Emily Pearl Kingsley, an Emmy Award winning writer for the show Sesame Street, wrote an essay in 1987 about having a child with a disability. Her son happens to have Down syndrome. The poem is called "Welcome to Holland." It is posted on lots and lots of websites and blogs.
And I hate it. Absolutely hate it.
Emily Kingsley and her son (born in 1974) have done a lot of wonderful things to advocate for people with Down syndrome. (Her son has even co-authored a book). Everyone's perspective on life is different, and life for people with Down syndrome has changed dramatically since her son was born. She obviously is an amazing writer and has done amazing things in her life, much more that I will ever achieve. I am not knocking her as a person. I just do not like the poem "Welcome to Holland."
Here is the complete essay:
Welcome to Holland
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 Sistine Chapel, Gondolas. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It’s all very exciting. After several 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 guidebooks. 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. You begin to notice that Holland has windmills. Holland has tulips. And 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 experience will never, ever, ever, go away. The loss of that dream is a 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.
"For the rest of your life" you'll wish for something else? The pain will "never, ever, ever, go away"? Really? That is just not me.
Yes, I grieved when I found out the news about this diagnosis. I grieved the unknown, and while there are still a lot of unknowns, that pain is far behind me. I will NOT spend the rest of my life wishing for something else.
There will be rough days ahead for sure, but they would be a whole lot rougher if I spent those days wishing for a different life...a different child. I just can't relate to that essay.
I do agree that raising children is like going on a trip. For our typical children, I think most of us can reasonably estimate what that road trip will be like. There may be traffic jams, detours, or new roads to take. Things won't go exactly as we imagine them, but with our typical kids, we do have a general idea of where we are going and have an estimated time of arrival. With Levi, it's like the car with the map inside is parked on the shoulder of the highway and we are splashing in a pond nearby. We know we are going in the right general direction but don't know when we are going to move forward. We don't know exactly how far we're going or where we'll end up, but, MAN, are we enjoying the ride!