Welcome to Holland
by Emily Perl Kingsley
I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability-trying 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 planning a fabulous vacation trip to Italy. You buy a bunch of guidebooks and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice.
You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It’s exciting!
After months of eager into the patient, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The flight attendant comes 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 has been a change in the flight plan. They 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, full of pestilence, famine, and disease.
It’s just a different place.
So you must go out and buy new guidebooks. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would’ve never met.
It’s just a different place. It’s slower than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you’ve been there a while and catch your breath, you look around, and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills, Holland has tulips, Holland even has Rembrandts.
But everyone you know is coming and going from Italy, and they’re all bragging about what a wonderful time they’ve 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 go away, because the loss of that dream is a very significant loss.
But if you spend your life morning 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.