The Molinas are from sunny Chula Vista, California. In true SoCal fashion, they enjoy time together at the beach, frequent road trips, and bonding at home laughing and telling silly stories. The Molina kids, Isabella (11), Emilio (10), and Max (8) love listening to music, expressing themselves through drawing and instruments like the piano. The boys love using their imagination in creating obstacle courses for their toy cars. Max enjoys taking the lead in engineering intricate raceways. Parents, Pedro and Karla, are forces in their own right, both working hard to help others become their best selves. Pedro works as a Wellness Consultant and Karla is a marriage and family therapist.
Raising Max, born with Treacher Collins syndrome, allows Pedro and Karla to be deeper and more open with others. Once upon a time, Pedro was simply striving for the most comfortable life possible. Now, he and Karla are focused on accepting life as it comes and living authentically. Pedro says of this fresh perspective on life, “It has made me more flexible. I can be rigid in nature and want things my own way without change. I have now embraced change…embraced being different. Instead of constantly being frustrated with not having life ‘the way I thought it should be’ I now accept that although it’s not the way you imagined, there is still beauty present. I used to live my life avoiding conflict, wanting everyone and everything to be ok. Building the most comfortable life I can. This produces a superficial and shallow life. Devoid of deep and meaningful relationships. Consequently, my relationships are deeper, my conversations are more meaningful, and I am not afraid to ‘go there.’ To not only sit with the pain of life within myself and others, but to also reap the joys and wonders that come with having others by your side.”
Karla feels the change, too. She steps up, embracing her new roles of “brave mother, teacher, advocate, and expert,” for all three of her children, but especially Max. Perhaps most telling is the way she advocates for Max. Karla says, “I’ve learned the importance of introducing Max to his peers. I encourage them to ask any questions they want about Max. I set the space and freedom to wonder and ask. And the beauty of this experience is that kids will quickly move on and see Max like any other peer.”
She goes on to say it has even motivated her to advocate for systemic change, too. She continues, “My view of disabilities has become more clear and profound. I see the subtle and blatant injustices that comes with children who look or are different. Before Max, I was not aware of any of this and today as a parent with a son with TCS, I have come to realize that we live in a world that values perfection. This affects both young and old. Many are quick to stare at my son Max and wonder, ‘what is wrong with him?’ Yet, I have come to recognize that too many times they do not realize what they do. This has been the biggest lesson I’ve had to learn and be reminded of over and over again. Therefore, in these moments, I intervene and say something … When I do this, I believe I am teaching Max that he is worthy no matter what and that he matters. I am also teaching [others] to notice themselves and perhaps gain awareness about they their stares, gestures, and perceptions and how hurtful they can be.”
Each and every member of this family has a vital role to play. Siblings Isabella and Emilio are Max’s first friends and playmates. Dad stands by his wife and children today, a more supportive, reassuring, and kind presence. Mom is a seeker, advocate, and expert on all things to ensure Max, Isabella, and Emilio’s success.
CCA is excited to feature the family as part of our 30th Anniversary campaign because we feel we’ve learned so much from them. As all of us know, having a child with a facial difference adds a new dynamic to the family. But we also know that those changes often bring out the very best in people and bond families together even more strongly.
After a few interactions with CCA staffers and friends, it was clear to see the Molinas are pace-setters, and we admire their family. The Molinas are so fun, engaging, and easy to be around. There is a calm that runs through the fabric of their lives. Even in the scorching hot Arizona sun where we conversed about this piece, their cool Southern California attitude set us at ease. We are so glad they’ve joined the CCA family!