take care of his kids. If he’s not doing what’s necessary to take care of his kids, why do you think he would properly care for yours?

What do I do when I see red flags? You leave. It’s that simple. If it was just you and you were a gambling woman, I’d so go for it. But it’s not. There’s an innocent child who is depending on you to protect them. Don’t allow them to be collateral damage.

Should I allow my significant other to determine who I should date? Someone presented this option, and my initial response was HELL NAWL! I wish Cameron’s dad would try to tell me who I should and shouldn’t date. That would never fly in our relationships. However, I do think it’s great to have a relationship with your co-parent where you can express genuine concerns about the person they’re dating. As a responsible parent, it’s our job to listen to reasonable concerns, no matter who they come from. It may not be what we would like to hear, but it’s always best to evaluate the feedback for validity.

There’s no sure plan to protect your child for harm. However, as a parent our decisions matter.

With that said, let’s not used this as an opportunity to judge and condemn the mother of Adrian’s son. This is one of the remarkable opportunities life gives us where we have the chance to act like God. To extend mercy and grace to someone who is in pain, to sympathize and empathize with someone experiencing tremendous hurt, and to love a person unconditionally.

My prayers are with everyone who loved this baby. May they find peace in the midst of this hellish situation.