As parents of special needs children, we are often handed this poem, Welcome to Holland, originally written by Emily Perl Kingsley (If you need a refresher, click the link!) Most people, I think, give it to you with good intentions. However it is a little tiring getting the same poem over and over. I’m sure you know the one, right?
I felt like I was never able to explain WHY I just didn’t like this poem. I mean, it’s great and I’m sure the writer didn’t expect for it to get so widely known. Or maybe she did. Kudos to her if she did! (I secretly hope something I write will have some sort of presence too!)
Last October, when I attended Blissdom Canada and finally realized I am a special needs blogger (I know, sometimes I deserve a “V-8” smack upside the head). And while I was there, someone sent me a NEW poem. “Amsterdam International” this one seemed to resonate with me better.
Being thrust into the special needs realm of parenting, I felt pretty alone. I am thankful for my own blog and here as well to talk about things important to myself, my family and you all as readers. Since we are a small family of 4, living 4 provinces away from “home”, it’s been a tough journey. One that doesn’t seem to have that fairy tale ending….yet.
As part of an escape for me, I read. A LOT. Besides my previous life in music, this hobby is very expensive to upkeep too. I generally look for “escape” models. Cheesy chick lit or even mysteries. Nothing usually dealing with special needs. I came across a facebook status from one of my friends. She was recommending a book I hadn’t heard of- “Schuyler’s Monster” eagerly, I googled to see what it was about. From the official book page-
When his daughter Schuyler was eighteen months old, a simple question by her pediatrician set in motion a slow transformation for Robert Rummel-Hudson, from a sarcastic, befuddled dad to the very last thing any new father or mother ever expects or desires to become: a special needs parent. Armed with nothing more than his love for his tenacious little girl and his determination to defeat her rare and invisible disorder, he fought his own depression, his past family dysfunction and the nagging suspicion that he was not the right person for the job. In doing so, he discovered a sense of purpose and responsibility, and became the father and advocate that Schuyler needed to help fight her monster.
Schuyler’s Monster is more than the memoir of a parent dealing with a child’s disability. It is the story of the relationship between a unique and ethereal little girl floating through the world without words, and her earthbound father. It is the story of a family struggling to find the answers to a child’s dilemma, but it is also a chronicle of their unique relationships, formed without traditional language against the expectations of a doubting world.
Ultimately, it is the tale of a little girl who silently teaches a man filled with self-doubt how to be the father she needs.
Immediately, I wrote my friend asking her if it was something she thought I could handle. She replied “he writes a lot like you. A lot of humor” I decided to give it a try. I normally don’t recommend books before I’m finished them (I’m 87% completed, thank you Kindle app!) But honestly this book resonated with me SO much that I actually reached out to Rob, thanking him for the book. (I told Rhea that I was nervous to write him. She didn’t understand. I hold writers in higher esteem then what I consider myself. I probably should change that mindset too).
The part that resonated with me immediately was Rob’s explanation of Welcome to Holland. Finally. For years I couldn’t put into words what bugged me, but he did.
“…The original author was writing about having a child with Down syndrome, and I doubt she intended it to get dragged out by well-meaning chirpy optimists trying to get their parent friends with broken children to turn that frown upside down. I also doubt she intended for it to come across as a subtle request to cheer the hell up already, although I am not the first special needs parent to note that this essay seems to be given out to us almost exclusively by people who are not in that same slow boat to Amsterdam with us…”
Finally. Someone who “got” it. Let me know, does “Welcome to Holland” work for you?