Welcome to Holland

“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 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.

– Emily Pearl Kingsley

I live in Holland, though Italy was much preferred.  I laugh sometimes when a new “thing” comes up with my kids.  When Catfish was diagnosed with dyslexia back in September, I remember the therapist holding my arm and gently saying “it is dyslexia.  It is profound, I knew within 5 minutes of meeting him.”  She was gentle and kind.  I just looked at her and I laughed…out loud.  I mean, belly laughed.  She took her hand off of my arm and she said “ma’am, are you okay?  I know this is difficult but it will be okay.  We will do our best to help him and we will give you things to do at home to help.”  Again, I’m hysterically laughing.  She stepped back.  I guess she feared my head was going to start spinning.

Welcome to Holland was all I heard.  I just looked at her and said “you know, this sucks, but it is okay.  We have been wondering for years what was wrong and no one could tell us.  Last week, it was discovered that my other son was deaf in one ear.  We are fitting him with a hearing aid.  This is just part of it for our family.”  This poor therapist just didn’t know what to think of me and my response to her “devastating” news.

Dyslexia is not devastating.  Deafness is not devastating.  It is what it is.  My kid will learn.  My kid will adjust.  My unilaterally deaf child is functioning quite well.  My Holland encompasses so much.  I did not ask to go to Holland, nor did I want to stay in Holland.

Then, I looked out my window and saw this


And this…rows and rows of tulips in the most beautiful colors.

Holland is beautiful, in its own way.  There are days (many) that I would like a vacation from this place.  For now, this is where I will stay.  I will stay amongst the beautiful tulips, windmills, and water.

I will learn to accept the things that I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.  God is with me in Holland.  He is with me in the dark nights that threaten to overcome me.  He is my Protector.

Welcome to Holland, people…..welcome.

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