Saturday, October 16, 2010

my holland


For my Italian friends ... The following is based on the beautiful essay, Welcome to Holland, by Emily Perl Kingsley.


There are the days that I wouldn't trade Holland for the world

The days that I stand in awe of the windmills' quaint majesty

And marvel at the overwhelming beauty of the tulip fields

There are the days that I scoff at Italy

The days that I feel downright sorry for those who have never been to Holland

Never wondered at the beauty created by Rembrandt's brush

What they are missing here, I tell myself

Poor souls!

How much richer they'd be for a visit someday

For a walk in these wooden shoes


And then there are the days that I look more closely at the Dutch landscape

The days that I see past the tulip fields to the mothers wringing their hands, waiting - always waiting

The days that I see the doctors - the specialists and therapists - everywhere it seems, filling the streets, doffing their caps as they move from one house to the next - an endless conveyor belt of service and need

There are the days that I see the siblings, struggling with dual citizenship in two dramatically different nations - neither of which they can fully claim as their own

There are the days that I can no longer smell the fragrance of the flowers for the stench of desperation and fear

The days that I send my girls off on the train, backpacks full with supplies for their daily trip to Italy

Knowing that only one of them speaks a word of Italian

Relying on a host of translators and guides to keep my youngest safe on such desperately foreign soil

There are the days that my heart simply breaks because I can't make the whole world speak Dutch

There are the days that I watch the planes flying in - filled with mothers clutching their children, looking out the window, ready to point to the Spanish Steps and the Colosseum - knowing they'll find out soon enough, that's not where they are

There are the days when I wonder if my girl even notices the windmills, or the tulips - if she knows there are Rembrandts here

Or if she simply wishes that she were in Rome


There are the days that I see my Holland for what it really is

A breathtakingly beautiful place

A place full of love and compassion

Freedom and camaraderie

And a place where children hurt and mothers' hearts ache with the impotence of not being able to make it better


Jess can be found at Diary of a Mom where she writes about life with her husband Luau* and their beautiful daughters - nine and-a-half year-old Katie*, an utterly fabulous typically a-typical fourth grader, and seven and-a-half year-old, Brooke*, a loving, talented, hilarious second grader who has autism.

She also runs the Diary of a Mom Facebook page, a warm and supportive community of parents, friends, adults on the autism spectrum and some random people in her life who cared enough to hit 'Like' and probably now wonder what they got themselves into.



  1. Just beautiful and heartwrenching. Especially the line about how only "one of them speaks Italian." Yeah, that one got me.
    I hope someday we all speak the same language.

  2. I never could stand when people refer parents of newly diagnosed kids to that poem. As if that's going to make autism so much better. Autism is a nightmare, plain and simple. Anyone who says that living in "Holland" can be a magical place is dreaming. I never met one parent who wouldn't give their right arm to have their child be typical and non disabled rather than watch the them struggle so much day in and day out. And what about the future when no one is there to advocate? Believing in that poem is living in denial. It makes me cringe everytime I read it.

  3. Never like the Holland analogy......never. That being said, if it works for some, great. I wish there were more Hopeful Parents spread throughout the country, sounds like a great place.

  4. 1.As difficult as this life can be sometimes, I think it would be a real waste if we didn’t at least try to learn what we can and find what joy we can on the journey that’s been handed to us. To endure the pain and not receive the blessings isn’t only withholding them from ourselves – it’s withholding peace and acceptance from our children. Our negative feelings need to be acknowledged and accepted, but they aren’t doing our children any good. They already have such challenges in life. It seems like the least we can do for them is to try and appreciate all that we can and help them to do the same, so they can benefit from the peace of an accepting and happy family. We don’t have the power to fix all their difficulties, but we do have the power to give them that.
    For what it’s worth, most people believe in what they see, when often it’s the other way around. We tend to see what we believe in – or at least what we’re looking for. If you don’t really look for the good beneath the outward appearances of a situation, you may not ever get to see it.
    I liked the post and the original essay, which I hadn’t read before. For those who are bothered by it, I hope you find some other path to peace that works for you. We all deserve to have some peace and to e able to share that with our children.

  5. diane,
    i agree. while the original essay rings true for me, i have to acknowledge that the beauty of this life doesn't exist without pain. BUT, neither does the pain exist without some beauty. if i let myself lose sight of either completely, i think i do myself - and more importantly my children - a grave disservice.

  6. Jess,
    I haven't wondered for one second. Thank you for showing me around Holland. The beauty that is there is more breathtaking than anything I've seen in Italy.

  7. Allie misses the point. I'm as much of a realist as anyone, but the point of that metaphor is that if you end up in "Holland," and you are stuck there, to not look for the good wherever you find it is to resign yourself to despair. I guess you can dislike warm fuzzy metaphors, but you can't criticize optimism.

  8. This is lovely. I think the thing about Holland is that there aren't planes that depart from there, so it's kind of pointless to discuss whether we would want to build an airport. All we can do is make Holland as beautiful as we can and try to get the tourists to drive by and realize the same.

  9. You're really right about that dual citizenship.

  10. I like your version of the metaphor a lot better! xo

  11. I just read the Italy-Holland metaphor for the first time in Shut Up about Your Perfect Kid book, and had mixed feelings (not because I'm Dutch, either!). For our first child with severe CP, the comparison worked. For our second child, who suffers from no malady, the comparison took on another meaning. For our third, who also has moderate CP, the metaphor missed the marked since we had now been to both "countries." However, that's our situation and I think a few comments above do miss the point. The poem to me was a beautiful tribute where I could clearly understand the author's perspective (like the above) and what I saw was a writer doing their best to make sense of this world in which 'hopeful parents' find themselves. It was her metaphor and it helped her heal as she pieced it together, in my opinion. It doesn't have to work for all but I sure could assimilate with her and that's the reason we're all here in the first place.

  12. "There are the days that my heart simply breaks because I can't make the whole world speak Dutch" - truer words were never written... my VERY self-aware 8 yr old Aspie has said as much to me many times... She has invented her own PLANET, where she retreats when the rest of the world is too hard for her to live with / in. All she wants, really, are a few more BILINGUAL citizens. but they are hard to find...

  13. I only liked the Holland essay for a brief early moment many years ago when I first landed there. Since then, I have found it far too treacly -- but I loved your version of it, particularly the line about siblings. Our "typical" children are so often overlooked in this strange world we find ourselves in...

  14. Very beautifully said.
    "The days that I send my girls off on the train, backpacks full with supplies for their daily trip to Italy
    Knowing that only one of them speaks a word of Italian."
    moved me to tears.
    My son is a preemie with no "real" diagnosis. He is not thought to be on the autism spectrum, but has almost global delays. His prognosis is good, but for now, is quite delayed. I think he's just the bee's knees, but sometimes, we visit "Italy" and am reminded just how different Holland really is. Not all good, not all bad, but definitely both.

  15. I do like your take on this poem, Jess. While I'm not always excited to be in Holland I've found acceptance that this is where we are for my oldest child. I am saddened for the people that seem to be so bothered by this poem in this form or in it's original form. I just don't/can't feel defeated or gloomy b/c I'm too busy being a warrior to make the rest of the world a place my daughter can function and trying to help her adapt as well. Sure, I have my moments of despair and upset that this is where we've landed, but I can't stay in those moments b/c it serves no one.

  16. Interesting to hear others' opinions of this poem. I agree totally with everything you said, Jess. I may not always like being in Holland, but I can certainly make the best of a situation that I can not change. I would give my right arm to allow my son to not be disabled, but I also know that realistically, this is something I can not change and have instead chosen to enjoy him for who he is and what his journey has taught me.