Site hosted by Build your free website today!

* Farewell to Holland *

This is a response to the widely circulated essay "Welcome to Holland" about raising a child with a disability.

When you are going to have a baby, everyone tells you what it will be like. Think of it as planning a fabulous vacation trip to Italy, they say. Everything will be wonderful if you just follow the handy guidebooks. You'll want to visit the Colosseum, the Michelangelo David, and the gondolas in Venice, all in the correct and socially accepted order. It's going to be very exciting, they assure you. The day finally arrives, and you pack your bags and off you go.

Several hours later, the plane lands, and you are told, "Welcome to Holland." You look around in confusion and say, "Holland? What do you mean Holland? I signed up for Italy! I'm supposed to be in Italy. All my life, people have told me that it is like a wonderful dream, being in Italy."

But there's been a change in flight plan, they inform you. They've landed in Holland, and there you must stay. That's just the way it is, they tell you. Families like yours can't ever go to Italy. It's unfortunate, they say, but no one is to blame. You'll get used to it, they say. After all, 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 go out and buy the new guidebooks that they recommend. You learn a new language and meet a new group of people. Some of your new acquaintances point out that Holland has windmills and tulips. You need to learn to appreciate the landscape, they say.

But everyone else you know is busy coming and going from Italy, and they're all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. Your new acquaintances commiserate with you, saying that you will spend the rest of your life wishing you could have gone to Italy, and that the pain of losing the dream of Italy will never go away. You'll just have to make the best of it, they say; after all, you're in Holland now, and this is where you must stay.

You feel that you have no choice but to take their advice. You plant tulips, and you buy a few nice Rembrandt reproductions and hang them on your walls. You regularly invite your new acquaintances over for coffee and conversation about the very special, very lovely things about Holland. The years go by, and sometimes you find it hard to remember how your life used to be.

By now, your child has grown older, and one morning while you're walking out to the bus stop, your child asks why most people go to Italy. You don't want to upset your child with the truth, so you plaster a big fake smile on your face and talk about Holland's beautiful windmills and tulips until the school bus arrives. While you're watching it drive away, you notice a group of children on the next corner, from the Italy-visiting families, chattering happily to each other while they wait for the bus to their school. You know how they would react if your child ever tried to join them.

You go home, hurl the Rembrandt pictures into the trash, get your lawnmower out of the shed, and deliberately run over every tulip that you can find in your yard. After you've cooled off a bit and are raking up the debris, you reflect on the fact that a ghetto, no matter how prettily landscaped, is still a ghetto. You decide that your child deserves better, and you wonder why you ever allowed yourself to be persuaded otherwise.

You go for a walk to think things over. Not far from your house, you see a travel agency that you never noticed before. The windows are full of bright, colorful brochures for places where you never thought about going. You step inside and pick up a handful of the brochures, marveling at all the possibilities: Brazil, Greece, Egypt, Alaska, Japan, Tahiti. Your future shimmers and reshapes itself in your mind like the patterns in a kaleidoscope.

Then you take the brochures home and put them next to a globe in your child's room. You start the globe spinning, close your eyes, and put your finger down at random. And for the first time in a very long time, you feel joy.

Contact the Author | Neurodiversity Links Page