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Human potential is a wondrous thing.

From physical transformation to psychological development, our capacity to evolve and burst forth with new possibilities sneaks up on us as if by magic. This is evident as I watch my friends and family members reveal their shock as my kids become teenagers, “Wow, she is growing,” or “I can’t believe how tall she is now!” I love how growth seems to surprise us over and over again, honoring the wonderful mystery it represents.

Within our children lies dormant the potential for growth. The type of human potential I am referring to is not about academic achievements, social status or good behavior, individual talents or gifts.


It is about the potential for maturity and how they are meant to evolve as socially and emotionally responsible individuals.

As parents we look for signs that measure whether our kids are on track developmentally. Based on the maturation theory as synthesized by Gordon Neufeld, there are three vital signs that can help us take our children’s developmental pulse and consider how they are unfolding. Signs of good development include whether they are moving towards becoming a separate, social and adaptive beings.

Becoming a separate being

As a separate being, a child should be moving towards increasing independence and taking responsibility for decision making. They should be forming a sense of agency and steering confidently towards their own goals and ideas. Realizing one’s potential as a separate being means a child sees oneself as a unique being and will rarely be bored, will be full of vitality and is curious about the world around them.

Signs of becoming a separate being in a 3 or 4 year old includes being able to play on their own for short periods of time and sometimes getting upset by limits and restrictions imposed on them.

The more a child starts to grow and form their own intentions, the more frustrated they may become when they are thwarted and told no. A child at this age may show signs of wanting to do things for themselves such as getting dressed, be toilet trained and can readily tell you their own ideas and meaning about the world they see.

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As a child enters the middle years at around 8 to 11, they will have clearer preferences and ideas about what they like and who they are.

Their particular interests may start to take shape and they may make commitments towards particular activities. They will ideally be able to take more responsibility for household chores as well do their homework with little prompting. They enjoy having a little more freedom and being able to voice their ideas to those they trust.

The 14 to 15 year old who is developing as a separate being should ideally be OK with solitude and be able to fill their time with creative endeavours such as drawing, writing, painting, playing music or physical activity.

They should be able to form goals and steer towards them with confidence, for example, wanting to work harder to get better grades or learn a musical instrument. They may become frustrated with friends who are “copy cats” or who cheat in order to get ahead. The more a teen is in the process of becoming their own person, the more they will push against the ideas of others in order to make room for their own; in short, they become allergic to coercion.

Becoming an adaptive being

As a child unfolds as an adaptive being, they should show signs of being able to persist in the face of challenges. They should grow increasingly resourceful and resilient, and be able to overcome adversity. They are able to cope confidently with stress and can accept not getting their own way all the time. As adaptive beings, they are able to let go of their demands when proven to be futile. In other words, they can hear the word no and accept the consequences that come with this. Kids who are adaptive learn from their mistakes and also benefit from correction.

The 3 to 4 year old is in the throes of just starting to understand the limits and restrictions that are part of their world.

Tears are a common occurrence for many of them, especially when they are told no. With enough patience from their adults and walking them through their big feelings while facing limits, they should come to accept the futilities that are part of life—such as no cookies before breakfast and no running around naked while in public places.

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They are likely to erupt in aggression when frustrated given that the parts of their brain responsible for impulse control will not wire up until between the ages of 5 to 7, if development is unfolding well.

By the time a child reaches the ages of 8 to 11, they should show signs of being able to weather difficult events such as tests at schools or not winning their soccer game.

While they still may be frustrated with their mistakes, they are able to demonstrate more patience in the face of them not erupt with aggression each time. They should seem more resilient and resourceful as they accept the limits that are part of their life, even reminding younger children of the rules and restrictions. When it comes to school they are able to learn from their mistakes with enough care and patience, and can persist even when up against things that are more challenging for them.

As a child enters their adolescent years they may protest limits and restrictions as part of their growing appetite to emerge as a separate being.

By the time they are 14 to 15 years of age, they may struggle to hear no, especially if being pulled in a different direction by their peers and the culture around them. At this age it is important to still maintain a relationship while preserving limits that are required, for example, around technology use or rules for dating. By this age they should have had enough experience with things that are futile that they know better when to persist and when to be the one to change.

Becoming a social being

If we want our children to realize their potential as global citizens, then they will need to consider another person’s perspective while also holding on to their own point of view. Despite myriad of competing and contrasting views, they should be able to hold onto their identity, ideas, meanings, preferences and intentions. Being a social being means being able to cooperate, understand fairness and appreciate the context around them. It underlies healthy moral development and the capacity to use words to communicate thoughts and feelings.

A 3 or 4 year old is in the middle of developing a sense of identity so becoming a social being is not on their radar.

Personhood must come before community and so the focus of the young child is usually on themselves. While parents may worry that a young child is too self-absorbed, it was nature’s intentions that they must come to understand oneself first before being exposed to the views and perspectives of so many others.

Due to brains that are still under development, they often lack the capacity for patience and think fairness means getting their own way. They don’t mix well with others and it is quite natural for them to prefer their own company and to get lost in worlds of their own creation.

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As a child enters the years 8 to 11, they should be increasingly able to understand irony and paradox.

At last, knock-knock jokes start to make sense and they are more patient when frustrated. With ideal brain development they are now able to experience mixed feelings, being able to take into account someone’s perspective as well as their own. They may shown signs of true cooperation and consideration, as well as being able to act with courage. If development is unfolding well they should mix better with others and work towards solving problems and conflict. They should demonstrate more balance and stability in their emotional expression given their increased capacity to reflect and make sense of their experiences.

As a child enters into early adolescence they seem to take a step backwards and become more emotionally volatile or unpredictable. This is due to changes in the brain and their expanding consciousness which can flood them with experience and emotion.

By the time they are 14 to 15 years old, there is ideally some levelling out and emotional stability returns. They should start to show increasing signs of seeing the world not through a single perspective but being able to take into account multiple experiences and issues. The development of moral reasoning and awakening to a community larger than oneself will be underway with glimpses appearing in their statements or ideals. Their capacity for courage will allow them to steer confidently towards their goals.

By the time a child emerges from their teenage years they should be more fit for society and able to contribute back to it.

Our children’s selfhood cannot be taught or forced; it must be nurtured, cultivated, preserved and protected. The realization of human potential is about our capacity to evolve and transform as separate, adaptive and social beings. Within each of us lies dormant the promise of a mature future but it takes time, patience, understanding and good caretaking.

Carl Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist, said it best idea when he claimed growth could only be made sense of in hindsight and not while it is unfolding. Within our kids is the promise of a mature future, one that adults in their life play midwife to.

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As a former beauty editor, I pride myself in housing the best skincare products in my bathroom. Walk in and you're sure to be greeted with purifying masks, micellar water, retinol ceramide capsules and Vitamin C serums. What can I say? Old habits die hard. But when I had my son, I was hesitant to use products on him. I wanted to keep his baby-soft skin for as long as possible, without tainting it with harsh chemicals.

Eventually, I acquiesced and began using leading brands on his sensitive skin. I immediately regretted it. His skin became dry and itchy and regardless of what I used on him, it never seemed to get better. I found myself asking, "Why don't beauty brands care about baby skin as much as they care about adult skin?"

When I had my daughter in May, I knew I had to take a different approach for her skin. Instead of using popular brands that are loaded with petroleum and parabens, I opted for cleaner products. These days I'm all about skincare that contains super-fruits (like pomegranate sterols, which are brimming with antioxidants) and sulfate-free cleansers that contain glycolipids that won't over-dry her skin. And, so far, Pipette gets it right.

What's in it

At first glance, the collection of shampoo, wipes, balm, oil and lotion looks like your typical baby line—I swear cute colors and a clean look gets me everytime—but there's one major difference: All products are environmentally friendly and cruelty-free, with ingredients derived from plants or nontoxic synthetic sources. Also, at the core of Pipette's formula is squalane, which is basically a powerhouse moisturizing ingredient that babies make in utero that helps protect their skin for the first few hours after birth. And, thanks to research, we know that squalane isn't an irritant, and is best for those with sensitive skin. Finally, a brand really considered my baby's dry skin.

Off the bat, I was most interested in the baby balm because let's be honest, can you ever have too much protection down there? After applying, I noticed it quickly absorbed into her delicate skin. No rash. No irritation. No annoyed baby. Mama was happy. It's also worth noting there wasn't any white residue left on her bottom that usually requires several wipes to remove.

Why it's different

I love that Pipette doesn't smell like an artificial baby—you, know that powdery, musky note that never actually smells like a newborn. It's fragrance free, which means I can continue to smell my daughter's natural scent that's seriously out of this world. I also enjoy that the products are lightweight, making her skin (and my fingers) feel super smooth and soft even hours after application.

The bottom line

Caring for a baby's sensitive skin isn't easy. There's so much to think about, but Pipette makes it easier for mamas who don't want to compromise on safety or sustainability. I'm obsessed, and I plan to start using the entire collection on my toddler as well. What can I say, old habits indeed die hard.

This article was sponsored by Pipette. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Military families give up so much for their country, particularly when they have small children at home. Those of us who have never witnessed this kind of sacrifice first-hand could use a reminder of it once in a while, which is just one of the reasons we're so happy to see the beautiful photoshoot Mary Chevalier arranged for her husband's return home from Afghanistan.

The photoshoot was extra special because while James Chevalier was serving a nine-month deployment, Mary gave birth to their second son, Caspian.

Getting ready to meet Dad

"During the laboring and birthing process of Caspian, I was surrounded by family, but that did not fill the void of not having my husband by my side," Mary told InsideEdition.com. "He was able to video chat during the labor and birth, but for both of us, it was not enough."

While James had yet to meet Caspian, their 3-year-old son, Gage, missed his dad a whole lot, so this homecoming was going to be a big deal for him too. That's why Mary arranged for her wedding photographer, Brittany Watson, to be with them for their reunion in Atlanta.

Gage was so happy to see his Dad 

"[He] had no idea he was going to be getting to see his daddy that day," Watson wrote on Facebook. "The family met at the Southeastern Railway Museum for Gage to go on a special train ride... little did he know, he'd be doing it with daddy!"

Watson did a beautiful job capturing the high emotions of every single family member, from Gage's surprise, to the delight on baby Caspian's face. It's no wonder her Facebook post went viral last week.

"Caspian is natural, a very happy baby, but both James and I felt like Caspian knew who his father was almost immediately," Mary told Inside Edition. "He was easily comforted by me husband right off the bat and seemed to have an instant connection. It was very emotional."

The moment this dad had been waiting for 

If we're sobbing just looking at the photos, we can't even imagine what it was like in real life.

"We are all so blessed and take so much for granted," Watson wrote. "I cannot contain the joy I feel in my heart when I look at these images, and I hope you feel it too!"

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During both of my pregnancies, I was under the care of an amazing midwife. Every time I went to her office for check-ups, I was mesmerized by the wall of photos participating in what may be the most painfully magical moment of a woman's life: giving birth. But there was a painting that always drew my attention: a woman dressed in orange, holding her newborn baby with a face that could be described as clueless. The line above the canvas read, "Now what?"

I felt like the woman in the painting as I kissed my mother goodbye when my daughter was born. She came from my native Colombia to stay with us for three months. When she left, I realized that my husband had been working as usual during those first 90 days of our new life. My baby was born on a Friday and on Monday he was back at the office. (No parental leave policy for him.)


Now what? I thought. The quote "It takes a village to raise a child" suddenly started to hit home, literally.

After a few years in Miami, I had some friends, but it truly didn't feel like I had a village. Some were not mothers yet, most of them worked full-time and others didn't live close by. My nomad life left my best friends spread out in different places in the world. I found myself signing up for "mommy and me" classes in search of new mothers, immigrants like me, alone like me.

It seemed like a utopian dream to think about when my grandmothers became mothers. Both of them had 6 and 10 children and they were able to stay sane (or maybe not? I don't know). But at least they had family around—people cooking, offering help. There was a sense of community.

My mother and father grew up in "the village." Big families with so many children that the older siblings ended up taking care of the little ones; aunts were like second mothers and neighbors became family.

When I was about to give birth to my second baby, my sister had just had her baby girl back in Colombia. Once, she called me crying because her maternity leave was almost over. My parents live close to her, so that was a bonus. Hiring a nanny back there is more affordable. But even seeing the positive aspects of it, I wished I could have been there for her, to be each other's village.

The younger me didn't realize that when I took a plane to leave my country in search of new experiences 19 years ago, I was giving up the chance to have my loved ones close by when I became a mother. And when I say close by, I mean as in no planes involved.

It hasn't been easy, but after two kids and plenty of mommy and me classes and random conversations that became true connections, I can say I have a mini-village, a small collection of solitudes coming together to lean on each other. But for some reason, it doesn't truly feel like one of those described in the old books where women gathered to knit while breastfeeding and all the children become like siblings.

Life gets in the way, and everyone gets sucked into their own worlds. In the absence of a true village, we feel the pressure to be and do everything that once was done by a group of people. We often lose perspective of priorities because we are taking care of everything at the same time. Starting to feel sick causes anxiety and even fear because it means so many things need to happen in order for mom—especially if single—to lay down and recover while the children are taken care of. And when the children get sick, that could mean losing money for a working mother or father, because the truth is that most corporations are not designed to nurture families.

In the absence of that model of a village I long for, we tend to rely on social media to have a sense of community and feel supported. We may feel that since we are capable of doing so much—working and stay at home moms equally—perhaps we don't need help. Or quite the opposite: mom guilt kicks in and feelings of not being enough torment our night sleep. Depression and anxiety can enter the picture and just thinking about the amount of energy and time that takes to create true connections, we may often curl up in our little cocoon with our children and partners—if they are present—when they come home.

Now what? was my thought this week while driving back and forth to the pediatrician with my sick son. I can't get the virus, I have to be strong, my daughter can't get ill, my husband needs to be healthy for his work trip next week, we all need to be well for my son's fifth birthday. And so, it goes on. I texted one of my mom friends just to rant. She rants back because her son is also sick. She sent me a heart and an "I'm here if you need to talk."

I am grateful to have talked to her at that random postpartum circle when I first became a mother. She's a Latina immigrant like me and feels exactly like me. I will do it more, get out of my comfort zone and have—sometimes—awkward conversations so I can keep growing my own little village.

It may not look like the one I'd imagined, but still may allow me to be vulnerable even through a text message.

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Halloween is around the corner, but if you are like me you are still trying to figure out what to dress your family (especially the little ones), so here are some cute ideas inspired by famous characters. There's something for everyone—from cartoon lovers to ideas for the entire family!

Here are some adorable character costumes for your family:

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