Welcome to Holland

When I first became introduced to this special needs community, this letter, titled Welcome to Holland, crossed my path a number of times.  I was able to relate to most of this letter, but some of it doesn’t totally apply.

Here’s the letter:


Emily Perl Kingsley

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.

Pretty thought provoking, huh? I like how the author points out that Holland isn’t worse than Italy, it’s just different. At this point in my life, I very much agree with that sentiment. In a few years will Holland feel more like a war-torn country as we’re dodging bombs and new challenges at every turn? I have no idea.

If you would have told me when I first got off the plane in Holland that, in a few short months, I would have considered myself lucky to be there, I wouldn’t have believed you. I’m still very much a new resident, but I already appreciate the fact that Holland is so heart-breakingly beautiful. Being in Holland has changed the way I view the world. Holland has taught me patience and compassion for others. Holland has made me strong and outspoken. Holland changed the way I view those who are different than myself. I really don’t think being in Italy would’ve allowed me to learn these life-altering lessons.

Unlike this writer, I don’t mourn the loss of my dream of going to Italy. I do mourn the fact that Caleb will have to struggle and work so damn hard for the things that you and I take forgranted everyday. But know this… I NEVER mourn the life I would have had if Caleb didn’t have CP. I love this life and Caleb’s CP has already changed my life for the better in so many ways. I wouldn’t change a single thing about him or my family.

And because life works in such mysterious ways, I was fortunate enough to be granted dual-citizenship. With Wyatt in my life, I get to spend half my time in the fast-paced and flashy Italy and I appreciate Italy so much more than I would have if I didn’t spend half my time… in Holland.


I'm a working mom of three fantastic boys: Caleb, Wyatt and Parker. My husband, Shane, and I live in the Washington DC suburbs where we enjoy playgrounds, pools and never getting to sleep in. This blog is a journal of our day-to-day lives as well as a chronicle of Caleb's progress after a recent spinal surgery to alleviate the effects of his cerebral palsy.

Posted in Caleb, Cerebral Palsy, Inspiration, Special Needs, Wyatt
2 comments on “Welcome to Holland
  1. Christine says:

    Very thought provoking Ali! Thanks for adding insight to my day 🙂

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