Eliana Tardio Understands 'Different'. She Also Understands LOVE.
It’s the most common genetic condition found in the United States today. Approximately 400,000 individuals have it and 6,000 babies are born with it each year (with many more aborted -- although those numbers remain unclear). The idea of this, to me, is disheartening to-say-the-least, especially in light of the monumental strides society has made in supporting Down syndrome children and adults.
And yet, the misunderstanding that continues to permeate society regarding the value and benefits of those who just happen to arrive to this earth with Down syndrome continues to be quite real. I don’t get it! If my seventeen year-old daughter can realize the joy of having Down syndrome kids in her life, so much so that she chose to spend the last seven years instructing them in swim at the local YMCA, why is it so damn difficult for full-grown adults to understand?
I tell you what….given we’d been able to hand the microphone over to mom blogger, Eliana Tardio, years ago to speak on the matter, I might not be asking this question in 2016. Eliana’s poignant letter to her son, Emir, honoring his twelve year-old birthday and the gratitude she feels for his birth, life and the gift of both to hers -- Down syndrome and all - reduced me to tears.
I have no doubt it would reduce many others as well, including those who never thought they would change their positions on the topic. The monumental challenges Eliana has faced in raising her son as well as her daughter (also living with Down syndrome) as a single mom no less, seem incidental when compared to the love and happiness Eliana has received in return. She captures it all in her blog, Living with Passion, Compassion, and Style, and expands upon it in her interview below. I’d suggest you read both with the expectations of being amazed and inspired as you do.
What is your full name?
My name is Eliana Tardio.
Where do you live?
I’m originally from Bolivia, and I live in Fort Myers, Fl.
How many children do you have?
I have two beautiful children, Emir & Ayelen.
If you were asked to describe yourself in one word, what would that word be?
What is your personal mantra?
Life is the reflection of your determination to succeed.
Do you believe you have a “life’s purpose?” If so, share it.
My 'life purpose' is to educate through my personal experience as the mother of two children with special needs. It’s to fight with love and faith in order to spread the magic of diversity in all aspects.
Tell us about you and your life.
My life is full of challenges and unexpected prizes. Nothing happens easily for us (my children and I). I’m a 'Latina single mom' raising two children with Down syndrome, so as it would be expected, I invest tons of energy in trying to get the best opportunities for my children, while I fight endlessly against prejudice and the low expectations related to my kids' special needs.
I know how tough life can get sometimes, and still I’m always waiting for the next rainbow to show up. I love my children with all of my heart, and I can’t imagine my life without them. They’ve given me a reason to 'believe' and to live everyday to its fullest. I'm inspired by their example. I’ve learned that everything is possible when we overcome our own limits and prejudices.
Finish this sentence: The best part about being a mom is....."accepting that it doesn’t need to be perfect in order to be amazing.”
How long have you been blogging for? Do you blog for any group blogs or websites beyond your own?
I’ve been blogging since my second child was born. When her diagnosis of Down syndrome was confirmed, I went through all the typical stages, including the: “Why me?” question. Then, I realized that it was my calling and responsibility to provoke a social change for my children’s sake, and that’s how the blog started almost nine years ago.
Right now, besides my personal blog in English and Spanish, I’m an Advocacy & Special Needs blogger for Babble, but throughout the years I’ve written for several other platforms.
What is the name of your blog? When was it launched?
Share with us the significance of the name of your blog to you. How did you come up with it?
The whole idea behind the blog is to motivate families of children with special needs, to inspire compassion and to remind moms of the importance of taking care of themselves while learning to give and receive help from others.
What is the primary focus of your blog?
At the beginning, my blog was mainly directed towards parents of children with disabilities and special needs; then, I realized that all children have 'special needs' of some kind, and as parents, we all need support and compassion to cope with parenting.
With this focus on mind, I consider my blog a very inclusive site that may be beneficial for any parent.
What do you hope to accomplish through it?
Because I started my blog out of passion, my blog is now a part of me. It’s helped me in so many ways. Through my blog, I’ve learned to use my voice in order to provoke change, to deal with my own feelings, and to inspire others to be strong enough in order to face their own fears and challenges. I’m also honored to work with small and huge brands that believe in inclusion and support our cause by working with us.
List any awards you have won.
I’ve been very lucky throughout the years in terms of recognition and awards:
2016 – We all Grow Summit “6 Top Latina Story Tellers sponsored by YouTube.”
2015 – Best Latino Advocate Through the Use of Technology and Social Media
2014-13 – Best Latino Health Blogger and Most Inspirational Latina Blogger
2012 – Top 100 Mom Bloggers by Babble
2012 – Top 60 Latina Mom Bloggers
Are you a Brand Ambassador and if so, for which companies?
I’m honored to be working with the #HowWeFamily campaign with Tylenol. Along with my kids, we will be creating amazing content about our unique ways to love and to family.
Beyond your blog, do you engage in other social media outlets such as Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, etc.?
I think a blog can’t be successful without social media amplification. My blog works in combination with my social media accounts - Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. We are big fans of short videos and pictures, and those are always an invitation to people to visit our blog and learn more about our lives.
What is the one piece of advice you would give to moms who may be interested in beginning a blog?
To moms who are interested in starting a blog, my most important piece of advice is: Find the passion inside your heart and make this happen. Having a blog is not what it used to be nine years ago when I started. Now this is much more than a personal space to vent, and it can become a stable income to sustain your family. Invest all your creativity, passion and energy, because it’s not easy, but worth it.
Are you an entrepreneur or professional beyond your blog (and outside of being a mom)? Please share.
I love to call myself an entrepreneur; I work full-time, year-round by creating content for different brands and networks. I work part-time for my local Parent and Training Information Center, a state resource funded by the Department of Education, helping families of children with special needs understand the law and make the best choices for their children. With more than 300k visits a month to my blog, the rest of the time, I’m answering emails, doing videos and creating new content for my community, that is comprised of more than 100k followers on Facebook.
Do you support – either formally or informally – a particular social cause?
I formally support "inclusion and diversity," which means, the ideal of 'equal opportunities for all'.
When all is said and done, what is the one thing you hope your loved ones and those who knew you remember about you?
'Everyday' I wake up with the hope and the intention of making of this world a better place for my children, and therefore, for all children.
I always make the toughest choices, because the easy ones are not good enough. I fight for my children’s rights and I believe that education is the answer to all of our problems, because it has the ability to destroy ignorance and expand our minds.
I want to be remembered as a passionate human being who never settled for less, and always believed that we all can be successful when we learn to become love advocates, inspired in our life's mission and passion to make of this world 'a better place for all.'
Now, tell me that I under-estimated how moved you would become by Eliana’s words. You can’t, can you? I didn't think so.
No doubt, there is enormous beauty in 'diversity and inclusiveness', no matter how or why our differences came to be. What Eliana and her blog, Living with Passion, Compassion, and Style, do each day is to remind us of this truth. You needn’t have a Down syndrome loved one in your life to understand this. You just need to have an open heart and mind.