Welcome to Holland

From time to time I’ll start to throw myself a nice pity party that something in life didn’t turn out the way I planned. My mother, who is sympathetic for as long as she can stand it, will tire of my complaining and simply say, “Welcome to Holland.” This is her way of telling me to move on… to stop being sad for what isn’t and start appreciating what is. (Actually about half the time she says “Welcome to Italy” because she gets the story messed up in her head. But the sentiment is valid.)

She’s referencing the essay below written by the mother of a child with Down’s Syndrome. It’s not necessary to be raising a child with special needs to appreciate this lesson. It’s important for all of us.

Almost no one lives the life she had planned. Sometimes letting go of what you wanted is a painful thing. This is not a call for false gratitude or a denial of the pain of loss. It’s simply a reminder that turning loose of some things is the only way to fully appreciate others.

Welcome To Holland

by Emily Perl Kingsley

I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with 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.

©1987 by Emily Perl Kingsley. All rights reserved.



Filed under The view from here

3 responses to “Welcome to Holland

  1. A timely message for me, no doubt, on more than one front. Thanks.

  2. I thank you for this today… most sincerely.