Explaining your experience as a Special Needs Parent is gut wrenching on the best of days.
The last couple of weeks I have been trying to figure out how I would explain my experience to someone who has never lived with a Special Needs Child or with any child, for that matter. Where do I start and where do I end? What is the best way?
Then I remembered the Holland story.
The Holland story is famous throughout the special needs environment. You might have heard it from a therapist, a doctor or a teacher. This story is usually used trying to explain what happens to you when you become a special parent.
The basic version of the story is as I remember it: You and your husband have a dream to live in Australia, after many years of planning and preparing the day finally arrives. You board the plane. You travel and look forward to your arrival in Australia when, over the head speaker, they announce: “Welcome to Holland…”
You are not prepared for – or excited about Holland, but you have arrived, and there is no turning back.
I am not sure if a specialist or parent came up with the story. I would imagine that if it was a parent, there might have been a bit more emotion involved for example the plane crashing in Holland? Giggle giggle…just wondering.
Gut wrenchingness aside… it can only be good to communicate our experiences to the people around us, those who are ignorant and who hurt us without even knowing, and those who judge us.
Then I thought what if I expanded the Holland story from the parent’s view? The purpose: To try to explain how it is, living in my Holland … here goes…
I am excited to write you a letter fresh from Holland. We haven’t spoken for a while, I guess I had to take some time to adjust to everything here. Us just arriving here was so unexpected and everything is so different from how I imagined our life abroad.
Anyway, it has been 10 years since we first arrived. I can’t believe how time flies!
My description of Holland is that it’s small, different, beautiful, merciless and life changing. All at once.
We had to adjust our whole way of doing things. We had specific ways, but everything, as we imagined it would be in Australia, had to change. We had to replace our wardrobes for the wet weather. We sold the car, since there are no use for that here. Both of us also changed, you almost don’t have a choice,” Adapt or Die”…if you know what I mean.
Soon we “kind of” adjusted the best we could. The language … a whole other ballgame. You have to hear it to believe it. It takes a while to be on the same page as everyone else here.
The thing that surprised me most about Holland is that you never really know everything there is to know about the neighborhood you live in. Just when you think things are settling, someone decides to change a traffic rule or your rates and taxes bill gets pushed up, A LOT.
We have learned to love Holland, even though it was not our choice destination. We love the flowers, the quint houses and magnificent food. We made our own little house beautiful, although it is very small, and there is no options to expand on the property. You even, eventually, understand and speak the language fluently.
I still mourn our dream of living in Australia, but the pain is changing day by day into living this new dream. After all, crying is good for us, it cleanses the soul.
The other day a friend, from our family back home, came to visit. She was so excited and we enjoyed having her here for a visit. She discovered many things about Holland and were so inquisitive. One of the days she insisted to visit one of the cities alone, we let her go, and unfortunately she had to face some doors closed in her face, and unfriendly people, after quite a few hours of travelling. Holland can be ruthless when it comes to rules. You only learn all the different ways when you live here, and even then, something might still catch you off guard.
Well that’s my letter to you for now, a lot more to tell, but we will keep that for another day.
Hope you will visit soon, will love to show you all the interesting and unique things in Holland.
Your Special Holland Friend!
I am sure these words don’t even begin to describe your emotional experience or the crazy situations you had to play out over the years. Maybe Holland can be a soft starting point of conversation when you have to stomach the “Only the strong people get these kids” comment or when someone offer to have an easy solution to your child’s temper tantrums and delayed toilet training.
I salute you dear person now living in Holland!
You are fearfully and wonderfully made.
Written by Johanni Meiring