The Holland Tourism Board would like a word with you…
If you’ve ‘gone public’ with having a special needs child for about this side of 37 minutes, odds are stellar that someone has sent you the “Welcome to Holland” poem by Emily Perl Kingsley. For the uninitiated, click that link and go read it. I’ll wait.
While it’s not as controversial a topic among parents as say vaccines, you’ll still get a wide range of reactions and emotions about it, and those may change drastically depending on the mood they’re in at any given moment.
Regardless of what I say next, most people who have sent it to us have done so out of concern and love for us. To them I say, I appreciate you more than you know, and I hope you’ll understand that the emotions of parents of autistic children are complex, varied, and wild. And we get more honest about that as time goes on.
At first I hated that poem. Then I felt like I got it. Then I felt like the poet was a bad parent and I cursed her name to the darkness (I was bitter then – duh). Then I kinda got it again. Now I have a completely different reaction to it:
What the hell did Holland do to deserve this?
I’ve never been to Holland or Italy, and beyond one having the Pope’s house in the middle of it and the other having a higher population of blond women, I don’t know what the primary pros and cons are. I have no clue why the plane full of all the special needs kids and families got rerouted to Holland, except perhaps the flight attendants thought the screaming indicated a potential terrorist threat.
Luckily, I’m not alone in this wondering. A funny reply came in the form of “Holland Schmolland” by Laura Krueger Crawford. Apparently a cottage industry of these things is popping up.
Then I found “Welcome to Beirut,” by Susan F. Rzucidlo, which is utterly brilliant. It’s got me wanting to write my own.
In the end, I only have one reaction to the Holland poem, and I think this one is here to stay. Neither Italy nor Holland nor all the countries in the world combined can hold a candle to our son.
Our house can range from idyllic to insane, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Not even all the artwork in Italy together could impress me more than what my son struggles to create with crayons and computer paper. The art on our walls at home is the symbol of all the hard work he’s put into overcoming his challenges. He is our masterpiece.
Rzucidlo lasers in on one of the biggest truths I’ve learned so far when she says, “You will know sorrow like few others and yet you will know joy above joy.” We celebrate every little step, no matter how small. We give thanks to all those parents who’ve gone ahead of us and given us roads to follow. We feel affirmed by those parents who see us go to tears when he says a new word and know why. We rejoice for the gifts given to us by skilled, committed, kind-hearted therapists who work for pay far less than the weight-in-gold salaries they deserve.
We have very high highs and really low lows, but between that vast expanse, we see all the little details of the world. I sit and stare at the sky because he does. I discover microscopic pieces of dirt in the carpet just because he does. I wonder what all I would miss if he didn’t show them to me.
One more thing I’ve learned – There are a lot of good and kind people in this world, and we’ve only just begun to meet them. We wish our son didn’t have to struggle like he does, but he is accepting it with bravery and grace and determination. We can do no less.