This is a guest post by Kathleen Nelson, a wonderful friend and fellow resident of Holland. I was thrilled when she offered to write a post of Yankeeskeptic, and I hope she’ll honor the blog, and delight readers, with further offerings soon. For those unfamiliar with the wonderful story about Holland (about expecting a “normal” child and ending up with a child or children with disabilities), here is the link to the original story.
Kathleen Nelson (aka Boo) “Bio: I am the mom of 15 y/o twins and 25 y/o daughter. We were just beginning to explore Italy when a GPS error sent us to Holland.”
Living in Holland
There is a well known poem that compares having a child with special needs to an unexpected vacation to Holland instead of a planned trip to Italy. It’s a great metaphor for the often unexpected news that your child(ren) are not going to follow any of the guidebooks and how completely unprepared you are for the trip.
The poem ends explaining how for the rest of your life you will hear others going on about their wonderful trip to Italy while you went to Holland. The reality is that a great many parents who find themselves unexpectedly in Holland end up living there permanently.
There are different laws and customs you must learn, new languages to master, the food is unfamiliar and you need to find a means of earning income so you can pay for all the things you will need in your new life and home. It can rather expensive to live in Holland.
You will make new friends, many of whom also found themselves unexpectedly living in a new place. Some of your new friends have lived there a long time and they will help you learn how to get around, some are experts on Holland and they teach you the language, customs and laws. Eventually, you will befriend those who are new to Holland, passing on what you have learned.
Friends and family will want to come visit; they have heard so many things about your new home and want to see for themselves. Sometimes, you may go back to visit. You meet up with old friends and acquaintenances who tell wonderful and exciting stories about Italy. If they ask about Holland their voices are tinged with relief that they didn’t have to go to such a strange place. Afterall, who would *choose* to go to Holland and then live there.
Holland is not for everyone. Some people simply can’t adjust and that is okay. It’s not all tulips and Rembrandts. It can be even more hectic and fast paced than Italy and it often takes longer to get anywhere. There are many adventures you can experience while in Holland, some of them quite frightening. You find that detours and dead ends are common and rarely is there a direct route to get somewhere. It is also filled with places of beauty and wonder that will take your breath away, usually where you least expect it.
Welcome to Holland, I’ve lived here for over 15 years and it’s my home.
Kitty: Thank you Boo for expressing what parents of children with disabilities live with everyday. We don’t visit Holland, we move in. Also, other parents think of their children needing them for “18 years”. Even parents of so called “normal” children know that children are a life long commitment. Still, the one thing that is so important is the “helping” aspect of this story. Our society is still one of competition, with honor student bumper stickers on cars and stories of academic and athletic success being what is acceptable to share about your child. In my own case, the more my daughter’s disabilities became apparent, the more my friends distanced themselves from our family.
It was almost more of a shock than finding out our child was disabled. The people who formed the team to help my daughter succeed though are the true heroes. I met people that have devoted their careers and lives to helping the disabled succeed as much as possible. People that have chosen to “live in Holland” because they are called to help others, and find they enjoy the residents there! I’ve met people that have understood what we go through, and have offered everything from advice to hugs. While I sometimes miss my old friends, I’ve developed much deeper and truer friendships with those that “understand”.