Just recently I once again read “Welcome to Holland.” If you are unfamiliar with this story, it is about having a child with a disability. Usually it is associated with DS and Autism children. I’ve attached it to the bottom of the post, but basically its saying having a child with a disability is like planning a trip to Italy. You have everything set up, you’ve read all the books and you are ready to land in this beautiful country. However, the plan doesn’t land Italy, it lands is Holland. Now there isn’t necessary anything wrong with Holland, its just not Italy! But that is your trip, Italy isn’t an option, and though you know that was the trip that was planned, you now are starting to enjoy Holland even more.
I’m not very sure how I feel about this story. I understand completely how it ties in. I know most families have a huge shock and fear when they find out they have a newborn with a disability. Maybe it is because we picked our trip to Holland. We didn’t necessary have our trip all set. Its not like we had our bags packed and the tickets booked. We just knew that God had our itinerary all set up waiting for us. He knew exactly where we were headed and exactly what stops we would be taking on our way. All we had to do was meet Him at the gate and trust that He had it all covered.
But isn’t that how it is with any new child? You never know what is to come. He might be a prodigy, might be bouncing off the walls, he might struggle through school for no reason at all. Each child is different and perfect in every way. There is never any way to welcome a new child and expect it all to be planned out. Its OK to dream for our kids. To want the world for them. That’s our job as parents. But that doesn’t have to stop because your child has a disability. I am constantly dreaming about how Jana will be as she grows. What new experiences she will have. Yes, there are times when I freak out and know that it will not be easy. But it won’t be all that easy for my other 3 kiddos either.
Having a child with a disability doesn’t have to make you settle as a parent. It just means that God trusted you even more to care for such a special little person. Take pride in that! We get to experience a trip that so many never get to travel. Its exclusive, and has a lot of unexpected and exciting stops. It is the trip our travel agent knew would be perfect for us! We just need to sit back and enjoy the ride!!
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 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 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 met.
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.