Friday, August 24, 2007

Welcome to Holland

Emily Perl Kingsley was told by her doctor that the Down Syndrome baby she had would never amount to anything and that, to spare her the grief of "putting up with him", he should be institutionalized and forgotten. She wouldn't hear of it.

She wrote a famous piece that has inspired and encouraged countless parents of special children. I am honored to present that piece to you.

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 guide books and make your wonderful plans - the coliseum, the Michelangelo David and 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 and 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 and buy new guide books. 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".

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 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.

© 1987, by Emily Perl Kingsley. All rights reserved.

As it turns out she was very right. Her "amounting to nothing" son Jason is an accomplished author, artist, musician, actor and linguist.
When we went to see her son's presentation we had the wonderful opportunity to meet Emily Perl Kingsley.

Here is the author with Mendele: She has a message for Mendele's family and friends:

"Hi, I'm Emily. I'm proud to be Jason's mom. I congradulate you on little Mendele who is going to be (he is already wonderful and he's just going to continue to be) more and more wonderful. Just keep loving him, stimulating him and giving him as enriched an environment and a life as you can and he'll be a joy to you and your whole family."

(Parenthetical note:
Jason's co-auther, Mitchell Levitz parents were also there and Mitchell's mom has a message for us as well:

"We're very happy that you're here and had an opportunity to meet Mitchell and Jason and get a sense of the road ahead. We hope that you have a very happy life and enjoy every day to the fullest."

Mitchell's father Jack Levitz with Mendele:

End of parenthetical note.)


Anonymous said...

Der Aibershter iz gut!

chana'le said...

Thanks so much. you're such an inspiration...

Anonymous said...

may the aibershter give you all the koach you need and your nachas will abound

Rivky Friedman said...

Amen and thank you. At the same time, we are learning that everyone has an obstacle to overcome, be it big or small so I bless each and every one of you with the strength and courage you need.

Anonymous said...

You guys are amazing parents! Mendele is so lucky to have the two of u! I'm majorly inspired by your love and dedication...

MyYeshiva said...

Shmuli & two are the purest definition of exemplary parenting. The love, dedication, and care you show Mendel should be (and has been) an inspiration to all those parents & families who have 'landed in Holland'. are the Star of the Show. Your smile lights up the world and in turn causes us all to smile. Keep up the great hard work!

Shmuli said...

Thanks Shmuli.