Hanging out in Holland

Holland
Perhaps you’ve already read this if you’re close to someone who has autism or some type of disability, but I’ve taken great comfort from this story that a couple of family members have e-mailed me since we started on this journey. It’s called “Welcome to Holland” and was written by Emily Perl Kingsley in 1987. Not only has this helped my perspective, but I feel it’s helped some of my family & friends understand what I’m going through…..

“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.”

Wow! That really does explain things fairly well. There are days where I feel like the rest of the world is just flying by me and leaving me behind. I heard of exciting trips people are planning and going on, fun things other friends are doing with their kids, while we are still just trying to get our bearings. I wouldn’t trade a minute with my son and I realize that we’re in a holding pattern in Holland at the moment. Like this story said, it’s not a bad place, just different from what we expected. Will we be in Holland forever? Or will we get to Italy someday? Who knows, but I suppose I should start learning more about my new surroundings.

Are there any stories or quotes that you’ve found especially helpful on your journey?

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