Tuesday, November 17, 2009


This is an article written by Emily Perl Kingsley many moons ago. I first heard it at some continuing ed course in Colorado. Emily Perl Kingsley has a son, Jason, with Down Syndrome. She is also an Emmy award winning writer - for Sesame Street, twelve times. She was instrumental in writing scripts for Sesame Street that were inclusive. You can learn more about her here.

Welcome To Holland

by Emily Perl Kingsley

©1987 by Emily Perl Kingsley. All rights reserved. Article printed with permission of the author.

I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with 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

This article's been on my mind alot lately. Not just because I have children with special needs, but because I think this illustrates a great truth. How many of us spend the first half of our lives saving, planning, and preparing for our trip to Italy and end up in Holland? Or Russia? Or, we hop on that plane, travel for days and deplane right back where we started? Life is so rarely predictable. It wiggles and squirms and refuses to be pinned down.

It seems like we all have the choice to take the time to look around for the tulips and the Rembrandts; for the very special and lovely things about Holland. Or Chicago. Or Sussex. Or wherever your plane landed.

Besides, Italy can't be all that awesome! Can it?

1 comment:

  1. I was handed this one of our first days in the ICU when my son was born. Almost 7 years later it still chokes me up.. in a good way. I would trade my time in Holland for anything.