Welcome to Holland

I wanted to share with you one of the challenges and blessings we have in our lives.  Our son Noah, whom many of you have met in the café, was born with developmental delays.  It is not something that we talk about very often, we just deal with the issues and love him even more.  He is almost 18 and these teen years are presenting us with a whole new set of challenges, as they do with all parents.  One of our guests shared an essay with me that summed up very well what it is like to have a child with disabilities, and has helped us to accept him in all his individuality even more.  I am going to share it here because it touched me.

Welcome to Holland
c.1987 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 in 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 to Italy. You buy a bunch of guidebooks 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 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 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 would never have met.  It’s just a different place.  It’s slower paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy.  But after you have 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 spent years in denial, sometimes angry, sometimes embarrassed, often apologetic.  Reading this, and talking to other parents that are also in “Holland” has helped me become a happier, prouder parent.  I am no longer scared to talk about Noah, to bring it out in the open that yes, he lives at a different speed, and he speaks his own language that those who love him can understand.  He loves babies and people watching.  He can’t help but become almost hypnotized into staring at people that fascinate him.  He will always want to help instead of play.  He will always want to go instead of stay.  And he will knock you over with his excitement to give you a hug.
I thank the Lord every day for giving me my children, in all of their uniqueness.  To love and learn from.

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