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Dear Sophie,

I’m sitting at the kitchen table on the day before your 18th birthday. No one else is home. The dogs are asleep, the cat’s outside and I can hear myself think – not necessarily a good thing.

In a lot of ways, I’m ready for your birthday. I can smell the chocolate bundt cake cooling on the counter and a box of gifts is waiting to be wrapped. Spoiler: You’re getting a bikini — and sippy cups to hold your beloved cranberry juice. I found a sushi restaurant with a patio for dinner tomorrow night so you can order as much sticky white rice as you like, and we’ll spend the day at the pool.

You are definitely ready to be 18, I know that much. You have talked about this day for so long. Birthdays are always a big deal in our house but this one is truly momentous.

Sophie, you are now an adult.

I know this really isn’t about me, but the truth is that I’m not ready for your birthday. Not at all. We decided during the pandemic to give you an extra year of high school, and I’m so glad — a reprieve. But the world is coming for you. And every day, more and more, I realize that the world’s not necessarily going to meet us halfway. Not even a quarter of the way. Maybe an inch.

This morning you swiped one of my legal pads and wrote “to much,” holding it up for me to see. I was on the phone working on a story about disability. You don’t like to talk about that much — or hear about it — and I don’t blame you. Sophie, you are so many things that have nothing do with Down syndrome. You are smart, brave, sweet and silly. You are a good dancer, actor, singer, Yahtzee player, writer, student, friend, sister, daughter and granddaughter. You can hold up your end of just about any conversation. I’m pretty sure if I have to hear the High School Musical soundtrack one more time I’ll stick a fork in my ear, but I appreciate that you are a loyal fan.

When I look at you, I don’t see your diagnosis. I see your newly blonde hair, your pretty skin, my old Birkenstocks you insist on wearing even though they are three sizes too big and the Dunder Mifflin tee shirt you adore. You have topped out at 4 foot 5 inches, but I don’t notice that, either. Sometimes the world does. I watch people try to figure you out. It’s harder with a mask. In a way, the masks have been a gift — people see you before they see Down syndrome.

As much as I can’t wait to see what you do with your life, I’d like to stop time today, the day before you are officially an adult.

I remember worrying so hard when you started kindergarten. In fact, I started this blog to document that year. Someone said, “Kindergarten? That’s the easy part. Just wait.”

Now we are here, and I get it. Kindergarten was easy. This is not. A lot of times, these days, it’s “to much” for me, too.

There won’t be a big birthday party tomorrow; we are all just barely getting out of the house. I promised you a huge bash next year, to celebrate your 19th birthday and your high school graduation. Hopefully we’ll also be able to celebrate your plan, whatever it is — to go to school, work, live at home, move away. It’s your choice, my grown up girl. Your dad and I are here to help, the best we can.

I hope our best is good enough. You deserve that — and more. I know that you want all the opportunities your big sister has had, and why shouldn’t you?  The truth is that if anyone’s going to make it happen, it’s you. You’ve always been your own best advocate and I know you’ll keep fighting for yourself. I just wish you didn’t have to.

You have taught me so much, Sophie. You have made me a better person and in a lot of ways, we’ve grown up together. You’ve raised me — and now, whether it’s ready or not, I know you’ll raise the world.

Happy birthday.



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16 Responses to “Happy Birthday Dear Sophie! Time to Raise the World.”

  1. What a loving, honest tribute and open letter to your lovely daughter. You have done an amazing job as a mom and as a family helping raise both of your children. Down syndrome was just a part of it. Your rose to the occasion and were her advocate at all times during the years. You have done your job and have done it well. Like with any child, let her go. Whatever she does is because of you And what you have instilled with her. She will do well Because she is Sophie plain and simple.

  2. Happy Birthday, Sophie! And big hugs to you, Amy.

  3. Happy Birthday Sophie. So glad you continue to chronicle Sophie’s exploits, even when it is “to much”. There is still much to do, but for now enjoy!!!!

  4. Yom Huledet Sameach (Hebrew foe Happy Birthday) Sophie. You are a genuine treasure. I love having you as a cousin. By the way, as you are 18, don’t forget to register to vote!!! For your birthday, you are welcome to visit Washington State anytime.
    You take good care. I love you. Let’s talk soon.
    Happy 18 Birthday.

  5. ahhhhh bdays . . .anniversaries of celebrating a life – Sophie will create a celebration every day . . she is who she is because she is your daughter Amy (and of course Ray) . – because she is Anabelle’s sister, Susies Grandaughter. . she’s a reflection of the courage, the right to challenge, and the ability to love all of you bring to her eager, willing, caring heart..

  6. What a gorgeous photo!!! And I can’t believe how time flies. 18 already! It’s not an easy year to turn 18 for sure, but still, happy birthday to Sophie :)

  7. Sweet Sophie- Happy birthday! Thank you Amy for writing such a beautiful post. Sophie is a mover a shaker and a force to be reckoned with! I look forward to continue watching her grow.

  8. Happy Birthday Sophie! The world is a better place with you in it ❤️

  9. Happy Birthday, Sophie. You are a wonderful inspiration to many of us. Your dancing lifted me up daily during COVID–and I thank you! Amy, I celebrate you and your beautiful family. Your lives are a tribute to living with inner beauty and courage. I feel blessed to know and learn from both Sophie and you. Today is my son’s birthday, too, and tonight I will ask my family to lift a toast to you and your family. Much love!!

  10. Happy birthday Sophie!! Have a wonderful day and an incredible year! :)

  11. Wow! Congrats Sophie! Knock their socks off again and again and again! And enjoy that cake!

  12. Happy birthday Sophie! Your daily dances helped me get through lockdown. The world is a better place because you’re in it.

  13. Happy Birthday and CONGRATS to Sophie and the whole Stern/Silverman family! The whole world is out there and waiting!

  14. Happy birthday, Sophie — and Amy! Thank you for the gift of YOU and for allowing us to be part of this momentous celebration along with your triumphs through all the years. We value what you have and continue teaching us… Wishing you a celebratory weekend and year, Denise XO

  15. Birthdays are the best! I hope your sticky white rice and your chocolate bundt cake are delicious! Adult Sophie—-Go Grab the world and give it some shakes for us all!

  16. What a great post for her 18th birthday. What a milestone. Happy Birthday Sophie!!

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