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When Brazil faced Germany for soccer’s World Cup finals, it was the pinnacle of Brazilian pride in our household. Myself and two adopted sons from Brazil comprised the audience.

Unfortunately, Germany’s victory was quite the spectacle as Brazil’s crushing defeat clashed loudly against its proud, fabled history as a soccer giant. Amidst the backdrop of the controversy regarding debt and corruption soiling the country’s social consciousness, Brazil needed this win.

Well, it’s only a game. Or, is it?

Not to soccer-crazed Brazil, which truly epitomizes what it means to live and breathe a sport. Not to conscientious parents who live and breathe raising their children. The parenting game, metaphorically speaking, often rivals the emotionally charged kicking back-and-forth of a soccer ball.

Parenting any child is not for the faint of heart, although especially so for parenting the older adopted child. It’s different with older adopted children – different from raising children from the start, where they learn the game plan for life as it could be, or should be.

In parenting the older adopted child, the game plan seems forever to be shifting to accommodate even the slightest rumblings of insecurity and/or anxiety from past affronts that influence their defensive instincts. Yet just when I think I maneuvered a craftily executed offensive move, not unlike soccer, it only seems to work the one time.

To stay ahead of the game, I forever have to adapt and enact new strategies to keep the ball hurtling toward the goal. It could be as simple as coordinating whose turn it is to sit in the front seat of the car, or as involved as getting two children to share the space of one suitcase to save from paying for two pieces of check-in luggage.

I adopted my two sons seven years ago from Brazil at the cusp of nine and 12 years old. Eventually, they began to trust that the ground beneath their feet wouldn’t necessarily quiver, crack, or open up and swallow them whole.

Yet even with a more secure worldview, when I exercise my authority as their team captain, it invariably seems to them to be without justifiable merit, without logic or sensibility – or that it’s just “not fair!” I often find myself struggling to rally my sons past sullen, disagreeable, or uncooperative spirits in favor of the right decisions for the better of the home team.

Even when the pain of past oversights, missteps, and misguided self-interests remain fresh in our memory banks, I always get another turn at this so-called parenting game. It’s always about the next kick of the ball, whether to defend against another opposing behavioral insult or to set up a play that better positions one of them to make the better choice rather than dig in their heels.

This game can be exhausting, with foul moves often leaving me feeling dejected, demoralized, and unappreciated – perhaps not much different than how David Luiz, Brazil’s acting team captain for the World Cup game was feeling about his performance as he tearfully and humbly expressed how he “just wanted to give some happiness to my people.”

Although I sought to avoid harboring unrealistic ideals in preparing to step out on the field with my two recruits, assuming leadership on their behalf was a tenuous prospect. Like Luiz, who assumed leadership over Brazil’s team only after Thiago Silva was sidelined for his second yellow penalty card, I, too, was the second go around for my team of three.

And the last thing I ever wanted to do was to disappoint them.

Even when they don’t intend to, my sons often remind me that the parenting game is not necessarily about winning or losing. It’s about the effort that goes into playing the game. Even more important: I am determined to stay in it for the “win.” I am in the parenting game for keeps. Their fearless captain is here to stay.

It sometimes can become difficult for me to see the bigger picture after experiencing a parenting setback. I know they understand when I see how they cooperate with me, work together with each other as dutiful teammates, and use good judgment that parallels my coaching. Even a bad call can get excused by way of their trust in me to prevail in their best interests, allowing me to regain my better sense of judgment.

Bonded together as a family, traversing the field of life as teammates with a sense of belonging together, the parenting game doesn’t need to be a competitive one. That alone is a win-win for us all.

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

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I had big plans to be a "good mom" this summer. There were going to be chore charts, reading goals, daily letter writing practice, and cursive classes. There would be no screen time until the beds were made, and planned activities for each day of the week.

Today was the first day of summer vacation and our scheduled beach day. But here's what we did instead: Lounged in our pj's until 11 am, baked the girl's pick, chocolate chip cookie brownies, started an art project we never finished, then moved to the pool.

It's so easy to be pressured by things we see on social. Ways to challenge our kids and enrich their summer. But let's be real—we're all tired. Tired of chores, tired of schedules and places to be, tired of pressure, and tired of unrealistic expectations.

So instead of a schedule, we're doing nothing this summer. Literally NOTHING.

No camps. No classes, and no curriculums.

Instead, we're going to see where each day takes us. I've dubbed this the "Summer of Me," so workouts and clean eating are a priority for me. And also giving our girls the freedom to pick what they want to do.

We may go to a local pool and check out the swimming programs. And we join the local YMCA. But whatever we do—it will be low key.

It will include family time, too much TV, a few trips, lots of sunshine, some new roller skates, water balloons, plenty of boredom, rest, relaxation, and reading. (Because mama likes to read!)

So if you haven't figured out what you're doing this summer, you're not alone. And guess what? It's OKAY! Your kids will be fine and so will you.

Originally posted on Kristen Hewitt's blog. Check out her post on 30 ways to have fun doing almost nothing this summer.

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In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

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When we consider all the skills our kids will need to succeed in the future, what comes to mind? Perhaps creativity, tech skills, or an excellent understanding of math might be at the top of many parents' lists. Social-emotional skills, like empathy, compassion, or the ability to understand another person's viewpoint may not be the ones you thought of right away, but deep down you know they matter.

We've all had those co-workers who didn't know how to listen to our ideas or friends who couldn't compromise with others. We know that in the work world and in our personal life, emotional skills are key to developing and maintaining healthy relationships.

If you are the parent of a toddler, you know that young children are inherently self-centered. It's not some faulty aspect of their character or a misstep of parenting skills. Young children simply do not have the brain maturity to consider another person's perspective or needs just yet—their brain physically is not ready to handle that kind of mental work.

However, child development research shows us that we can do a few things along the developmental path to help foster social-emotional skills in our kids. With a little help from us, our kids' brains can develop with meaningful connections that tune them into the feelings of others.

Here's how:

1. Treat others how you want your kids to treat others.

How we talk to our kids becomes their internal dialogue. We know from research that this goes for emotional skills as well. A recent study showed that when parents talk to their kids more about how other people might be feeling, the kids had better perspective-taking abilities—the ability to see a situation from another person's point of view.

This, of course, is the basis of many emotional skills, especially empathy. Just by talking about another person's feelings, kids begin to develop those crucial brain connections that help them develop empathy.

It's worth pointing out that very young children under ages 3-4 do not have the brain maturity to really understand another person's perspective. They lack a crucial skill that psychologists call Theory of Mind, meaning they can't understand the mind of another person.

However, our urgings and thoughtful phrasing to point out how another person might be feeling can only help them down this developmental path. Then, once their little brain matures, they will be in the habit of hearing and understanding the feelings of others.

2. Model positive emotional behavior in daily life.

It's probably not surprising to learn that how we react to our kids' feelings influences their emotional development. When your child gets upset, do you get angry or ruffled by their big emotions? We are all human, of course, so sometimes our kids' emotions are the exact triggers that fuel our big feelings, too. However, if we can remain the calm in the emotional storm for our kids, their development will benefit. Through modeling emotional regulation, over time our kids will learn how to self-regulate as well.

One study, in fact, showed that toddlers whose parents exhibited anger or over-reacted to tantrums were likely to have more tantrums and negative emotionality by the end of the study. However, the opposite dynamic can happen, too. Parents who model firm, but calm emotional regulation help their kids learn these skills as well.

3. Don’t be afraid to show your emotions.

Many times, we feel that one of our main jobs as a parent is to protect our children from the big, often overwhelming emotions of adults. For instance, we try not to break down crying or become red-faced with anger in front of our kids. It just feels too big for them to handle and perhaps not developmentally appropriate.

As they mature, however, older kids are able to handle a bit more discussion and expression of honest emotions. Have you noticed that kids usually pick up on the fact that you are upset even if you try to hide it? Kids are naturally curious and, many times, very sensitive to the emotional tenor at home. If they are developmentally ready, this can be a good time to have more discussions about emotions and how to handle them.

For example, my 9-year-old is playing a lot of baseball this summer and always wants me to pitch to him so he can practice batting. Now, I am not a very skilled player so my pitches often go off course or are too weak. He had gotten in the habit of correcting my pitching or (more likely) complaining about it every time we played.

After repeated experiences with this, I was not only annoyed but it also sort of hurt my feelings—so I finally told him how I felt. Guess what? His behavior at practice time changed dramatically! The mere fact of him realizing that his mom has feelings too really made him think about his words more carefully.

These types of interaction can become part of your "emotion coaching." It may sound silly but it can make a big impact for kids, especially as they grow older and are more able to really understand the emotional lesson. On some level, it's nice that our kids think we are superheroes, but it's also crucial that they understand that we are still human, with real feelings.

The magic of helping our kids develop empathy doesn't happen in well-planned lessons or elaborate activities. The real magic happens in the small, simple interactions and discussions we have with our kids each day.

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Sometimes it can feel like you never get a minute to even finish a thought—let alone a to-do list. When your day is packed with caretaking, your own needs get pushed back. So when you finally get to lie down at the end of the day, all those thoughts are waiting for you. While we haven't figured out the secret to keeping you from over-analyzing every.single.thing. (sorry, mama!), we do believe you must carve out time for you. Because that rest is just as important—and you've certainly earned it.

XO,

#TeamMotherly

PS: We spoke to Jessica Alba and she gave us the lowdown on why she stopped breastfeeding, and Nordstrom is having their anniversary sale until August 5th. Here's everything we want!

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