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When I Have to Split Time Between Holland and Italy

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I’ve always imagined our healthy kids would have such a connection to their siblings, they’d want to dedicate their lives to helping people like them.

“He’ll be a doctor because of MaryEllen and Kevin!”

“She’s going to discover the cure!”

That’s what always happens, right? We provide the loving foundation, and our kids magically want to become doctors, therapists or geneticists and will live happily ever after. Walt Disney Studios will buy the movie rights, and kids everywhere will be inspired by their efforts. 

Well, that’s not what happens.

The reality is while we parents take care of the immediate needs of the sick ones, siblings of special needs children tend to be put on the back burner.

Once in Disney World, my daughter, Katie, was so excited to go to Epcot. She loved it more than anywhere else in the world, and we were finally going to spend an entire day there. Unfortunately, Kevin developed a fever and seizures less than 30 minutes after we arrived. “We’re leaving and not coming back?” she said, as we were whisked away in an ambulance. I will never forget that terrible feeling of letting her down.


Or the time Kevin had a fractured femur and we celebrated Katie’s birthday in the pediatric wing of the hospital. Despite our efforts to make it a good birthday (We even snuck in the candles!), we failed miserably.

And so it goes, juggling the needs of many while tending to the pressing needs of few. Did we do a good job as parents? It seems like we could have done better.

Welcome to Holland” by Emily Perl Kingsley equates the wonders of Italy (having a healthy child), with the disappointment of unexpectedly landing in Holland (having a child with special needs). She goes on to say Holland isn’t so bad, it’s just different.

Well, what happens to the families who live in Italy and Holland? Both places are beautiful and perfectly livable, but jumping from one country to the other is tiring! Depending on who you ask, we end up spending way too much time in the other country and someone always feels slighted.

I propose we families, the ones with all kinds of children, pick up and just move to Switzerland. It’s half way between Italy and Holland and it has chocolate! It would be a wonderful coexistence of families, and healthy and special needs children would just be…children. What a concept!


A version of this post originally appeared on The Heartful Mom.

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Originally published: June 29, 2015
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