The Passage ‘Welcome to Holland’ Changed My Life

My daughter with special needs was around 6 years old when I got diagnosed and started treatment for Post Natal Depression.  Yes I had been living with it for 6 years.  It was an extremely hard time for me and my family.  At one of my counselling sessions I was told to read the passage, “Welcome to Holland” c1987 by Emily Perl Kingsley. All rights reserved

It changed my life. It helped me understand that what I was feeling was normal for what had happened to us.  That my daughter being born with special needs made our life different but by no means less.  Since this time and through the help of my wonderful family and friends my life is fantastic.  I have learnt to enjoy our ‘Holland’.  Please read and share with your friends.  Even if you don’t have a child with special needs it may help you understand how we feel.  It may also help people whose lives have gone in a different direction then they had planned. 

“Welcome to Holland” c1987 by 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.


7 thoughts on “The Passage ‘Welcome to Holland’ Changed My Life

  1. It is very true… Instead on making it to italy like was planned we ended up in Holland as well…

    Our visit was breif but it made us grateful for what we have… It also showed us that there are many people with bigger problems than myself…

    • I agree Melissa I am also grateful for what we have. There are always people worse off. I think that every time we go to Westmead and see kids there with life threatening illnesses.

  2. Well done!!…keeping an open mind and living each day to the fullest..our days are filled with the same few words repeated about 150+ times a day – groundhog day we call it – i know its only reassurance that what she is saying and my answer is always the same – but she still needs to know.
    We wake up every day and know that she will never “get better” as there is no miracle cure for her disability…but with our love and help she will experience everything any other child does and more. She is a well travelled child and we intend to let her do the normal things and learn how to experience being let down and disappointments in her life (not that i like to do it but she needs to know). I can wrap her up in cotton wool but what good would that be for her future – someone out there will only hurt her or take advantage of her – i am her greatest advocate and i intend to be for as long as i live.
    I do not set her up to fail – although school expected her to be better i came head to head with teachers and principles and vowed never will anyone expect her to write her name, count to 10 or recite her ABC’s…because she never will so why expect the impossible!!!

    • Thanks Janelle. That is all we can do live and enjoy each day as much as we can and get through those difficult days. I think the fact that you have accepted her disability for what it is and getting on with your lives is great for you. All we can do is love them and make them happy with their lives. I agree with you we can’t wrap our kids up in cotton wool they do need to learn important life skills like being disappointed, not getting their way etc. We give our daughter the chance to experience as much as we can including playing soccer with her school friends even though she actually doesn’t really do anything. She loves being a part of the team and shaking hands at the end of the game. We treat our girl like we treat our son. I want her to be as independent as she can be, whatever that may be and give her important skills for her future. By sending her to school you are being supportive and as a parent who has sent her special needs child to a mainstream school myself, schooling is a lot more than academic achievement. My daughter can not write anything let alone her name, she can’t read, can’t count (although 2 of her words are two and eight). I am like you, realistic, she will never be able to do these things but she loves school and has matured socially by being there. She has lots of friends and is well liked by the students and teachers. We are lucky in that our school is now onboard with her ability and she works on her laptop and iPad for her schooling. She loves maths on her iPad and has improved heaps. Stay strong and if you ever need someone to vent to I am here. Your daughter sounds very lucky to have such a great advocate.

      • We actually have a friend in common….Trudie….i am sure she has told you all about us and our beautiful foster child…xx

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