Ok, I am a self professed cynic. It is true. Sometimes it is my downfall. But after receiving the poem “Welcome to Holland” (a poem that has a strong following within the Down Syndrome family and Special Needs Community) for the tenth + time yesterday (via email, mail, blog) I am over it, actually I never really fell in love with it. I never wanted to say it to all the wonderful people that sent it along to me to support us because I am grateful they did, or cared, or thought of us. I am genuinely thankful for their encouragement in the form of the popular Poem. It is nice but every-time I read it on paper, or it wiggles its way into my inbox, I feel a rush of negative emotions. Regardless of the intended inspiration the author aimed for, it falls short of touching in my book. I may run the risk of offending someone, and for that I can not help.
I understand how the poem may bring understanding to a life changed and/or a life re-directed. But don’t all of our children do that anyways, they bring us to new places and new people, and along the way our children may drift /fall down/over or under acheive/ excel/ be diagnosed/ disappoint … therefore bringing us onto a whole different journey? I call it God’s Plan (Jeremiah 29:11) wether your child is typical or special needs. Where one may say that denial plays into my cynicism, I call it my Faith. Love it or leave it.
Here is the poem and below is my opinion.
“Welcome to Holland” by Emily Perl Kingsley
When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip – to Italy. You buy a bunch of guidebooks 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 some horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It’s just a different place. So you must go out and buy a new guidebook. 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, 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.” The pain of that will never, ever, go away, because the loss of that dream is a 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.
My “GPS” (God’s Planned System) doesn’t subscribe to the following ideas mentioned in the poem :
1. “There I must Stay” … our diagnosis doesn’t keep us in a locked box, in fact my son is free to travel to Italy whenever he wants along with where ever else his life leads him. We shouldn’t put limits on a child’s life before they have the ability to at-least try “traveling”. No his medical diagnosis is never going to be “cured” , “fixed” or “changed” but we can’t begin to think that it leads us to an inescapable place we never wanted to be.
2. For the rest of my life I will not tell people that “Italy” is where I was supposed to go. That would indicate that I thought in the first place that “I” was in control. Where in reality, we never know where we will end up, I gave that up to the Lord a long time ago. It doesn’t mean I wasn’t shocked when I found out, after all that is the human response to suprise, but I refuse to think for the rest of my life I will be explaining to people with typical children that I was supposed to be like them. I am just like them, I am no saint or bearer of the second coming, I am a mom with a different set of challenges from your different set of challenges. How is that fair to Grady to explain what our life whas supposed to look like?
3.“The pain of that will never, ever, go away, because the loss of that dream is a very significant loss.” Really? Really ? parents of children with special needs will always be in pain? Really? I don’t think so. Yes my Grady is but 2 months old and yes I may experience moments of motherly pain with delayed progression, or when the evils of worldliness try to afflict hurt upon our lives, but in no way does this sentence reflect the promise of GOD. He gave his Son, Jesus to die on the cross to deliver us from our sin, to deliver us from “Pain”. He who believes in the truth have hope and if you have hope then it is impossible to go through the rest of your days living in pain.
“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”John 16:33
So the only guidebook for anyone (parents of typical children, no children, special needs children) looking to buy is the BIBLE if you want to “plan” your vacation called “life”. You will soon learn that God has a plan for you, all the days of your life where planned before you were born (Psalm 139), upon this acceptance you will realize that it is painless to give up control to the Big Guy above and accept a life of Hope.
So as a mother to child diagnosed with Down Syndrome and a Believer I have something that I hope others have or will find: the KEY. The KEY to unlock the Holland Box that this poem/society puts me and Grady in. The Key is Jesus, not this Poem. Allow me to brag then, like all the “other” mom’s do as quoted in the poem. I am going to brag about how I woke up today with no forever and immanent PAIN.
I don’t see windmills and tulips all around me nor do I see fairies and glitter falling from the sky when I think of Down Syndrome. T21 is just a piece of him, and it does not define him. Today I saw, two ears, two eyes, a nose, a few poopy diapers that are the same color in Italy and Holland, oh some spit up and I even heard a few “coos”….I’m sorry Mrs. Kingsley I was unable to tell if his “cooing” dialect haled from Holland or Italy.
anyone up for a trip to Bermuda..? after this post I need a vacation!