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Parenting 101.now what?

October 8, 2010

 

So today as I took a lunchhour run to relieve some of the stress from a weeklong battle of high bloodsugar angst, I was taken back a few years to a poem I connected with. You see this entry will have nothing to do with running or bloodsugar, but much to do with a place called Holland. Simply because as I let go of the stress and turned down Old Holland Road at about 1 mile in – my eyes focused on the word Holland and my mind was rolling the rest of the run!
For many this poem may be familiar, for others perhaps you can relate to it in a perspective other than a special needs child. I can identify with this poem as it was an unexpected and dare I say undesired trip that I encountered in 2003. I, not unlike most, had visions of anything but a disabled child when I embarked on fatherhood. However, at 20 weeks into my wifes pregancy I was issued a boarding pass…

Welcome to Holland!
by Emily Pearl Kingsley

I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability – to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel.
It’s like this . . . 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 Michalangelo David, the gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. 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 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 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 for a while and you catch your breath, you look around, and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills, 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.” The pain of that will never go away, because the loss of that dream is a very significant loss. But if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, you will never be free to enjoy the very special, very lovely things about Holland.

 

 

As it turns out my trip was anything but undesired – it was perfectly planned! Of course it had challenges, it was not easy, but is parenting a typical child easy? No, that too I know. Not only did I find Holland to be much more beautiful than I had expected, but it was such a place of growth for me personally. If I had not been forced to face the challenges that I faced I would not have been molded to who I am. I can say that with full confidence. Not only did I watch my child grow up, I too had a rapid growth spurt! I clearly can see that I am a much more well rounded person and parent now for my second and third children. I know not to take things for granted and to cherish the small moments.

Celebrating Holland- I’m Home
By Cathy Anthony
(my follow-up to the original \Welcome to Holland\ by Emily Perl Kingsley)

I have been in Holland for over a decade now. It has become home. I have had time to catch my breath, to settle and adjust, to accept something different than I’d planned. I reflect back on those years of past when I had first landed in Holland. I remember clearly my shock, my fear, my anger, the pain and uncertainty. In those first few years, I tried to get back to Italy as planned, but Holland was where I was to stay. Today, I can say how far I have come on this unexpected journey. I have learned so much more. But, this too has been a journey of time.I worked hard. I bought new guidebooks. I learned a new language and I slowly found my way around this new land. I have met others whose plans had changed like mine, and who could share my experience. We supported one another and some have become very special friends.
Some of these fellow travelers had been in Holland longer than I and were seasoned guides, assisting me along the way. Many have encouraged me. Many have taught me to open my eyes to the wonder and gifts to behold in this new land. I have discovered a community of caring. Holland wasn’t so bad. I think that Holland is used to wayward travelers like me and grew to become a land of hospitality, reaching out to welcome, to assist and to support newcomers like me in this new land. Over the years, I’ve wondered what life would have been like if I’d landed in Italy as planned. Would life have been easier? Would it have been as rewarding? Would I have learned some of the important lessons I hold today?

Sure, this journey has been more challenging and at times I would (and still do) stomp my feet and cry out in frustration and protest. And, yes, Holland is slower paced than Italy and less flashy than Italy, but this too has been an unexpected gift. I have learned to slow down in ways too and look closer at things, with a new appreciation for the remarkable beauty of Holland with its tulips, windmills and Rembrandts.

I have come to love Holland and call it Home.

I have become a world traveler and discovered that it doesn’t matter where you land. What’s more important is what you make of your journey and how you see and enjoy the very special, the very lovely, things that Holland, or any land, has to offer.

Yes, over a decade ago I landed in a place I hadn’t planned. Yet I am thankful, for this destination has been richer than I could have imagined!

In this second poem I want reflect on the “fellow travelers.” We all have those people surrounding us that are on a journey along side of us – some of them might even be beside you and they are there because they were given a “Holland” ticket at some point in life. Would I even have the circle of friends that I have if I had gone to Italy as planned? I may have some of them, but many I would not even know of as our paths would not have crossed. If it had not been for that single change of direction in my life, so many things would be drastically different or atleast potentially so. I challenge you to invest in a fellow travelers journey, they might need a helping hand or encouragement at this point in their travels. Perhaps in turn they might even dare invest in yours.

Although my “Holland” was only here on the earth for 4 1/2 years, my journey continues along the projected course. Grief overcomes me certain days and that is ok. I am not angry, although certainly some situations frustrate me and I wish desperately that my child was still here for me to grow up with. I am full of Joy for him that he is free from the bondage that so captivated him here in the flesh. I believe that he is free from those chains as he runs through the fields of Grace in Heaven. Consequently, I am more free here for the remainder of my days because of the lessons I was taught through Cayden. I do not understand still all of the burdens my son had to endure, yet I know through many of them I learned valuable lessons to apply toward living a much fuller life.

Possibly you can find a few lessons in this third and final poem…

I AM THE CHILD

(Author Unknown)

I am the child who cannot talk.
You often pity me, I see it in your eyes.
You wonder how much I am aware of — I see that as well.
I am aware of much, whether you are happy or sad or fearful,
patient or impatient, full of love and desire,
or if you are just doing your duty by me.
I marvel at your frustration, knowing mine to be far greater,
for I cannot express myself or my needs as you do.

You cannot conceive my isolation, so complete it is at times.
I do not gift you with clever conversation, cute remarks to be laughed over and repeated.
I do not give you answers to your everyday questions,
responses over my well-being, sharing my needs,
or comments about the world about me.

I do not give you rewards as defined by the world’s standards — great strides in
development that you can credit yourself;
I do not give you understanding as you know it.
What I give you is so much more valuable — I give you instead opportunities.
Opportunities to discover the depth of your character, not mine;
the depth of your love, your commitment, your patience, your abilities;
the opportunity to explore your spirit more deeply than you imagined possible.
I drive you further than you would ever go on your own, working harder,
seeking answers to your many questions with no answers.
I am the child who cannot talk.

I am the child who cannot walk.
The world seems to pass me by.
You see the longing in my eyes to get out of this chair, to run and play like other children.
There is much you take for granted.
I want the toys on the shelf, I need to go to the bathroom, oh I’ve dropped my fork again.
I am dependent on you in these ways.
My gift to you is to make you more aware of your great fortune,
your healthy back and legs, your ability to do for yourself.
Sometimes people appear not to notice me; I always notice them.
I feel not so much envy as desire, desire to stand upright,
to put one foot in front of the other, to be independent.
I give you awareness.
I am the child who cannot walk.

I am the child who is mentally impaired.
I don’t learn easily, if you judge me by the world’s measuring stick,
what I do know is infinite joy in simple things.
I am not burdened as you are with the strife’s and conflicts of a more complicated life.
My gift to you is to grant you the freedom to enjoy things as a child,
to teach you how much your arms around me mean, to give you love.
I give you the gift of simplicity.
I am the child who is mentally impaired.

I am the disabled child.
I am your teacher. If you allow me,
I will teach you what is really important in life.
I will give you and teach you unconditional love.
I gift you with my innocent trust, my dependency upon you.
I teach you about how precious this life is and about not taking things for granted.
I teach you about forgetting your own needs and desires and dreams.
I teach you giving.
Most of all I teach you hope and faith.
I am the disabled child.

Trust me, if you ever find yourself in Holland and you wanted to go to Italy… just hang on for the ride and keep an open heart and mind.

Romans 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

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