As part of my collection of books that I first ordered when Gellibean was born, I was sure to order The Road Map to Holland, by Jennifer Graf Groneberg. When I searched for books on Down Syndrome on Amazon, this is one of the first memoirs that will come up. I didn’t have anything to go on at that time, so I ordered all the top picks and top search options from Mr. Google.
Road Map to Holland was one of the first memoirs written by a mom to a child with Down Syndrome. It was published in 2009 and shares the author’s struggles of not just with having a child with DS, but also with the fact that she had three children under the age of four. Parenting is never easy and Jennifer shares the good and the bad with a myriad of details that many mothers can relate to when going thru their days.
Keep in mind that Road Map to Holland was groundbreaking in the sense that she not only shared her disappointment with her son’s diagnosis, she worked her way through it having the revelations and shifts in perspective that many of us can relate to as “Special Mothers.” Previously, many of the books that parents could find for help with Down Syndrome, were clinical and not written from a parents perspective.
I wanted to take the time to share the poem by Emily Perl Kingsley which is the inspiration for the title of Jennifer’s book. It’s not a tear jerker like “The Special Mother,” by Erma Bombeck, but it is quite valuable in helping us put things into perspective. Holland is a beautiful country after all, isn’t it?
WELCOME TO HOLLAND
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.
Emily Perl Kingsley.
c1987 by Emily Perl Kingsley. All rights reserved