Sunday, November 18, 2007

A Trip To Holland

I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disablility—to try to help people who have not shared this 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 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 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'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 suppose 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 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.

As a parent of a special needs child this poem touches the very core of my soul. I have met some amazing people due to my trip to "Holland." People I would never have met if not due to my son's needs and I would not have changed my missed flight to Italy for anything.


Richard D said...

I'm very proud of you, my love. I think you'll do great things with this blog. You have a lot to offer people who are dealing with these odd (but rewarding) issues. I love you. --Richard

bratr said...


That's a story from the heart. In times of bigger, brighter, better everything, I'm glad there is still a place for Holland in this world. Thank you for posting this. Loving a special needs child banishes pride and creates an appreciation for simpler things. It is a blessing when the ordinary is extraordinary each day. But I won't sugar coat it. It takes alot of patience.

Richard D said...

bratr (Diane) - It does take a lot of patience. I have found that the trials (which are huge and hard to comprehend for those who don't have a special needs child) are balanced and even obliterated by the wonderful blessings that come through these special children from time to time. Our son is a huge source of blessing to our family and we would not want any other child.

Kelly said...


You are such an excellent writer. God has blessed you with a truly genuine spirit of sharing and communication. I'm so sorry to hear about your son and his girlfriend and am praying for his comfort during this time. So true how adults tend to minimize children's pain, but that, of course, doesn't help or support the child in any way. It's through these "stepping stones" that we become mature Christian adults. This post also really touched my heart, and I know that it will bless others as well.

Senkyoshi said...

I found your site through Mrs. Wilt. I worked at Hidden Treasure Christian School for a year. It is a ministry of my home church. I have heard this "story" before and it touches my heart each time I hear it. The theme of the school is that we have everything we need to do God's will for our life. That is true for each one of us no matter what our needs are! May the Lord bless you and give you His grace for each day.

On My Mind said...

While my son is not a special needs child, I am his adoptive mother. And in that journey alone I can identify with your parallel... adoption itself can be much like a change in destinations, having to re-learn and rethink yet ultimately discovering a love and appreciation for this "different" place.

I wouldn't have changed our flight for anything either :) Thank you for speaking to my heart tonight.

Kim said...

On my mind: I totally agree with you, I am an adoptive mom and this journey has taken us to a different destination than most of our friends and families. I had not thought of the parallel, so thank you for bringing it to my attention.

Toun said...

OUr baby is not there yet. another month or so. I am anxious, I can't wait, I cry, I wonder. What am I going to offer that child? Could I do it?

And then I read your post Kim, and I realize -once again- that it can only but be the most beautiful of the trips my wife and I have ever planned for. Thank you for sharing.