Fiona Midori King

Fiona Midori King

Hope 4 Fiona

Welcome to Holland - by: Emily Perl Kingsley Sunday - December 30, 2012



The beautiful Emily Perl Kingsley wrote a short explanation in her tremendously touching poem “Welcome to Holland”. This story of a family planning a trip to Italy helped me a lot when I was feeling down. It was a family that dreamt for years about making it to Italy. They bought books, learned the language and planned every detail of their trip. When the day of the trip finally arrived, they felt really prepared! When they landed, the flight attendant’s announcement welcomed them to Holland. “Holland???”  said the family, “what? We’re not in Italy? But we have everything set for Italy!” Needless to say, to land in Holland was not what they expected and their journey turned into something different-with sights, people and places unlike what they had hoped for, but still amazing and a true learning experience. Our family’s journey since Fiona arrived has been much like this family’s trip to Holland: unpredictable and new, but oh so very fulfilling and blessed with wonderful surprises.

I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability and/or special need- to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it and to imagine how it would feel. Just as in Emily Kingsley’s poem, where a family planned for and made all the preparations for a trip to Italy yet landed in a very different location where all of their prior research wasn’t as applicable as anticipated, so is the story of what it has been like parenting Fiona.

It's like this......
When you're going to have a baby, it's like planning a fabulous vacation trip to Italy for example. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans to see the Coliseum, Michelangelo’s David, gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian.  It's all very exciting, you feel extremely prepared after having done all the research necessary and creating an agenda that covers all that you want to experience in that new country.

I feel like my experience with mothering Fiona has been similar to the family’s experience in Kingsley’s poem.  After months of eager anticipation, you expect one thing and have been given an experience that is entirely different from what you anticipated for months.  The experience that you dreamed of for such a long time was simply entirely different than what you could have imagined and prepared for. 

Although that family was still able to be on a vacation, it wasn’t at all what they signed up for.  After all, the family did not land in a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease….they simply landed in a place very different from what they anticipated and expected but still very beautiful with so much to offer.

So what’s next?  How do you act when you’re given such a change in plans?  Well, you keep moving forward- you must go out and buy new guide books and learn yet another new language.  You will find that you have experienced new things and have met a whole new group of people that you would have never met otherwise.  You focus on the positive aspects of your surprising trip and do the best you can with what you have been given. 

So now what? You find yourself in a different place than you expected and you make note of the differences, sure Holland happens to be slower-paced and less flashy than Italy, and maybe the pizzas and pastas don’t quite have that authentic Italian taste you were anticipating, but so what?  After you've been there for a while and are able to catch your breath and take a good look around- you begin to notice what Holland has to offer.  Holland has windmills and is filled with tulips; Holland even has Rembrandts.  Although Holland has its differences from Italy, it’s still a beautiful vacation none the less.  

In the meantime, everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy... and they're all boasting and bragging about what a wonderful time they had there, as they have every right to.  But then you realize that although that was the destination you were planning for, that was not the destination you landed at, and for the rest of your life you will be the person saying "Yes, that's where I was supposed to go. That's what I had planned."  You had a dream to go to a specific place yet simply landed somewhere different.  

The pain of that truth, that my experience with parenting a special needs child has been very different than the experience that parents with perfectly healthy children have.  The pain that I suffer from knowing that Fiona does not have the health and capabilities of a healthy child her age will never, ever, ever, ever go away...because the loss of that dream for any parent that is going through this similar experience is a very,  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.

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