Years ago, when Ray and I first met, he had a daughter that was 4 years old. She is deaf. She hates the term hearing impaired, I guess that is a word that non-deaf people use to make themselves feel politically correct. There was some adjustment, but she was wonderful in helping me learn to communicate with her, between her help and good materials, we learned how to navigate into a relationship that required us both to learn new vocabulary to express our feelings and goals. A few years later, Ray and I had our first son. After a while it became obvious to us that something was different. There were behaviors and emotional displays that were unusual from all of the books I ever read. We enrolled in a parenting class when he was two, surrounded by parents of rebellious teenagers. After much crazy back and forth between Ray and I and the doctors, we finally had a diagnosis when he was 10 of bipolar and possible aspergers. By that time, he had developed so many coping mechanisms that the Asperger’s diagnosis may never be firm. During those years, I was desperate for any encouragement, any one who possibly could understand. He looked normal, but for those of you who understand, there was just something there that made kids tease and avoid him. And, I loved him so much. Here is a gift of one of the most encouraging things I ever read…I want to share it with you:
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 wonderful plans. The colliseum, Michelangelo’s David. The gondolas of Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It’s all very exciting. After a few 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 has been a change of plans,” says the stewardess. “They’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay.” The important thing is you haven’t landed in 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 a while and you catch your breath, you look around and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills. Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.
But, everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy, and they’re all bragging about the 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 that pain will never, ever go away because the loss of that dream was a very significant loss. But, if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t go to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special and lovely things about Holland.I remember the first time I read this. I sat on the floor and cried. It is very true. You will never be free to enjoy your special child until you let go of what if, maybe, and why. Enjoy where you are. Wherever you are, be all there.
After our experiences. When it came time to adopt, our hearts were willing to love any child, knowing that Holland is not so bad.