There’s a very famous poem called “Welcome to Holland,” written by Emily Perl Kingsley. It’s a beautiful poem, if you haven’t read it.
To summarize, Kingsley describes what it feels like to raise a child with special needs. She says that planning for a child is like planning an exciting trip to Italy. But when your child has a disability, your plane winds up in Holland instead.
Holland isn’t as flashy or exciting as Italy. But it’s pretty, slower paced, and has windmills. And even though you really wanted that trip to Italy, you appreciate Holland for all of its beauty and serenity.
I used to love that poem. I would post it on my Facebook page and tag moms I thought would appreciate the gesture. I’ve even been sent that poem from time to time by well-meaning loved ones. And I appreciated the gesture. I still do.
But the truth is, in my house, autism is nothing like going to Holland. Autism isn’t pretty. It isn’t serene. It isn’t slow paced.
In my house, autism is more like trekking through the jungle without a map. It’s loud. It’s confusing. It’s unforgiving.
The jungle is filled with cries that I can’t understand. It’s littered with obstacles that take all my strength to work through. There are dead ends around each corner, forcing me to backtrack and rethink my approach.
Don’t be fooled by the media, portraying the jungle as exotic and intriguing. I can assure you that’s only on the outskirts. Deep in the trenches, the jungle is often harsh, and it rarely sleeps.
The jungle can be a lonely place sometimes. It’s isolating. Sure, there are times I could call my friends in Italy, but I’m simply too exhausted from my daily excursions.
Luckily, most of the locals are very friendly and eager to help. You see, these locals have been on their own journeys for quite a while now. They are much more knowledgeable than I am.
But they’ve split into different tribes. Each tribe has their own idea of the best path. And they end up sending me in opposite directions.
So I try to absorb all the knowledge I can from each of them, and I continue to push through – knowing I will wind up lost and need their help again.
Don’t get me wrong. There’s fun to be had in the jungle. There are times of exploration and silliness. It just takes a lot more planning than it would in Italy or Holland. It takes more effort to make sure we stay safe.
There are also moments of intense beauty – like when the sun sets just after a storm. The entire sky lights up with colors I haven’t seen in a long, long time.
And there are moments of surprise and accomplishment – Like happening upon a hidden waterfall after a long, strenuous hike.
Those are the moments I hold on to – Those are the moments the jungle doesn’t seem so scary.
This journey we’re on is nothing like I ever imagined. But I will continue to keep us moving forward, even when I feel weary, because my little ones are worth it.