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Parenting Battle Royale

By Mason Jamal on Mar 24th 2011 5:00PM

Filed under: Mason Says

I’ve been a husband for six years. I’ve been a father for 18. Do the math. That’s negative 12. Who needs an abacus? I belong to a generation of parents who, in financial speak, are upside down. If our children were mortgages, we would be one nation underwater. Wait a minute, we are. Shucks.

From foreplay to foreclosure, we keep getting screwed. Blame it on the burst of the housing bubble or blame it on the burst of the condom bubble. Either way, things don’t always unfold the way we hoped.

Ideally, love and marriage should come before baby and carriage just as incontrovertible evidence should have come before Bombs Over Baghdad. Then again, Bush and Dick always had a mind of their own anyway.

Even though I’m no longer an unwed single parent, I’m not married to my son’s biological mother. And now that “blackman” (as my wife and I affectionately call him) is weeks away from high school graduation, I have some words of wisdom to share with other parents who aren’t married to the mother or father of their child(ren).

“Words” is the operative word here. Word to your mother. Word to your baby’s mother. Word to your baby’s father. However you want to word it, it’s the words that matter.

We all understand that things break apart. Relationships don’t come equipped with cases and holsters and screen protectors. They’re unprotected social experiments. Drop them one too many times — or one good time — and they will stop working properly. And while they don’t come with rubber cases, they should come with rubbers. You know what I’m talking about: that unopened box of latex balloons still sitting on the dresser as you scurry to the bathroom to grab a clean-up towel. And what do you know: Nine months later, yada yada yada, the relationship has broken and so has the water. Welcome little Kenyada to the world.

We all know the story. After the initial elation, the war of words commences. There are plenty of exceptions to the rule but not nearly enough. Too often the relationship spirals quickly into verbal violence, leaving the child as an innocent bystander caught in the crossfire.

But if we tilt our heads upward, invariably, we will see the high road. We should take it more often. All of us who find ourselves in such a situation are guilty to one extent or another of taking the low road. Several paragraphs ago, when I noted that I’m not married to my son’s biological mother, it took everything in me not to insert “winning,” but I refrained. While that certainly isn’t word warfare, it’s not helping.

Of course, there are (sometimes) reasons for the acrimony. When the reasons become so high pitched that you have to get your Phillip Bailey on and say something, find the time and place to say it when the child isn’t present. Even if the child support payments are late while the car note is current on the baby daddy’s caddy, the “baby mama drama” has to be brought at the right time. Poisoning our children against the other parent, regardless of reasons, is just as deplorable as the act committed by the other parent.

Living out the best of ‘Jerry’ and ‘Maury,’ unedited expletives and all, like Def Comedy Fam in front of the children isn’t exactly the hallmark of well-adjusted parents. Regardless of who is right or wrong, both parties end up sounding like stereotypes lifted straight from a Tyler Perry script. All that’s needed is Madea to hit her mark and smack both of them with her penis. Too much? I’ll apologize for the imagery as soon as TP apologizes for the character and his unbridled exuberance he exhibits every time he dons the bodysuit and wig to play said character.

Let’s get it together. Children shouldn’t be scarred by the hostility that exists between their parents. We need a no-fly zone. The love a child has for his or her parents should be unconditional and uninterrupted by hostile aggression from another parent. If we have nothing good to say about the other parent in front of a child, say nothing. The child will appreciate it.

No kids were hurt in the making of this post.

Mason Jamal writes about men, women and popular culture. For more of his musings, visit To have his commentary delivered to your e-mail, subscribe here. Keep up with Mason’s daily thoughts and observations by following him on Twitter @masonsays.