I am sure many parents who have children with special needs have read this piece, Welcome to Holland written in 1987 Emily Perl Kingsley who described her journey when it came to parenting a child with a disability. If you have not read it, then I suggest you click on the link and check it out. In a nutshell, she described the expectations she had while being pregnant of how her child will turn out. She compared it to planning a trip to Italy. However, all of a sudden her plans of landing in Italy permanently changed and she landed in Holland instead. The reality of that shocked and devastated her. She was expecting to not only get to Italy but to have certain experiences there. How did Holland get into the picture? It did, and as a result all the expectations of that trip to Italy she had planned disappeared and it would never be back. However, in time she accepted Holland because she had to- and tossed away all of her expectations that she had for Italy. If she kept mourning over never getting to Italy, she would have been miserable for life.
How do I feel Welcome to Holland? I both like it and dislike it. I will talk about why I dislike it. Holland may not be as flashy as Italy as she puts it, and I actually do agree with this because I have been to both places. And sure, I definitely did like Italy better. However, Holland from what I can remember was still a very nice country. I cannot compare how life was when Jordan was first diagnosed with autism to an unexpected trip to Holland. Nothing about those days was exactly beautiful! I would have to say when he was first diagnosed with autism, the plane had landed in Sudan or even Beirut instead. In fact another mom who has a child with autism had written Welcome to Beirut in response to Kingsley’s piece.
When I learned about the diagnosis, it hit my husband and I like a tonne of bricks. We were stranded in the middle of a horrible place where we had no choice but to be warriors no matter how exhausted and depressed we were. It was bad enough knowing that Jordan would be affected for the rest of his life. That this was something we were going to have to face for a long time as well. However in the meantime, we had to fight for the right therapies, and deal with his tantrums, and figuring out his needs since he could not communicate them. There was lack of support so we were on our own pretty much. Let’s not even go into the family drama that happened at that time either. Oh yes I was extremely depressed. I had to go on meds for it, however I had no time to wallow in it because I had to be play the warrior role that was apparently assigned to me. So Holland would have been a dream vacation, even if we had planned to go to Italy all along. We were definitely stranded in the middle of Sudan instead. It was an ugly time. Glad it is over, meaning that things are much better now than they were back then. Are they easy? No, and they never will be. But definitely better.
However, what I do like about the essay is that it basically tells you that things do not always go as planned. Certainly when it comes to parenthood. And let’s examine something else. Say if you did end up landing in Italy and had a typically developing child. Well, something on that trip would have inevitably gone wrong. What if you were to eat at a restaurant there and fall ill from food poisoning at your hotel room? Was that something you had been planning on your trip to Italy? Probably not. So even with typically developing kids, some issues always arise that you never would have expected. Let’s compare it to having a boy who you were planning to enroll into baseball, football, hockey, soccer, etc- and he ended up hating sports with a passion and was far more interested in science. What if you had dreams about your child one day taking over the family business, however he or she chose another profession that you did not look highly upon? So I think as parents regardless of whether our kids are typically developing or have special needs, we all end up landing in Holland at some point. The message that Kingsley is trying to convey is that yes, things will not go as planned. You will be sad at first and will have to adjust to the change. However, once you accept what has happened, you can find positive aspects like meeting new great people who are experiencing what you are experiencing.
When it comes to parenting, the biggest lesson is to never predict how your child will turn out. You also cannot expect them to turn out in any way either.