There’s this poem that flies around after you have or find out your child has special needs. It’s about Holland. And here it is…
WELCOME TO HOLLAND
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 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 love it, I really do. It’s a great sentiment. It puts things in perspective, gives you a different way of looking at things. It’s lovely. And I freakin love tulips. I know I love Holland.
But at the same time…I don’t think of Declan as having a disability. Now…I know individuals with achondroplasia have varying degrees of medical issues, and we have thankfully been lucky with him so far. But I like to think he will be able to do pretty much everything that his big sister is able to do. Okay…so maybe he won’t play football or be an Olympic gymnast, but there are so many other things, most things, that he will be able to do. I won’t put focus on the disability (even though I know it’s a real thing, a real term, in the medical field mostly). But really… it’s all just semantics. He is so able. Able to do so many things now, and so many things I dream of.
Declan does some super-speed crawling whenever I open the fridge. For months, he has loved climbing up on the edge of it and trying to reach for this or that. Well yesterday while I was prepping dinner, I turned around and guess who had pulled himself completely upright into a standing position (in the fridge!)? My determined, capable, able little dude.
And today…I hear the little piano being played with. Hrmmm, interesting! I venture over the kitchen play area where it’s located…and he has found something else to practice his new skill on.
Why stop at the piano when there’s this cool kitchen right here?
He’s even moving and lifting his feet.
That tongue? The sign of pure determination, of course!
And tonight…he did the same thing with the dishwasher when I was emptying it and the door was open. Capable? Of course. Unstoppable? I think so!