I have known about the Holland analogy of parenting since my time in special education classes in college. I’ve never really lived it. Yes, we foster parented Daniel for six years, but we weren’t really his parents (per his wishes) and he arrived at age 12, so the analogy never fully landed in my heart. And Paul and I have advocated for Holland nearly our whole lives. As we wait for Baby Girl’s arrival, the analogy has crept back into my mind. So, as I looked on Pinterest for Down syndrome pins for lots of things I’m interested in currently, I stumbled upon this shirt.
In case you don’t know this analogy… here it is:
WELCOME TO HOLLAND
Emily Perl Kingsley.
c1987 by Emily Perl Kingsley. All rights reserved
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.
I have always like this analogy, but something wasn’t fully resonating with me. Something unsettling. I read a different blog post written by a parent of a special needs young person. She hates the analogy because she thinks it’s not accurate enough and because we “all end up in Italy”. That it’s about our expectations. I agree with her mindset in that.
I fully believe that we will get to Italy. I really do believe that parenting is parenting. I’ve said that.
Still, I think that Holland will be a detour for a bit. Not forever. So, I disagree with the original poem in “there you must stay”. I think Holland will be a stop for refueling, for rearranging, for some retraining.
Will will be tourists there for awhile. Baby Girl will be the tour guide. Tourists.
Then, we will fly to Italy. That is where we will live.
That’s why I love the shirt. Yes, I will be a tourist. I won’t be a resident. I won’t be changing my citizenship and I won’t cancel my trip to Italy. And it hasn’t been cancelled for me.
I look forward to the trip to Holland and what I will learn there. And Baby Girl’s touring.
Doesn’t the shirt rock? I hope to get this one for Baby Girl down the road. Cuteness. Seriously.
Baby Girl will take us on a tour of an area we haven’t visited, though we’ve read about it, I’ve gotten a degree in it, Paul touts it, and we are excited about advertising for it. We’ve talked about Holland for decades, but only until we live there ourselves for awhile will we get it. So, we will let Baby Girl will give us a tour, we will learn, we will appreciate… and then we will go to Italy, as usual.
We will be in Italy with a stamp in our passport from Holland.
Have you heard this analogy? Are you living it?
This is where I got my shirt… a mama to a Down syndrome son designed these and runs the shop. All of the shirts are fantastic!!