Holland Just May Be Better Than Italy
Holland Just May Be Better Than Italy
knowledge and true enlightenment cannot be summed up, nor comprehended in five-hundred words or less. For this reason, this post will be divided into various continued posts. Our goal is to answer some of your questions, inform you of the realities we face daily, and to provide you with a real understanding of what life is like living with disabilities including epilepsy.

As a family living with different forms of disabilities, we are often asked (what we feel are) absurd questions. Then we remember that unless you have lived in our situation, comprehension is not an easy road to enlightenment when it pertains to things you don’t understand. In these various set of post, it is our hope to enlighten people who seek true understanding and knowledge.

Let’s start with a poem that a mother with a disabled child wrote in answer to one of the most famous questions asked when you have a disabled child. Those who live with a disability affecting their families will understand and grasp the reference to this poem quicker than those who don’t.

 

WELCOME TO HOLLAND

by

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.

The End

Every time someone ask me “How do you do it?”, “Would you change your children if you could?” or state “I don’t know how you do it, I know I couldn’t do it!” A rush of jumbled thoughts run rampant through my mind regarding the best method to use for answering their questions.

While I have a difficult time ciphering through my jumbled thoughts to answer these questions appropriately the reality is; this poem is an accurate depiction of what you expect when expanding your family. Plan as you may, your destiny is in fates hands, and she has already planned out your path. Each parent will take away their individual interpretation of this verse because we all have unique conditions in which we live, we all have a personal perspective of what we thought our journey into parenthood would entail. Some people move from Holland before seeing the beauty they mistakenly assume was misplaced and placed directly before them. Making a hasty exit before they take the time to understand truly what it is that fate as put into their hands or why she has done so. Others will stay; they will fight; they will love, learn and grow not only as a parent but as a person.

My entire life I have always questioned my place on this earth. I have always been a jack of all trades, yet a master of none. What was I placed earth to achieve? How was I going to leave my mark on a world that is quickly losing its humanity?

Seventeen-years-ago, I gave birth to a beautiful little boy. A little boy I soon found out was a high functioning Autistic child. There was an abundance of new uncharted challenges I had to learn to tackle head first. I had to re-learn everything I thought I knew alone because my mate decided he was going to stay aboard the flight, and see if maybe somehow he would land in Italy as we had once planned. Before the realization that Holland was not Italy, my son’s bio-dad coddled him like he was the finest of china; breakable at the slightest touch. My son for the first two-years of his life knew the wondrous love that completes a child when they are surrounded by both parents. Just after the birth of our second child, we found out that our son was autistic, and would never be like every other child, he would never be the “Italy” we had planned.

For myself, it didn’t matter, Italy, Holland, Rome, Paris or any other location I was destined to land in and learn to love was perfect to me. Any disability didn’t matter to me as long as I could experience the love and growth that my incredible journey brought forth in my heart and soul. The displeasure at having landed anywhere but Italy with a disabled son made my son’s bio-dad push him away. Instead, he placed all his love and attention onto our new baby girl in the hopes he had finally arrived in Italy. My son who already faced enough challenges in his life, who had many more hurdles to overcome as he grew older now had a new, unexpected challenge to take on. My son has a hard enough time understanding the most generic of life experiences that we as individuals take for granted, now had to learn how to comprehend abandonment without the absence of the abandoner.

Thanks to the Goddesses and Gods above, my new husband stepped in not long after the divorce, to equally love my son and daughter as his own. He taught my son…our son what it was to have a father be there for him, to love him despite the challenges we faced together as a family. He showed him that love is unconditional and that any man can make a baby. However, it takes a real man to raise a child (especially a disabled one) and treat him as his blood born child.

I was one of the lucky ones; I found that perfect other half, the perfect mate for myself who loved Holland as much as I had learned to love it. A man who not only wanted to spend his life with me, but also wanted to step into the father role and become a dad to my children. Together we worked as a team; we struggled through our son’s temperament, lack of understanding, fought the school system and learned to function as a solitary family unit. We never sought out help, counseling, funding or anything else that is offered to parents with disabled children. We refused to place him on medication until he was in high school, and he required it to adjust to the ordered-chaos that was high school.

We created a cohesive wall of parenting that our children recognized as a firm stance against bending for them – in other words, we refused to give in against one-another for the sake of the children. When either parent made a decision the other parent abided by it, and if there was an issue where either parent didn’t agree, we would discuss it in private. The children quickly learned that going to the other parent would only land them in the world of trouble for attempting to play one parent against one-another. We set our boundaries for the children and expected them to stay within the confines of those boundaries.

It’s important to note that while we never allowed our children to play us against one-another, we also never faltered on the realization that parents make mistakes. When we set rules or punishments that we later discussed in private and felt we were wrong, we always swallow our pride and apologize to our children. As parents we expect our children to respect us, to tell us the truth, to be open with us and to apologize when they are wrong. However; for some reason we often feel that because we are the parents it’s not necessary to provide the same respect in return. And this lack of respectful return is where many parents often make a huge mistake in raising their children.

How can you expect something from your children, disabled or not when you refuse to set a good example for them? If you cannot swallow your pride and admit when you are wrong, admit that parenting is a puzzle and you don’t know everything; then how can you expect your children to recognize when they are wrong? You cannot expect something from your children that you cannot accept. No parent is perfect, we all make mistakes in the upbringing of our children. All we can do or ask for is to make the best choices for our children’s health and well-being. We can raise them with the proper morals and hope that we have installed enough morals that they will not be a burden to society when they leave home. But in order for our hopes to become a reality, we have to treat our children with the same respect that we expect, and sometimes that means saying sorry when we’re wrong.

One thing we both agreed on in regards to our parenting methods, and continue to stand firm on; is never doing the classic parental mistakes such as using the classical sayings our parents used on us.

 

“Because I said so.”

“I’m a parent and what I said goes without question.”

“Because I said No, and that’s all the explanation you need.”

“Don’t question my answer, I’m a parent, I said no, and that’s all the reason you need.”

 

We always explained to our children, no matter their age or comprehension level why we were saying no. We let them know that we respected them as people enough to fully explain our logic. If they can logically counter us with a reason they should be able to do something, we will reconsider our answer. Due to our parenting style, we have two teenagers who respect us fully. They are open and honest with us, never yell, scream, slam doors or do the typical teenager acting out. Our children do as they are asked and are always respectful towards us. When people ask us how we managed to raise two respectful teenagers, we always tell them our secret to successful parenting.

“Our children respect us because we have always treated them as equals, as friends while always being the parent first and foremost.”

We have let them choose their paths and have helped to guide them where down the correct paths in life, but never dictated to them how they should live their lives. We have never hidden anything from them! If they were old enough to ask a question; we figured they were old enough to know the answer. It’s imperative to live your life around structure, to stand united as parents when it comes to parenting.

You should always treat your kids with the respect you would like in return; no matter if they are your perfect picture of Italy or come from your new beautiful respect for Holland.

At the beginning of this post I had stated my wonderment at why I had I been placed on this earth, what was my purpose in life? Through my misguided flight to Holland instead of Italy, the first time around I have found the answers I’ve sought for so long. I understand now that my goal in life is to be the best parent I can be to a child or children with disabilities. Many time’s people have said to me, “it takes a particular kind of parent, of a person to know how to raise a child from Holland.” My reason for being on this earth, and the way I will make my mark on this world is through my children. Raising children to aspect that a disability of any sort doesn’t mean the world owes them anything, and that they must learn to contribute to society not hinder it is a struggle I face daily. I do my best with the help of my mate to teach our children that they were designed special and unique for a reason. That they have obstacles to face that not everyone will face in their life, but these obstacles can only benefit my children as the unique individuals they are.

These challenges and tribulations we all must face together as a united family will someday leave its mark on the world. And I honestly believe that is why I was placed on this earth and landed in the beautiful land of Holland.

“I am that special kind of parent who can understand the absolute beauty that is to be found where you least expect it to be.”