Welcome To Holland Poem – Honest Review After Raising A Child With Special Needs
If you have a child with special needs, then you no doubt will have come across the infamous “Welcome to Holland” essay that was written by Emily Perl Kingsley back in 1987. This here is my honest review of WELCOME TO HOLLAND.
The WELCOME TO HOLLAND essay uses the metaphor of a travel trip to explain the feelings some parents experience when they discover they have a child with special needs. It talks about the excitement new parents feel about their impending vacation to Italy, only to discover with much disappointment their plane has landed in Holland.
If you have never come across this essay I urge you to search for it on the Internet right now. I’m sure parts of the essay will resonate with you because as parents of special needs kids we are all similar in that we found ourselves in a destination that we didn’t ever intend to visit.
When I read WELCOME TO HOLLAND the first time, it sent a shiver down my spine.
Emily is right is saying that even though Holland may not be as flashy or fast-paced as Italy it is still a beautiful place to be. In Holland there are windmills and tulips and it is lovely in a completely different way.
I especially love the line which says “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.”
Life is really a balance of holding on and letting go.
The funny thing is some parents actually hate this essay. They resent the fact that people shove the essay in their face as if to say “see, you can be happy to.”
They don’t like the idea it implies that as parents of a special needs child we end up in a totally different location – Holland – while everyone else gets to live in Italy. I mean, why can’t we all live together in the same place?
So here’s my honest review of WELCOME TO HOLLAND, after living in “Holland” since 2009 (the year my son was diagnosed at age 3 with his degenerative neuro-muscular disease Charcot Marie Tooth disease):
Yes, it’s true, my life is different from most ordinary folk and in many ways we exist on a completely different level from everyone else. BUT that doesn’t mean my life is worse because it definitely isn’t.
To the contrary I feel blessed and lucky in so many ways. Our life is amazing and beautiful, despite all the challenges we face along the way. Even though you would never wish a disability on any child, I feel like it is a gift that opened our eyes to a completely different perspective. We now see his disability as a gift we were given for a reason.
At some point you just have to accept that these are the cards you have been dealt and it’s up to you how you choose to play your cards.
You can feel sorry for yourself or you can work out how to make the best out of a bad situation.
For our family, we see our son’s disability as a gift that has changed the way we view the world. We now fully understand how precious and short life is. We don’t have time to waste on meaningless fights or self-pity or a bad attitude.
It is what it is and we can’t change the fact that our son has a disability so why waste precious energy fighting something you can never change. That is both a futile and energy plus soul-depleting exercise.
To enjoy your life in “Holland” you may find it necessary to let things go of some old dreams; simply for the reason they are unachievable. But please do not be saddened by this act of letting go.
To the contrary there is a strange sense of peace that comes from having the courage to let go of what you can’t change. This act of letting go is sometimes the very thing that sets you free – from guilt, from sorrow, from regret, from unrealistic dreams.
As Herman Hesse so eloquently stated “some of us think that holding on makes us strong; but sometimes it is letting go.”
There is something good to be learned from every bad thing in your life. What can you learn from these situations? Close your eyes, clear your heart and be open to the fact that there is something special to be gained from living in Holland, which I now see as just a suburb in Italy.
If it wasn’t for my son’s disability I probably wouldn’t have the same level of compassion that I have now for people struggling in life or with special needs.
If it wasn’t for my son’s disability I wouldn’t have met the most amazing people that I have via wheelchair sports, which has completely changed both his life and ours. Participating in these sports has given him more confidence, security, love and friendships that I could have ever dreamed or hoped for.
If it wasn’t for his disability, my husband and I possibly wouldn’t understand what is most important in life – love, family, kindness and building a strong community of friends who support us in every way.
We never take anything for granted anymore.
We live each day as if it was our life, because you never know, it might be. None of us know what is waiting for us around the corner.
We try to view things now with a healthy perspective. Will the things that worry us now matter in 200 years’ time? I think not. In the grand scheme of things our lives are fleeting which is why we need to make the best of what we have RIGHT NOW.
This is it. YOUR LIFE. There is no rewind or pause button. Life will keep moving forward, day by day, whether you choose to embrace it or not.
Do you want to have a sucky life or a great life? It is up to you to make the most of it, no matter what cards you have been dealt with.
Some people believe holding on and hanging in there are signs of great strength. However there are times when it takes more strength to know when to let go and then do it. Ann Landers
For more information on how you can raise a happy and resilient child with special needs, please feel free to check out my book THEY SAY I’M SPECIAL: 100 TIPS TO RAISE A HAPPY AND RESILIENT CHILD WITH SPECIAL NEEDS
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