Saturday, January 31, 2009

Welcome to Holland

Most parents of children with special needs have already read this great story. It depicts a parent's experience of being dropped off in a foreign country when originally having planned for something entirely different. Parents of children with special needs experience this same type of quandry ... we expect a certain type of child and then are "blessed" with something entirely different.

Welcome to Holland

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 wonderful vacation trip to Italy. You get a bunch of guide books and make all your plans. The Colosseum . . . the Michelangelo David . . . the gondolas of Venice. You get a book of handy phrases and learn how to say a few words in Italian. It's all very exciting".

"Finally, the time comes for your trip. 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. "Holland? I signed up for Italy. All my life I've dreamed of going to Italy!

"I'm sorry," she says. "There's been a change and we've landed in Holland."

But I don't know anything about Holland! I never thought of going to Holland! "I have no idea what you do in Holland!"

What's important is that they haven't taken you to a terrible, ugly place, full of famine, pestilence and disease. It's just a different place.

So you have to go out and buy a whole new set of guide books . . . you have to learn a whole new language . . . and you'll meet a whole new bunch of people you would never have met otherwise.

Holland. It's slower paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy . . .

but after you've been there for a while, and you've had a chance to catch your breath, you look around and begin to discover 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 great 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 planned." And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away. And you must accept that pain - because the loss of that dream is a very, very significant loss.

But . . . if you spend your time mourning the fact that you never got to go to Italy, you may never be available to enjoy the very lovely, very special things about Holland.

"Welcome to Holland!"

by Emily Perly Kingsley

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