Wednesday, July 24, 2013

What's Wrong with Holland?

(I have edited, and deliberated over this post like no other...I just decided to go ahead and publish it :)

The other day I was walking down an isle in a fabric store and a certain bolt caught my eye.  Upon further inspection I saw that tiny windmills dotted the fabric.  I thought, "how cute", and then noticed the bolt next to it from the same line had windmills and wooden shoes.  I found a third bolt on the shelf above that sported the same color scheme in a floral pattern.
I wanted to snatch them up because they were so fun but lately I've been trying to ask myself, when tempted to buy fabric or some other craft supply, if I really think I would use it.  I couldn't think of a way I would use these dutch prints so I unwillingly put them back on the shelf and walked on.  My mind kept working though and it didn't take long before something came to me ;)
I remembered hearing/reading an essay a few times that compares raising a child with a disability to taking a trip to Holland.  That's it!  How nifty would a quilt out of those fabrics be to represent our journey with Ben?  I even envisioned it being our "seizure" quilt and wrapping him in it to sleep and snuggle in my arms after each seizure.  I went right back and grabbed those bolts off the shelf...triumphant in my idea!
At the cut counter I ended up telling the woman of my intended project.  She had never heard the essay but she too has a son with a disability.  I encouraged her to Google "Welcome to Holland" and read it.
And that was that...except that the topic lingered in my mind.
(If you are not familiar with this short essay, and want to understand the rest of the post, I would encourage you to read it as well :)

Sunday morning I was lying on the couch with a sleeping Ben...after his second seizure of the day.  The rest of the family had gone to church.  The essay came to my mind again and I decided to find it.  I googled the title simply wanting to reread it.
I was truly surprised at what I found!
I had no idea it was so well known throughout the world.
It has been reprinted in many different publications in dozens of languages, has been the theme for conventions, been set to music and printed on t-shirts, cards, calendars and aprons among other things.
Many bloggers and other writers have written opinions about the piece.
There are those that love it, say it has literally "changed their life" and even some who have named their child "Holland" because of it.
There are also those that "hate" it...either because they think it is too harsh or because they feel it doesn't portray the pain enough.
I was surprised to find that people had such strong feelings against it.
I almost didn't want to read these opinions because I didn't want my idea ruined...after all, I had already bought the fabric!
My curiosity got the best of me though.
I searched further after reading some of the negative views and found an interview with the author.  This made me feel a bit better as she openly recognizes that it's not a perfect analogy and won't fit every situation...she never meant it to...but it worked for her.
Several counter essays have been written.
One blogger thought Emily Kingsley had gone too far in her description of the painful feelings of never having a "typical" child.  She wrote her own essay and titled it "Welcome to the Magic Kingdom!"
She writes that your trip to the M.K. is even better than you anticipated ...with no stone out of place, chip in the paint or gum on the ground.
Another woman wrote "Welcome to Beirut".
 (I prefer this abridged version)
She compares receiving the diagnosis of autism with the horrors of war.

All sides and views had many supporters.
I, myself, agree with parts of each essay (and while I disagree with other parts, I respect that these are the true feelings of these authors and my intent is not to disregard them).

I don't feel like I need to rewrite the essay and add my own version to blogland...I think that has been done enough, but I would like to add my opinion to those already voiced.

 I can relate a bit to "Magic Kingdom Mom" who can't understand why Ms. Kingsley would write that we are jealous of all our friends who go to Italy.  Most of the time I do feel like I'm the lucky one.  Why was I so blessed?  And yet, there are moments when I see or hear of children Ben's age (or younger) who are doing the "typical" 4 year old things and I pause and think, "Wow, Ben can't do that".  I think there will always be those moments...small flashing moments of viewing other "Italian" children and not really being jealous, but comparing the abilities of your child to theirs.  And yes, M.K. Mom, these precious souls are definitely a gift!
Although bullets and gaping wounds sound a bit harsh (at least in my opinion) I can also somewhat relate to "Beirut Mom".  Yes, the diagnosis, each seizure and hospitalization, the looming "less than ideal" prognosis and the very real possibility of losing your child do cut deep, but I also  know that the Lord binds up each wound and it is through Him that I absolutely know everything will be okay in the end.

So, while pieces of both of these essays do ring true, I say, 
What's wrong with Holland?
I don't feel like raising a child with a disability is all Mickey ears and carousel rides.  It is hard!
But I don't feel that it is as bleak as Beirut either.
Ms. Kingsley does not refer much to the nitty gritty, detailed, daily struggle of being in Holland but she does recognize the wonder and the joy that can be found there often, along with the hard parts.
Holland stretches makes me a better person...makes me more sympathetic toward others and careful of how I live my life.

So, my conclusion:
No, Holland is not Italy (nor is it the Magic Kingdom or Beirut) but Holland is beautiful and I wouldn't trade it for the world!

P.S. Hopefully I will get around to making this quilt soon (within the next 5-10 years :) and I will put it on my blog and remind you of this post and what it represents to me.
For now though, I will leave you with a few interesting facts I found while researching this topic.

* Emily Kingsley was a writer for Sesame Street for which she earned multiple Emmy Awards.
* She was a big factor in advocating the inclusion of people with disabilities on the show.
*When Emily's son Jason was born with Down Syndrome, they were counseled by a doctor to take him to an institution and tell everyone that he had died at birth!  I think knowing this gives greater insight into her writing.
* Holland is actually a very symbolic destination for the author to have chosen for her comparison...
Holland is below sea level.  Consequently, the inhabitants are in a constant battle against the water surrounding them (though not as much currently because of technological advances as they were in the past).  They relied on dikes, floodgates, drainage ditches, dams and pumping stations (windmills) in their struggle to keep the water at bay.

Besides, how could you NOT love Holland with all of these gorgeous views?! 
 (picture sources)


  1. What a beautiful post, Aimee. I love the insight into your world. Holland looks amazing to me, and so do you and your precious Ben--along with the other three precious souls in your care.
    Love the photos of you and Ben playing. : )
    May I make you a quilt from those fabrics so you can be using it?

  2. That's a beautiful little essay. I love it and the gorgeous fabric you ran into. I look forward to seeing what beauty you create with it someday down the road.

  3. Oh Aimee!! I'm on my way to read the essays!! Thank you so much for sharing this bit of your soul! What a precious child of the King you are!! And of course we know that Ben is ALWAYS in HIS HANDS!!! Blessings!!!

    Love the vacation photos!! We love visiting Yellowstone!! It is a gorgeous place!!

    Where did you find that fabric? It is absolutely lovely and I've been looking for some "Holland" fabric! Can you tell me the maker and maybe I can find it on-line.

    Blessings sweet lady!!

  4. The message I took to heart when I read that years ago is that there are so many times in this life that we have to adjust our expectations and I have loved that about "Holland". There is much to enjoy about "Holland", but it is not where one expected to land. What a beautiful idea for a quilt!