Wednesday, February 2, 2011

My Life In Holland

When my son (who has has CP and CVI) was about a year old, I brought him into our local Verizon store to get our cable box replaced.  At the time, Dylan was still having a very difficult time dealing with new places.  He would often curl up in on himself so he could close out the outside world he found so overwhelming.  We called it "doing the armadillo".

The person who waited on me smiled at both myself & Dylan in a kind & knowing way.  We quickly began talking about our children (which is unusual for me as I am a very private person) and I learned that she had a special needs child with a rare & devastating condition.  I found myself telling her not only all about Dylan, but also how I was feeling.  I had friends with children the same age as my son & I expressed the difficulty I was having relating to them and the lives they were living with their "average" children.  I told her I felt like I was living on a completely different planet than my friends & their children.  She smiled & told me "No, honey, you are just living in Holland."  She told me to hang on a second so she could explain.  She quickly printed out a sheet of paper for me & this is what was it said:



Emily Perl Kingsley.
c1987 by Emily Perl Kingsley. All rights reserved

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.

I am still so grateful to that incredibly kind woman who recognized a lost & confused newcomer to Holland & welcomed her to a beautiful world she no longer felt alone in.


  1. What a beautiful post. Very moving.

  2. So glad I came to read -describes life in general to a tee. We just need to begin to appreciate what we have and think of it in a whole new light and the author did just that.

  3. I agree vickie :) The post is very applicable to all different aspects of life...

  4. What a great analogy- I've worked with kids and families with special needs/ autism for almost 4 years now, and it describes the sentiment very well I think.
    Thanks for sharing!

  5. Beautiful post and so very true.

  6. Oh my goodness. What a truly beautiful post, and I am getting quite tearful as I am typing this. The words are so true for you and I can only say how amazing that person was who actually sat down and wrote those words. I feel that they should be handed out to all those with beautiful little children who have special needs. Blessings.

  7. Thank you guys :) I keep that piece of paper on my fridge. I think it helps visitors relate & understand that we are very happy with the amazing life & amazing children we have been given.

  8. Thank you for sharing that piece and your feelings! I am so moved by this post.

    I have a friend with a special needs child. And she's so tough! I know she has some crying times, but so do I with my average kids. But 'life in Holland' brings a special strength, understanding and compassion that a 'regular' life will never achieve.

    You were sent an angel who shared to you that piece. By sharing that piece here, you have brought me (us) more understanding and compassion. Thank you!

  9. I love this post and am so fortunate that I came by today to read your blog post. My sister's son adopted 4 special needs children and they are so special to us. I'll send them your blog link so they can read about life in Holland.

  10. I love that story! Thanks for sharing it.

  11. You have given such an astounding post here! It is intuitive and helpful. Would you mind I used it as a guest post on my blog?
    Thanks, Becky Jane
    Raising kids can be a lot like weeding the rose bed...well worth it, but...OUCH!

  12. Oh, I LOVE "Welcome to Holland"! I learned it my first year of work. Such a great analogy-I work with so many wonderful families who 'live' in Holland!

  13. Understanding is so important. Though parents "living in Italy" will never understand what it is to raise a special needs child, a little understanding goes a long way. Thank you for introducing this to me. It was beautiful.

  14. What a great analogy, not only in circumstances like this but for life in general ~ thanks so very much for sharing the poem as well as your heart and giving a little peek into your wonderful journey :o)


  15. Thank you everyone. For anyone interested I host a blog for fellow "Hollanders" at:



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