If you are a parent of a child with special needs or are in connection with the special needs community you have probably been given the poem “Welcome to Holland” at least a few (dozen) times. It is with certainty that I feel this poem is given out of love and support even though it doesn’t always feel so warm and fuzzy if you are living it. If you have not had the opportunity to read this poem it can be found on multiple sites including http://www.our-kids.org/Archives/Holland.html
The first time I read this lovely poem by Emily Perl Kingsley was during one of my special education classes in college. When I read it I cried. It was so moving, touching, loving… After the birth of our son I was given this poem again. Again, I cried. However this time I was not crying because I felt moved or even at one with the author. I cried out of guilt that I couldn’t even imagine being grateful to be in “Holland”. I was grateful for my son, deeply so, but I was devastated at the loss of “Italy” not just for myself and our family but especially for Logan. He deserved to be in Italy and even Holland seemed far too lovely with its windmills and tulips to be the equivalent to all he was facing. Over time, as I was given this poem periodically, it became easier to read and I was able to feel some connection of experience. Through a more recent discovery of the blogs of several individuals who are also parents of special needs children I have felt even more real, raw connections with others who have found themselves in similar, yet individually unique, circumstances. Upon a blog written by Dana Nieder (firstname.lastname@example.org) I found her modified version of “Welcome to Holland” entitled “Amsterdam International.” It can be found at http://niederfamily.blogspot.com/2010/10/amsterdam-international.html . This depiction sounded much more like our experience and alleviated much of the guilt for not being able to appreciate “Holland” after Logan’s birth. The courageous stories of others have been such a gift. I have loved reading the unique journeys of several individuals and families who have embraced a child with special needs. I have learned so much from them. It is my hope that I can give others even one bit of what I have gained from so many courageous writers. I also hope that this can serve as a celebration of the lives of our two children.
Whether we are in Holland or still stuck in the airport, we’re there. When I think about such a deviated trip I cannot help think of the not so famed wonders of the world. I kind of imagine it like taking your kids on a trip to see the world’s largest ball of twine. You wish you could have taken them somewhere grand like the Eiffel Tower but for whatever reasons you could not. However, even though you know the world’s largest ball of twine is not the prized destination of anyone, you do your best to help your kids enjoy the trip. You mask any disappointment and shout out as though it is the best thing you have laid eyes on, “Look kids! The World’s Largest Ball of Twine!” You do your best to make this experience live up to those you know their friends and classmates will be talking about one day. You finally get everyone out of the car for the full effect. You do your best to gain the most memorable, meaningful experience you can get out of twine because it is what you’ve got and you are going to make it damn amazing if it kills you. There will be eye rolling and questions of why so and so got to go to