Welcome To Holland – Raising a Child With a Disability

The following is a fairly well-known story/parable about raising a child with a disability. It is touching, inspiring, and comforting. And while it was written for a specific kind of unexpected living, I find it just as powerful for describing the loss of expectations in every aspect of life. I include it here in support and encouragement to all dealing with disabilities in their families, but also for all who carry the weight and burden of disappointment and grievance on their shoulders. May God use this to move you towards a greater reality of healing, hope, and a fulfilled future.

c1987 by Emily Perl Kingsley. All rights reserved.

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. 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 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 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….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 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.

About VIA



  1. Anonymous

    This makes me cry every single time I read it.

  2. Debra Kelley

    While visiting my family practice Physician today he told me that his newest grandchild is a Downs syndrom Baby. I have known Mike since college and have a grandson of my own. He has this posted in every office of his practice. I admire him as a person as well as my physician. Love, Patience, and Understanding – Thank you Dr. Fetherson for sharing not only with me but with all of your other patients. Our Prayers are will you all!

  3. Janice Murphy

    I copied this years ago from Dear Abby, but misplaced it. Can’t believe I found it again and this time I have copied it. It so described raising my son with Autism who is different but has brought so much joy and happiness into our lives. He is now 25 years old and has turned out to be an amazing man.

  4. I read this in college. Thank you for reminding me of this important message!

  5. my cousins ran a facity for disabled children near hilversum in the 1920. I think the name was Van Oosten or Hillehonda. I wonder if anyone knows anything about this place. I would be very grateful if so. Am unable to find any information on the web.
    Lovely site

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