Sunday, July 1, 2007

Welcome To Holland by Emily Perl Kingsley

Photo from

When I had my son, I knew he was going to be a hockey star... a jock, one of the popular kids, and smart. He was going to eat his vegetables too and brush his teeth without me even asking/telling. I have all that in my daughter... all of it, but with my son I have the complete opposite.

My son has Asperger's Syndrome. He's extremely bright, but hugely lacking in social skills. He has a very awkward gait and tires easily, so hockey, or being a jock - not happening with this kid. The popularity wasn't happening either, because of his inability to read nonverbal cues. On top of that, "many things" he did was misunderstood by his teachers. He brought a gift in for his pregnant teacher, and was bringing it back to his desk to put a chocolate kiss on it and she wigged out. and was furious with him - and took his good intentions and made it a bad thing. I explained his intentions to her but by that time i wanted to take the gift back and give her nothing myself! - how can teachers, who spend time with kids be so clueless about kids?

Right around the time we were trying to get James diagnosed, someone sent me a copy of Welcome to Holland. I copied it, shared it, saved it, and i read it OFTEN. To this day, 6 years after my son's diagnosis - i'm still hugely inspired.

I am truly, truly blessed - because i have both - my trip to italy: my daughter; and my trip to Holland: my son - "a little jetlagged"... :). Here's a copy of that Welcome to Holland...I hope it'll encourage another parent as it has encouraged me:

by Emily Perl Kingsley
©©1987 by Emily Perl Kingsley.
All rights reserved

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 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 ofpestilence, 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.



Unknown said...

This is a beautiful post. Worth sharing with other parents.

Mom McDee said...

Today is January 20, 2009. My son, Ben, 19 years of age, also has Asperger's Syndrome.

Tonight I begin a ministry to home educating moms with children who have special needs. This poem will be part of our first gathering. It means so much tome to have this encouragement today from The Learning Nest.

Thanks from my heart.

Valerie McDaniel

JoinKarenNow said...

Dear Emily,
I can't thank you enough for this, it really sums up my life with my daughter, she was a micro-premmie weighing 1 lb 2 ozs, 2 holes in heart (had heart surgery) and was diagnose with mild M.R., cerebral palsy on one side, learning disabilities and others. And because she looks like a typical child (of 7) except really small until you get to know her or compare her to her actual age (12)then you see, I have been criticized and we have been put through a lot.People thought she had behavior problems. When I read "Welcome to Holland" I cried and thought someone finally understands. I feel that unless you have a child with specials needs you don't know what it's like. Thank you for that. Sincerely Karen Gould