Becoming a parent presents us with challenges we’ve rarely been able to plan for, but what if your child is disabled or has special needs? The following poem never ceases to touch a chord – while we all tread differing paths with our children, no matter how difficult the route, each journey holds its own treasured moments:
WELCOME TO HOLLAND
Emily Perl Kingsley.
I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a
disability – to try to help people who have not shared that unique
experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It’s like
When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous
trip – to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful
plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may
learn some handy phrases in Italian. It’s all very exciting.
A loving journey
After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your
bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess
comes in and says, “Welcome to Holland.”
“Holland?!?” you say. “What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I’m
supposed to be in Italy. All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy.”
But there’s been a change in the flight plan. They’ve landed in Holland and
there you must stay.
The important thing is that they haven’t taken you to a horrible,
disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It’s just
a different place.
So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new
language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have
It’s just a different place. It’s slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than
Italy. But after you’ve been there for a while and you catch your breath,
you look around…. and you begin to notice that Holland has
windmills….and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.
But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy… and they’re all
bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of
your life, you will say “Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go. That’s what
I had planned.”
And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away… because the
loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.
But… if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to
Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely
things … about Holland.