My middle son Trenton was diagnosed with autism at age three. I won't lie for a few short seconds our world stopped, but then we pulled together and have spent the last ten years helping our son all that we can. Trent is amazing and for the most part our life is fairly normal. The last few weeks have been difficult on my sweet boy and I, and we are having to adjust to autism and teenage changes. I found a poem when Trent was younger that speaks to me and gets me through the ugly days that happen when raising any child, but especially a child with autism.
Welcome to Holland
By: Emily Perl Kingsley
I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability - to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It's like this.....
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 Michaelangelo David, the gondolas of Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It's all very exciting.
After 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 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. It's just a different place.
So you must go out and buy new guide books. 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 a while and you catch your breath, you look around...and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills...and Holland has tulips. 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 will never, ever, ever go away...because 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, very lovely things about Holland.
I love my Holland (Trent). He makes me a better person and I love looking at the world through his eyes.
This poem puts my journey into words for others to understand. Our journey is not always easy but it's our journey, and Ryan and I are blessed to be Trent's parents.