Sofia Sanchez, the inspiration behind the new picture book You Are Enough, became the voice for all children with Down Syndrome when she said it's "not scary, it's exciting!" Now, in honor of World Down Syndrome Day, her mother Jennifer Varainini shares her experience raising Sofia.
I can’t believe it’s been over a decade now since we completed our family with the adoption of our youngest child and only daughter, Sofia. I still remember the day we laid eyes on her photo among the hundreds of other photos of orphaned babies looking for forever families. It was love at first sight!
Being a mom to all boys, the thought of having a girl was so exciting. but I knew it wouldn’t be easy. Sofia has Down syndrome, just like our youngest son Joaquin. I was prepared to raise not one but two children with disabilities, and I was up for the challenge. I have always said that raising a child with a disability is not the hard part, it’s dealing with the world around them that is challenging. It was easy to fall head over heels for my children, but would others see them the same way I did?
When you become a parent to a child with any sort of “difference,” you immediately become an advocate. I wanted to shout from the rooftops that my children were worthy and of all the opportunities that any child is afforded, and deserved to be seen as valuable members of our community. I became their voice, and our family became an open book so that we could show the world that life is beautiful even when it looks a little different. I wanted to dispel the myths associated with Down syndrome. I wanted to show the beauty of Down syndrome. I wanted to show the love and joy associated with living life on the road less traveled by raising children with disabilities.
I have always believed in the power of positive affirmations, so when Sofia started to talk, we were not surprised by her very positive outlook and attitude. Now she had her own voice to shout her own worth. I think the universe needed to hear from her—an actual person living their life with a disability—and when she herself said “I am capable. I am strong. I am beautiful. I am brave,” the whole world listened. She became the voice for all children with DS when she said Down syndrome is “not scary, it’s exciting!” She loves her life.
The new picture book You Are Enough: A Book About Inclusion by Margaret O’Hair with illustrations by Sofia Cardoso was inspired by my daughter Sofia’s story, and it the embodiment of everything I hoped to instill in my children. It is everything that Sofia and her brother feel about themselves, and I hope that other children who read it will remember that they are enough, too. It can be hard to be different, but being different is what makes you you.
I also know that parenting any child can be challenging, disability or not, and that every child has their own unique strengths and gifts and challenges. Raising human beings is no small feat, and I know all the worry that comes with thinking “am I doing enough?” I want parents to remember that they are enough, too.