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Why I Don't Live in Holland as a Special Needs Parent

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It happens on a regular basis. I’m out shopping or doing everyday activities with my children. A well-meaning person engages me in conversation. Sooner or later in one of these meetings, “it” comes up.

“Oh, I know this lovely poem about having a child with special needs. Have you heard of it?”

Inwardly I cringe. Outwardly, I try to remain polite as the person prattles on about tulips and windmills and Italy.

When we adopted my daughter, I got this poem plastered to my wall, emailed and mailed to me so much I wanted to scream.

Welcome to Holland” is a poem written by Emily Kingsley. She describes what it is like as a parent to be expecting one thing and then be handed something else all together. She talks about the journey we plan on and the destination that we actually get.

While the poem resonates for many and is very well-loved, it’s frankly not my favorite.

When we become parents we all have dreams. We “pack our bags” for a fantastic destination.  We dream of the day little Susie becomes the first female president and little Johnny becomes the NFL’s shining new star. We all want to go to Italy. 

But rarely in real life do these things happen. Susie grows up and becomes a teacher. Johnny can’t throw a ball to save his soul and becomes a construction worker. A very few may make it to Italy, but most children — with or without special needs — just don’t. Children are not the fulfillment of your destiny and dreams. They are their own people and have their own ships to pilot. They dream their own dreams, and frankly, I think that’s the way it should be.

As parents of typical or special needs children, I think we need to be less focused on the destination we are going to arrive at and more focused on the journey. In a blink of an eye, our children will grow up. Unlike the writer’s slower pace of Holland, I live in real time. And it isn’t slow. There are flowers, but not tulips. My children are roses full of fragrance, life and flash. Growing strong and proud. And I don’t know if we will end up in Holland, Italy, or Timbucktu. That’s not my ship to pilot. That’s my children’s job. I’m happy to be a co-pilot on the journey, and for me that’s good enough. Welcome to parenting.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one commonly held opinion within the community surrounding your disability and/or disease (or a loved one’s) that doesn’t resonate with you? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

Originally published: May 10, 2016
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