Does Holland even have Autism?!
I am sure you are familiar with Welcome to Holland. If you have not read it, look it up, and read it right now - you can find it here. It is a beautiful (short) essay that compares having a typical child to having a child with specials needs. Basically, the author says we all prepare to have babies. This is like preparing for a trip to Italy. It is exciting, there is so much to do when you get to your destination, and everyone you know is going there!
Then your child is born with special needs. It is as if you boarded that plane headed to Italy, but it lands in Holland instead. You are sad that you went to Holland. This isn't what you planned. For the rest of your life, you'll see others in Italy...but you went to Holland. After some time there, you realize that Holland is very nice. Maybe a little slower-paced than Italy, but it has tulips and windmills. Holland is still a great place to be!
I first read Welcome to Holland while in college. It really resonated with me, perhaps because I would, one day, find myself in Holland. I have reread it many times since that day, and I still love it; however, I have found some "problems" with it.
First of all, I don't think that our lives are "slower paced." If anything, I feel like it is more hectic than average. I saw a meme the other day that had me belly laughing because it was so accurate. The top of the picture showed some relaxing gorillas. They were wearing sunglasses as they leaned back in their lounge chairs. You could tell that the two gorillas were quite relaxed and enjoying themsleves. The caption read: “Typical parents watching their kids at the park.”
The lower half of the picture showed a stressed-out monkey (here I'll admit, I don't know what kind of animal it is - but it looks like some type of monkey! Don't judge me!). This one was standing, legs wide apart, eyes pried open, ready to run in either direction. Her arms were extended, ready to grab a running or falling child. Her facial expressions seemed pretty tense, even for an animal. That caption read: “Autism parent watching their kids at the park.”
At this point in my life, there is no "sitting back and watching the kids play." I am on that boy like Twix chocolate on my fingers after the boys go to bed. (Because, like any other mom, I save the good snacks until after they go to bed!) If he's on the go, so am I. I took him to the park the other day. There were so many people there, that if I had not stayed right with him, I could have easily lost sight of him. I am always ready to run, because he might take off running and does not always listen when I say "stop!" I am most definitely not one of those relaxed gorillas at the park watching my kids!
You probably take your family to church on Wednesday nights. Not us. I take Finley while Curtis keeps Colin home. It would be so much easier and slower-paced if we could all just go to church, take the boys to their classes, and we could help out where needed.
Going to the salon to get a haircut? Bahahaha! Haircuts only happen around here if Colin takes a nap and I can sneak it in without waking him!
The author also says that Holland isn't as flashy as Italy. Well, I feel like our house is pretty flashy. We always have spinners, light up toys, light machines, noise machines, confetti, balloons, and streamers. Maybe it's just us and we like to party...
Reading Welcome to Holland as an autism mom makes me question, "Does Holland even have autism?!" Well, now that I think of it, she said there are windmills. Colin does love a good windmill...
Another thing that Welcome to Holland overlooks is this: we never know where we will end up on this journey of parenthood. Sure, we all hope and pray for "healthy" babies. We all know, though, that this does not always happen. We all know there is a chance that we will have a sick baby. We may, Heaven forbid, lose a baby. We could have a child with special needs. We might have a very trying child who has difficult behaviors.
Making the decision to become a parent is kind of like playing Russian Roulette. You have no idea what is coming at you! There is no "plan" set before you that outlines exactly where you are headed. You might want to go to Italy, but you also know that you might end up in Holland. Or Amsterdam. Or Argentina!
My "takeaway" from Welcome to Holland is this: be happy wherever it is that you find yourself. Make the most out of your journey. Stop to smell the tulips and watch the windmills.
We have a 10-feet windmill in our yard. We chose the windmill as our symbol for our farm since it is windy where we live. This windmill was my gift to my husband for Christmas this year. The windmill gift was actually my mom’s idea, and I thought it was perfect! The irony of this purchase was lost on me at the time! After Christmas, I was rereading Welcome to Holland, and had a light bulb moment:
Not only will this windmill represent Windy Acres farm, but it will also represent our own little Holland. Visitors to our home will get to see just how great Holland can be…you just have to see it for yourself! Holland is a little different, but it's still a wonderful place.
“Welcome to our Holland.”
(You have know idea how much sweating, running, and bribing was happening for this photo! I think it captures well our lives here on the farm!)