Desiring to be an intentional, invested and involved mom in the lives of my children... I share a glimpse of my triumphs and failures on my quest to capture their hearts ♥♥♥
by Tini Tadeo-Castillo
When I was a little girl, my Grandma Iping used to say “Tell me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who you are.” Back then, I never really put much weight on it. Of course, what did I know about choosing friends then, when all I cared about was having someone to play piko and bahay-bahayan with and the next young girl who was willing was already considered a best friend. As I grew older, I would remember those words but not really keep it in my heart. Selecting friends did not end at just play time. Common interests became more of a motivation to choose, and I saw myself gravitate towards people as “carefree” and as “wandering” as I was, maybe even more. As I became a mother, it became clear that I had to be familiar with my children’s friends and I wanted to do so for the wrong reasons. I wanted to be the cool mom kids I thought my kids wanted. Now I am a Christian parent, I’ve realized that more than being the cool mom, I have to be the wise one. In this journey so far, I realized “Hey! Why can’t I be both?” And I know it can be achieved with the right formula.
I try to dig all the way deep into the hearts of my children and do all sorts of tricks and treats to ensure that I am in theirs. In terms of their friendships, I engage in conversations to find out what drives them to be friends with their friends. I try to figure out what draws to these kids. I ask all sorts of questions. Depending on the moment and the opportunity, I try two approaches when I talk to them. For more important things like the non-negotiable rules, it is imperative that I do face to face conversations. This ensures that I put my point across, to let them know that I mean business. However, for casual talks, I try the shoulder to shoulder method. I try this while Jam is playing PS3 or when Leila is tinkering with her guitar. I find that this method works. It creates a more laid-back atmosphere, making me less nosy than I truly am and makes them think I am not too prying. And they do engage! I start by asking random things that lead to all sorts of questions about their friends—what kinds of families they belong to, what they usually do together, what their thoughts are about a certain friends choices. I try to find out many other things, but what is the most important is finding out their religious orientation—do they go to church, are they Christians, do they believe in Jesus?
Why do I ask? Am I being too stern? Judgmental perhaps? Or maybe even critical and dubious? The answer is no. I ask and do my utmost to find out about these things because I am dead serious about the people I allow in my kids’ life. Why? Because they contribute to shape the life of my son and my daughter. Because I CANNOT compromise the things me and my husband work hard for—the faith and spiritual foundations of my children.
I knew very little of God when I was younger. It did not help that I had people in my life that had poor moral standards and impoverished spirits that not just shook my already deprived moral and spiritual foundation, it sucked me into many worldly things and took me spiraling into rock bottom. As 1 Corinthians 15:33 says, “Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character.” I was a living proof. Think of it this way: if it is possible to corrupt even the good ones, how much more the already rotten ones?
Now that I am older, having gone through a lot of ups and downs and seen many friends come and go, I realized how important those thirteen words of my beloved Grandma were. I now have full understanding of the critical wisdom that it had. Indeed, the friends I had, contributed a great deal to shape me. Who I was and who I am now can partly be attributed to the many friends I had—those who drifted away, those who left, those who disappeared, and those who remained. Do not get me wrong, I do not put any blame on them. I am solely responsible for my choices and the mess it led me to. And as much as I am ashamed to admit this, there is a high probability that I have contributed to the poor moral foundations of others I became friends with. I may have fueled some into rebellion, too at some point. I can’t and won’t deny this and I own up to my actions.
The truth remains--truth is not selective and the Scripture breathes exactly the truth—the decisions we make, the actions we take, the words we speak, the ideas we form in our heads will influence friends and we will be influenced by theirs, whether we accept that or not.
This brings me back to my children and my desire to be a major influence in their lives. Although this is my desire, admittedly, I know I can’t be the be-all and end-all. Whether I like it or not, the many friends they will meet all through their lives will contribute to the man and woman they are going to be. If they are to be the man and woman God created and meant them to be, I, their mother, must teach them to choose their friends wisely. How? By teaching them which ones to be wary of (and hopefully avoid altogether)—the kind that corrupts. After careful thought, I came up with seven kinds of friends I think we should warn out kids about:
1) The Lukewarms and the Peer-Pressured – There are the ones who aren’t passionate about anything. If they aren’t, chances are they can influence your child to be the same—neither hot nor cold. They find nothing to be on fire for. They do things half-heartedly, the ones who say “Pwede na yan!”, the ones who go with the flow and roll with the crowd. They are the ones who say, “Everyone else is doing it, Mom!” They are Sunday Christians, having no full allegiance to, nor reverent fear of God. They think that going to church on Sunday is enough. They have no ambition to grow in their faith.
Why avoid? They are the ones that can influence your child to be tossed away with them to drift into nothingness. If there is nothing they are passionate for, it is highly likely they have no clear ambition. They have nothing to live for but the here and now. They can’t stand for anything and are weak in conviction. You don’t want that rubbing off on your child. They can douse the fire you painstakingly try to build in the hearts of your son or daughter. And what if this fire is fire for the Lord? Yikes.
2) The Mega-Negas, the Unforgiving and the Bitter – These are the ones who are always negative and cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel. They are the ones who are heavily hung up about the pain they went through or are in. They only have two taste buds—bitter and sour. They think the odds are never ever in their favor. They are the discontent and insatiable ones, the ones who see the glass half empty instead of full and the grass in their neighbor always greener. They are the cynics and the hopeless. They are the ones who keep long records of every person who did them wrong. They expend their energies plotting revenge. They do not know the word grace and if they do, it’s on a short leash. They cannot forgive nor forget, and oftentimes, they can’t do both.
Why avoid? They are extremely exhausting and can drain the life out of your child. They can rob your child of their joy and gratitude. They force your child to examine their lives critically, through the negative lens. They will point out and magnify what your child lacks just so they can be on the same boat of misery. If they can’t forgive those who wronged them, it’s so easy for your imperfect child to be on their next hit list. They demand grace from people and from God but cannot give the same to those who hurt or wronged them.
3) The Self-Involved and the Apple-Polishers – These people are either plagued with attention-seeking complex or severe minion disorder. The latter will find anything your child does to be right and okay even though it’s not. They will refuse or are afraid to tell the truth for fear of rejection or isolation. They will say what your child wants to hear and do things just so they belong. The former are the ones that are self-absorbed feeling like they are the center of the universe. They are the egomaniacal who are in fact issue-laden. They are always takers never givers. They feel more important than anything or anyone else.
Why avoid? They are backscratchers who will never help your child grow. They are drainers of time, energy and joy. They are either groupies themselves or they will be the ones who will make your child their groupie. Like a minion, your child can become a henchman to the self-involved, a hanger-on or a yes-man who is of no importance except to the ones barking the order. If your child does not become a minion, chances are he/she will be groomed into a Gru by the apple-polishers. No, not the Gru who grew warmly loving Margo, Edith and Agnes but the super-villain Gru who planned to commit the crime of the century.
I’m not saying all these as a know-it-all mom but as a parent who wants to share some realizations and lessons learned in my own life to others. God knows my Mama wasn’t fairly warned about people like these I was bound to meet. And the other mamas of my friends weren’t warned about the likes of the younger me. And so, from one Mom who is determined and set on her ways to raise better kids than she was, I am sharing my thoughts that are substantiated with years of experience. Not only do I need to warn my kids about such kinds of friends but I must do the two more important things—that is to raise them not to be these kinds of friends and to not be this kind of parent to them.
So looking back to what my Grandma said, it does pay to choose friends wisely. I cannot be more emphatic on that. So much is at stake if we don’t. I keep those words in my heart and consider it a treasure and legacy to pass on to Jam and Leila. The friends I have that remained continue to shape me and honestly I am being careful still, even at my age. Nevertheless, I am blessed to have very few ones who I can talk to about the essentials—about Jesus, my marriage, my children, my faith and my burdens without fear of judgment and in full confidence that they will give godly advices. They are the ones tried and tested, the ones who love me but love Jesus first. They are accountability partners in my journey of faith. Today, one of my top priorities is to build, help and encourage my children find and be the same kind. Nothing is too early to teach them. In fact, I think I have so much catching up to do! Anyway, I know it is quite a long read but I do pray that after you read this, you will be also burdened to do the same for your own children.