If you read my first post about Italy you’ll know what I’m talking about here. This whole journey of being a parent; you think you’re on your way to Italy. You’re all prepared for it:
* learned the language – vafanapoli
* got the t-shirt
* bought a flat above a pizzeria and got your Godfather impression perfected
…you get the picture. Except when the plane lands, you’re not in Italy, you’re in Holland. It’s not what you expected. Even going full on British tourist like saying things really slowly at a loud volume, doesn’t help. Throwing plastic patio furniture outside bars definitely doesn’t help, although it might make you feel better. You’re stranded in a world of tulips and weed.
Well now I feel like I’m becoming an citizen. I’ve visited the British Embassy in Amsterdam wearing my clogs and I’m looking to rent a windmill. Perhaps I should explain. Everything is starting to move forward. We have Portage beginning on the 1st October which I’m excited about. We have had our referral for Derian House and are being visited by their team next week. Today we have visited Millwood Special School and the Community Nurse and Health Team are visiting next week to discuss a care package and plan.
I am slowly being immersed in Dutch culture and to be honest it’s not as scary as I thought. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to be in that Italian pizzeria, but I feel like Isla will flourish in Holland and may possibly end up with dual nationality… Brexit depending.
I was talking to one of the Governors at Millwood today who said she initially questioned if a special school was the right place for her child. That’s kind of how I feel. At times you wouldn’t know anything was wrong with Isla, and given time she may well catch up with her peers, who knows? She is making progress and the longer she goes without a seizure the easier things should be for her. Now these might not seem like big steps, but twice in the last week Isla has realised she needs me to get what she wants. She has come and taken my hand and led me to where she wants to go and indicated what she wants to do. I’ve never been so proud. It’s a massive step for Isla: first to interact with someone to get what she wants, and second to communicate what she wants to do. We still don’t have words but she’s making lots more noises. The Governor at the school was telling me that she and her husband once had a conversation about whether or not their son would ever talk, as all he did was make random noises and flap; well now he’s 21 and so articulate that you’d have never known there was a problem. Now I know I can’t compare that with Isla because who knows what the future holds and who knows what condition she is in mentally after having so many cardiac arrests, but this last week her communication progress has given me great hope. Yes I know, it’s the hope that kills you… but everybody has to hold on to hope don’t they?
Off on a tangent time – Speaking of hope, ‘A New Hope’ – Star Wars – Jedis – I swear Isla is a Jedi. She can pick things up without seeing it or really knowing it’s there. She can reach and grab objects by sensing their presence, using either her hands or her feet. It’s actually a real talent! My only concern here is that Luke and Leia’s father was Darth Vader. I can only think Isla is like Yoda. Possibly why she has a communication delay… While it took for him to talk I bet.
Looking round Millwood today made me realise that actually, Holland is pretty awesome. I’d rather Isla be in a place where she can be safe, secure and happy and fingers crossed she can get a place there. After all, this is all about Isla; it’s not about my hang ups and worrying about an image. It’s all about what is best for Isla. I can’t wait to start Portage education next week. Portage is a home-visiting educational service for pre-school children with additional needs. I’ve heard so many stories about how great it is and now Isla is finally stable enough for things to really start to help her move forward.
Lots of positives really but I can’t help but feel overwhelmed. So much is happening all at once and my baby is becoming a little girl. A little Jedi Bear (so maybe not Yoda, maybe a Wookie or Ewok) growing up in Holland, when she should be in Italy. However, Isla is happy in Holland so I’m beginning to become happier too. Yes it might rain while we’re in Holland, but tulips can’t grow into beautiful flowers if the sun shines all the time. Saying that, flowers make me sneeze. Stupid tulips and Holland!
Someone has actually written a part 2 to Welcome to Holland. They’re obviously further into life there than I am, but the start of it rings very true.
Welcome to Holland (Part 2)” by Anonymous
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 travellers 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 travellers 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 traveller 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!