Mystery Lane

Mystery Lane

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Holland and other visits never imagined

A few weeks after getting Jackson’s diagnosis I came across this anecdote called Welcome to Holland (see below).  The first time I read it I remember thinking “That’s it! That’s what it’s like!”  I ended up putting it in our Christmas cards that year.  It felt so good to have something that explained what it was like to have a special needs child in a way that everyone could understand.  But the truth was I still really wanted to go to Italy.  I’d see other parents in Italy, and having a great visit, and I was jealous.  I would think “Why are they so special, why do they get to go to Italy and I only get to go to Holland?”  It’s difficult to say that.  I think of all the people who really want children of their own and for some reason can’t, or those who spend enormous amounts of money trying to conceive a child or adopt one, and here I have a beautiful little boy and I’m wishing I got to go to Italy.  I felt like I was being really selfish and ungrateful for what I had.  The only consolation was that I knew I wasn’t the only special needs parent who felt that way.  It was just a natural feeling and part of the process you go through when you get the diagnosis.  I’ve now been in Holland for 15 months and I’m happy to report that this place is beautiful, amazing, diverse, and just plain “special”.  Don’t get me wrong, I still have my moments of wanting to go to Italy, but with each new day that desire is slowly going away.  Holland is definitely not where I ever thought I would be, and I’ve had to read a lot of guidebooks to navigate my way around.  And on this trip there have been a lot of laughs, tears, frustration and joy.  But Holland is where Jackson is, and that in itself makes Holland the most beautiful place on earth and the only place I truly want to be. 

By Emily Pearl Kinglesy
I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disorder, 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 guidebooks and make wonderful plans.  The Coliseum, Michelangelo’s 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 go to Italy.”  But there has been a change in the flight plan.  They have 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 guidebooks.  And you must learn a whole new language.  And you will meet a whole new group of people you never knew existed.
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, Holland has tulips, Holland even has Rembrandts.
But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy, and they are 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.”  The pain of that will never, ever go away, because the loss of that dream is a 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 lovely things about Holland. 

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