It’s been a while since I’ve broached the subject of Welcome to Holland, but every few years it gets a brave resurgence in the dwarfism community. I want to ignore it, but it’s more than a poem about difference and acceptance… it’s a reminder to those who are the different and who need the acceptance that they aren’t as expected- but a consolation. They’re not as bad as you thought. Hey- not Italy, but good enough. Hey! You’re Holland!
In the disability community we share this poem for, especially, new parents, so they can feel encouragement that this isn’t the journey they thought they would have, but it will still have some great qualities of parenting. It is an altered, atypical experience, but it will be OK.
Read: They aren’t what you hoped for and it’s OK to be disappointed, but hopefully you’ll still have fun!
I’ve never liked this analogy before. It doesn’t comfort me to think about my child of being anything other than expected. She is human. Feels like a win to me. “Hey kid, you’re not what I expected, but you’ll do,” just doesn’t work for me.
Spare me the thought that I have this feeling because Addie has been easy. We have been in and out of hospitals, traveled all over the country for doctors, spent unsure nights, dispensed an immense amount of medication, dealt with mean kids and even more awful adults, and wondered what’s next. But that’s parenting. She’s not Holland… she’s not even Italy. She’s majestic. I made this human in the exact way she was meant to be.
But I’ve said all this before. I am sharing my thoughts again because I have a new perspective- one that gives me first hand how this thinking can bring comfort to one and absolute trauma to another. It’s demeaning properties.
It’s me. I’m the new perspective.
I’m marrying a widow in 3 weeks, and as I read this poem today, my blood ran cold while my body caught fire.
Am I Holland?
Am I a consolation prize?
I let my brain circle the drain all day… a cycle I am used to. Letting my thoughts rapidly spill each other until my psyche is running on fumes, drowning in the thoughts of Italy… and I am Holland; The expectation never being met, but hopefully I’ll still be a good time. I spend hours of my life wondering if my future wife- this person who speaks to my soul… I wonder if I speak to hers. Did she board that plane to Italy, but land in Holland and is just trying to make the best of it?
Am I Holland? Please, God… don’t let me be Holland. Sure it’s beautiful and fun and historical and a wonderful destination, but that’s not where she meant to go. She meant to go to Italy. Could she have already been to Holland and finally got back on the plane and went to Italy?
Will I live out my life believing I am a consolation prize? I am… less than her everything. Less than The One. I am Holland.
This is why your child is not Holland
Are you imagining an adult in a downspiral? Because I am imagining your child believing they are Holland. No matter what they ever do or say. No matter how easy or hard they are. No matter what, because they were born different- they will never be as expected. Don’t say they will be better… because you will always wonder about Italy. And they know it.
They aren’t Holland. And they never should have been to you. Not even for a layover.
The shame, anxiety, discontentment and hurt that comes from believing you are Holland… wandering around thinking at least I’m OK just isn’t how I want any child to live. And certainly never my own child.
Who wants to live as passable?
I promise you don’t want anyone to feel this way… I promise you don’t want your child to feel this way, no matter how defeated you are in the moments after diagnosis.
More than OK
Watching my children know they are breathtaking. They are all I ever expected them to be… wholly themselves. True to themselves. My three girls being so beautifully them. THAT is Italy. They are the vacation of a lifetime. Some days they are sunsets and private dinners on the beach. And other days? They are the hurricane that gets the whole hotel evacuated. But they are always perfectly mine.
Am I to walk around for what’s left of my life believing I am Holland? I am 37 hoping to be loved as I love. Am I more than OK, yet? I wish this feeling on no child.
This world can be so cruel, as is. Find comfort in community and camaraderie and remember you are your child’s first country. Their first home. Home should never be a civil war. And maybe, just maybe, that experience you think isn’t Italy, is just Italy off the beaten path.
Or maybe… a trip to Italy is bullshit and we need to enjoy life measuring up to ourselves if we’re not the trip of a lifetime.