When my eldest daughter dipped into a novel only after another student recommended it, I was quite miffed.
I had ordered the historical fiction The Watson's Go to Birmingham-1963 for her after having scanned many raving reviews online but couldn't persuade her to even crack it open all summer.
Then a random classmate pointed to it in the library earlier this week and said, "That's a great book!"
She was glued to the book for the next few days. Even the little girl on the cover was "cute" all of a sudden.
My ten-year-old is growing up and I'm not sure if I'm ready for it--or even like it. She's in her last year of elementary school and apparently entering the stage where age mates and their opinions are of growing importance, according to Mohamed Rida Beshir, author of Parenting in the West: An Islamic Perspective.
Here's the rub: The lifestyles of those peers (promoted through movies, television and even books) often don't match the way of life prescribed by God. So the friends have to be chosen very wisely.
Prophet Muhammad: "The conduct of everyone will be according to the beliefs and principles of his friend."
God: "And (remember) the day when the unjust one shall bite his hands saying: O! Would that I had taken a way with the Messenger! O, woe is me! Would that I had not taken such a one for a friend! Certainly he led me astray from the reminder after it had come to me." (Quran 25:27-29)
Ali ibn Hussain, great grandson of Fatima (one of the four perfect women of all times) gave his son detailed instructions on how to select a companion.
"O my son, don't befriend five types of people:
1. Don't befriend a liar. For a liar is like a mirage. He shows the distant as near and the near as distant. He will always deceive you and trouble you.
2. Don't befriend a transgressor. He will make God's worship appear as His disobedience, and His disobedience as His worship.
3. Never befriend a miser. For in your time of need and distress, he will withhold his wealth from you while he is in a position to assist you.
4. Do not befriend a fool. For (in his foolishness) he will harm you while he intends to help you.
5. Don't befriend the one who breaks relations (with his relatives). He is engrossed in his own affairs with scant regard for others."
While I realize friends will continue to play a greater role in my kids' lives, I'm not ready to take a backseat.
That's because scholars say a mother's job is never done. Rather, it evolves though adjustments, tweaks and creativity.
Imam Khomeini, leader of the Islamic Revolution in Iran: "Respected ladies! You are responsible for the upbringing of the children; you have the duty of nurturing virtuous children in your care to hand over to society. We all have this duty, but it is in your care that they receive a better upbringing."
"Children must be guided towards choosing good books," says children's author Tahera Kassamali. "Not necessarily boring or didactic ones, but ones which have value in their stories and language."
When my daughter wrinkled her nose at the classic novel Pollyanna, which I purchased for her yesterday for an upcoming road trip, I didn't push it.
"That's okay," I said. "[Younger sister] can read it. It's about a really nice girl, kind of like Sara in the The Little Princess (the ten-year-old's favorite character)."
"Really? She can read it," my daughter said, "but only after me."