Sunday, October 14, 2012

LIFE: Map Not Included

As we are all painfully aware, life does not come with a map to lead the way to 'happy', steering us clear of potential pitfalls or mistakes. You create your own map and chart your own course as you go. People can casually glimpse at your map to see where you have been and where you intend to go in an effort to "learn" something or get an edge based on where you have traveled trying to avoid your mistakes and learn your lessons. Your intended final destination is not always where you will end up on this crazy life journey.

For those of you who follow my posts and read this blog you know that it is Down Syndrome Awareness Month and I have had the true privilege of sharing my story and some motherly wisdom via Savvy Auntie and EdiTORIal in an effort to educate; promoting tolerance, inclusion and respect. 

I wanted to share these words and this analogy from 
Emily Perl Kingsley (c. 1987) which is a fabulous literary illustration of how I too felt when my son's diagnosis of Down Syndrome was given to me. 

Welcome To Holland

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 Michelangelo David. The gondolas in 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 going to 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, full of pestilence, famine and disease. 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 for 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, ever go away... because the loss of that dream 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.

I love how simple, honest and true this analogy is. This does not just have to apply to being gifted with  a special needs child of any kind, but to life itself. We all "think" we know where we are going or where we would like to go. Sometimes ending up in the most unexpected place for which you feel ill prepared is the BEST place after all.

BOOK recommendation: There is a book called 

"Road Map to Holland: How I Found My Way Through My Son's First Two Years With Down Syndrome"

a mothers story of having twin boys, one born with DS, diagnosed when he was born.


  1. Thank you for sharing this lovely analogy by Emily Pearl Kingsley, Lisa.
    I particularly loved her quote about Holland having Rembrandts! How special is that <3
    Another great read!

  2. Thank's Jackie! xox IT is a great analogy for life. We all have such great expectations but it is when we remove the expectations life is GREAT!

  3. Still here. Still walking this path with you.

    He is ADORABLE!