This is a submission in our monthly contest. October’s theme is Determination. Enter your own here!

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.