Friday, June 15, 2007

Welcome to... eh, Holland???

by Emily Perly 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 wonderful vacation trip to Italy. You get a bunch of guide books and make all your plans. The Colosseum . . . the Michelangelo David . . . the gondolas of Venice. You get a book of handy phrases and learn how to say a few words in Italian. It's all very exciting".
"Finally, the time comes for your trip. 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. "Holland? I signed up for Italy. All my life I've dreamed of going to Italy!
"I'm sorry," she says. "There's been a change and we've landed in Holland."
But I don't know anything about Holland! I never thought of going to Holland! "I have no idea what you do in Holland!"
What's important is that they haven't taken you to a terrible, ugly place, full of famine, pestilence and disease. It's just a different place.
So you have to go out and buy a whole new set of guide books . . . you have to learn a whole new language . . . and you'll meet a whole new bunch of people you would never have met otherwise.
Holland. It's slower paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy . . .
but after you've been there for a while, and you've had a chance to catch your breath, you look around and begin to discover 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 great 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 planned." And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away. And you must accept that pain - because the loss of that dream is a very, very significant loss.
But . . . if you spend your time mourning the fact that you never got to go to Italy, you may never be available to enjoy the very lovely, very special things about Holland.
"Welcome to Holland!"

This was sent by Dawn Worgan and she recalls ''It still brings a lump to my throat but I hope it helps you like it helped me. And anyway you've been to Italy - you know it's just full of slimy Italians! Please look after yourselves and know that lots of people back here are thinking of you. Your normal life might never be what you expected but it will become normal again and you know that's what kids do - turn your world upside down, but always for the better!''


Ericap said...


Do you remember me mentioning to you about a month ago about this extract? Tash told me that when Sophie was born, she came across this and it struck a chord with has she felt/still feels sometimes. A different country to the one that you expected but with lots of wonderful things to see and experiences to have.

With love


UndercoverPete said...

tried to reply to this earlier but it wouldn't let me sign in. bah!
I love analogies, and this is a great example of how they can be laid before us to explain and make us think. Very nice and certainly stirs some thoughts with me.