When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip - to Italy. You buy a bunch of guidebooks and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. 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 guidebooks. 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 awhile 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 significant loss. But...if you spend the rest of 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.
-Emily Perle Kingsley
This touching essay has been shared many times, especially with parents whose children have been newly diagnosed. Some parts resonate with every parent who has a child with special needs. Why? Because I think this essay resonates with every parent. Period. We all have those moments when life rises up and slaps us. Whether our children are typical or atypical, we all have those moments we wish we didn’t have to go though. Moments we wish our children didn’t have to go though. Things we just didn’t sign up for.
I have two sons with autism. They are both on the severe end of the spectrum. Most of the time, I am busy going forward--or maybe just getting through the day! I don’t feel the pain I felt when each of my boys was diagnosed. Thankfully, that pain is not the kind that never, ever, ever, ever goes away. The pain just sort of morphs, numbs, and get buried. We get busy. Life goes on. Yet to deny that the pain exists is...inaccurate. Any parent with a disabled child--especially one who has grown to adulthood--is acquainted with those twinges of pain. They occur at milestones like high school graduation. They occur when you first enter the door of that Day Program. They occur on those rare occasions when you have a moment to really think.
On the other hand, when I’m really thinking, it does enter my head that there are a number of things I will never have to face! I will never worry that my child will disappear into the world of drug use or addiction. He won’t drive drunk. He won’t marry the wrong person. I won’t even have the worry of him doing an honorable thing, like going off to war.
I guess all parents can get a little teary-eyed when they think about the many challenges their children may have to face, especially in these uncertain times. None of us can change that reality. What’s needed is reality that is...real. Consider this today. It’s from the Bible. It reminds me that what we experience on earth is very temporary, and eternity is forever!
For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. -II Corinthians 4:17-18
If you and I can catch that eternal perspective (and purposely hold on to it!), that will change everything. That will change us.
- Joan Van Veen, Mom of two guys with autism and VP of Marketing at PMF