Monday, March 31, 2008

Welcome to Holland.....

I guess this has been around for a long time. I only recently heard about it through my girlfriend...more after the story...

"by Emily Perl Kingsley.

c1987 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 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 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. "

My son is different. His childhood is nothing like I had ever planned or hoped it would be. I had never planned on a divorce. I had also never planned to be seeing counselors, psychiatrists, etc on a weekly basis. I had never planned to do it alone. While I'm sure that I'll look back on this and see a lot of good things, it doesn't feel all that great right now. I've made a lot of mistakes trying to figure out how to deal with the uniqueness of my son. This is the time of year that things just seem much more difficult. It is the final stretch before my son goes to his mom's for the summer. I had a brief taste of that freedom this past week while he went to his mom's for spring break. Unfortunately that was tainted by the changes in my current job, a situation that is deteriorating rapidly. I spend much of my time feeling entirely exhausted, but I try to plod through things regardless. I'm also very whiny and frustrated right now, with no clear way to change the circumstances in which I find myself.

My son's return to school today was very good. No issues and he was really happy when he got home. So three very good weeks in a row on that front....going for four.

On a nearly unrelated note, I've been to Holland. Rotterdam to be precise. It was a whirlwind time for me as I had just reported to the submarine I was assigned to. Consequently I don't remember too much about it. I really wasn't planning on going, the US Navy just happened to take me there. It was a surreal experience for me. Nearly everyone looked like me. Tall, blonde or light brown hair, etc. I'm used to being able to see over most people and nearly always having an unobstructed view of things. Not there.


  1. I’m due to finish university in a year or so and am considering going backpacking across Asia, iv heard the countryside is beautiful and the people are so spiritual I think it could be an amazing opportunity to see the world. However I can only speak English and basic French, does anybody know if I would need to learn Thai? Another problem is how to go about learning the Thai language, or any other language that I would need! Is there any good language learning software available that’s pretty cheap?

  2. Mike,
    I've come across your blog, and it seems we have a great deal in common. I have recently become a single father after being married for 19 out of the 21years I was with her (casting me and our two wonderful children aside for a younger guy)!
    After spending some time on your blog, great stuff by the way, I find you have traveled a path similar to the one I am trying to focus on.(the one less traveled, maybe?)
    I think I would find it very helpful to have you as a friend, if you could find the time. Man, you sure do keep busy, but it sounds like 'fun' busy.
    If you think you could spare a little time email me. I could use some new friends and you remind me a lot of myself, but you are quite inspiring.
    my email is
    my blog is

    take care,

  3. What a wonderful story, the tale of Holland. My adoptive mom took in foster kids, almost all of which were special needs (autistic, fetal alcohol syndrome, etc). I also spent many summers as a counselor for a special needs camp - my kids were the severely autistic kids.

    It really is a different language, and once you learn it I think it becomes a part of you. I think I passed on that translation to my son, he is naturally open and accepting of anyone. There is a neighborhood boy with autism. The other kids tend to ignore him, but he considers my son his best friend. Nothing my Daniel did, just a way he is.

    It is tough when we have these ideas, how we want our kids lives to be. In the end, we have to trust that our best will be good enough. And trust we will have the sanity to make it through another week!

    Great blog, I enjoyed reading it!


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