Welcome To Holland
by 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 this......
When you're going to have a baby, it's like planning a fabulous vacation
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.
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
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 Rembrandt's.
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
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
Celebrating Holland - I'm Home
I have been in Holland for a while now. It has become home. I have had time to catch my breath, to settle in and adjust, and to accept this different trip than I'd planned.
I reflect back on those years when I first landed in Holland and remember clearly my shock, my fear, my anger. In those first few years, I tried to get back to Italy as planned, but Holland was where I was to stay. Today, I can say how far I have come on this unexpected journey, how much I have learned about Holland. But it has been a journey of time.
I worked hard. I bought new guidebooks. I learned a new language, and I slowly found my way around in Holland. I met others whose plans had changed like mine and who could share my experience. Some of these fellow travellers had been in Holland longer than I and were seasoned guides, assisting me along the way. Many have encouraged me and have taught me to open my eyes to the wonder and gifts to behold in this new land. We supported one another, some have become very special friends, and I have discovered a community of caring. Holland isn't so bad.
I think that Holland is used to wayward travellers like me and has become a land of hospitality, reaching out to welcome, assist, and support newcomers. Over the years, I've wondered what life would have been like if I'd landed in Italy as planned. Would life have been easier? Would it have been as rewarding? Would I have learned the important lessons I benefit from today?
Sure, this journey has been challenging and at times I would (and still do) stomp my feet and cry out in frustration and protest. And, yes, Holland is slower paced and less flashy that Italy, but this, too, has been an unexpected gift. I have learned to slow down and look closer at things, with a new appreciation for the remarkable beauty of Holland. I have discovered that it doesn't matter where you land. What's more important is what you make of your journey and how you see and enjoy the very special things that Holland has to offer. I have come to love Holland and call it home.
Yes, I landed in a place I hadn't planned. Yet I am thankful, for this destination has been richer than I could have imagined!
Most days I really like Holland. We've all adjusted to Holland and I have a hard time imagining Italy. And I've met some wonderful families while here! So many smart, kind, caring and encouraging parents. And Holland isn't so bad. There is always lots to keep you busy!! :)