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  • Writer's pictureStacey Smiler

Welcome to Holland - a poem of disbelief, acceptance & growth.

[Please note these countries, Italy & Holland, are used in purely a metaphorical sense by the author.]


c. 1987 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.

This poem was recently posted in Keanu's genetic epilepsy group, I had read it before when I was in a much different mental place to where I am today. Last time I read it I was definitely the one screaming inside “What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy!. However it was a nice reminder of how far we have come with him over the past 5 years, he is who he is and we love him whether he is Holland or Italy! One dad in our support group must of been having a bad day as he wrote something along the lines of.. "Holland? try North Korea!!" (haha) we all have those overwhelming days, it's part of the journey we have been chosen to take part in!

The lady who wrote this, Emily Perl Kingsley, is a writer who has a son with Down Syndrome, she worked on the Sesame Street writing team and her son was on the show. She had a big part in the inclusive nature of the shows characters and disability awareness. If you didn't know Sesame St has a character Julia with autism, has featured a child in a wheelchair who explains about different parts of her chair and tackled many other topics surrounding racism, breastfeeding, death etc in a child-friendly manner. Check them out here: A good resource for teaching your children the importance of empathy, acceptance and diversity in the world they live.


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