Monday, February 2, 2009

welcome to holland (part 1)

i've shared the following essay with friends before and read it myself on tons of other people's blogs, but i realized i've never shared it on my blog before. in some ways it seems like kind of a cheesy and hallmark-y description of what it feels like to have a child with a disability, but let me tell you- every time i read it, i say, "yes. that's what it feels like." sometimes there's no telling what will resonate with you in life, but this little essay is so simple, and heartfelt, and, well, true. 

by 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 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 guidebooks. 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.


  1. One of the most interesting things about this little essay is that it describes a shared feeling/experience for parents of children with all sorts of different diagnoses. And I have found that common ground can be so comforting on this road...I've written about Holland, too, because the analogy (though I agree, a bit Hallmark-y) resonates.

    As much as I adore Italy (and I do), Holland has a special place in my even more so. So here's to riding bikes (with the little one in one of those between the handlebar seats I first saw in Holland) down cobblestone streets, along canals filled with houseboats, through Vondelpark on the way to visit a museum followed by a stop for french fries with curry ketchup.

  2. Today's the first time I've visited your blog. What a profound essay. I think its theme is universal, not only for parents of children with disabilities, but for life in general.

    Oh, the lovely wonderful things to be discovered in Holland. Thanks for sharing.


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