I was thinking (dangerous)… The Welcome To Holland poem represents the path parents take as they learn to accept their newborn child with special needs. The most common interpretation I hear is that the story is an analogy for New Parent Expectations… dashed. Rome is where you thought you were going when you give birth to your “typical” child and Holland is where you ended up as the parent of a child with special needs. You had it all planned out like a vacation. You thought you were going to Rome, you packed, you studied, you learned the language, blah blah blah… AND you ended up in Holland. Following the story, you eventually learn to appreciate all the beauty that Holland has to offer and you gradually come to accept that you will never be in Rome.
That sort of makes being in Holland second best. And, I’m not buying that! But, that’s just me….
Between [all of] you and I, I’ve always had issues with this analogy. The thing is, anyone in this day and age who enters into parenthood with concrete expectations that they’re going to Rome is seriously delusional and in for a rude awakening. I’ve witnessed the shock when new parents suddenly find themselves in the ever-changing state of parenthood. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying the story doesn’t necessarily accurately portray the journey of acceptance for many new parents of infants with special needs. It’s the pre-parenthood preparation that gets me. “Typical” or not… Do they really think as new parents that they’re going to have it all under control? They honestly think they know just how things are going to be? Like how tired they’re going to feel after going weeks without even one single night of uninterrupted sleep? Or, 2 days without a shower (because you’d rather sleep)? And, they can figure on just exactly what to pack for such a journey beyond a crib and wall-color? Heck, even the crib didn’t work for us (for our “typical” or special needs children)! And, doesn’t for many… some of whom will never publicly admit that their children sometimes sleep in their bed!
Actually, I do KNOW some people like this, who think they KNOW, and they crack me up as I watch them [gracefully?] serpentine with the utmost [facade of] control — in their minds anyway — through their parenting careers! They put their infants on a schedule. I put myself on my infants’ schedule… Easier than fighting it! Their children always sit at the table through the meal and eat all their vegetables! Mine don’t even sit long enough to finish a slice of pizza! They have their infants sleeping 8 hours through the night. Yup, mine too when no one is looking. Or, maybe they mean Daddy is sleeping 8 hours through the night (while Mommy gets up every time the baby stirs). Truly… I’m still laughing!
Honestly, I never thought I was going to Rome. My personal analogy would have been more like bungee jumping with a start-up company using second-hand bungee cords. As I took the leap, I wasn’t really sure whether my ankles or back would hold out for the “snap”! I’m still not sure! But, this is just how I thought about parenthood… and how I’ve gone through each day since. I can speak only for myself when I say I thought I knew that parenthood would be unpredictable (memories of my upbringing flash through my mind)… But, it has astounded me beyond words in every way. I don’t think it’s even possible to go into it with your eyes wide open… to be able to anticipate all that comes with parenthood. That’s sort of my point, I guess. If it were possible to know/anticipate it all, I think there would probably be a lot less people in the world. And, it’s not like you can dip a toe in and test the water before you jump. Me? I realized mid-air that I’d jumped into the deep end (though I didn’t know how deep) but I did it purposefully with a song on my lips and a prayer in my heart. It was, and parenthood is, a complete leap of faith!
Now thinking about all this makes me laugh out loud… But, here’s the thing that’s got me really belly laughing today. It just dawned on me that I… ME… YOURS TRULY… actually thought I was going to… not so much Rome but maybe Paradise Island… when I got married!!!!! Now THAT’S funny! I’m still cracking up right this very minute at the stupidity of it! MY stupidity! How was I so realistic about parenthood and so delusional about marriage?
In my defense, unlike parenthood (because babysitting doesn’t even come close) there is a precursor to marriage — commonly known as courtship and oftentimes culminating in a tropical honeymoon — that leads both parties to believe (perhaps falsely) that they are, in fact, headed for Paradise Island… NOT Gilligan’s Island. But, clearly, Gilligan’s Island is where I ended up. We are like the Howells with a twist of Everybody Loves Raymond, maybe. That would make me “Lovey” with a dab and Debra, and Tim is Thurston with a taste of Raymond. Believable. All the Howells wealth could not get them off that island. OK, so we haven’t got much wealth these days either — not since we bought a house with a 30-year mortgage and had 3 kids. Which means, I guess, we’re stranded!
When I applied the Welcome to Holland concept to marriage, the whole thing began to make more sense to me… While I was totally expecting Paradise Island with all it’s trimmings as I entered into marriage, I realized not too far into this trip that we missed Paradise by a smidge. But, I HAVE truly come to love and appreciate my Gilligan’s Island. I have a comfortable, if not modest, home that shields me from the elements (most of the time). My husband comes home to our hut for dinner every night. And, like the 7 stranded castaways, I spend my time trying to survive — sometimes without modern conveniences (have you seen my house?). Surrounded by my closest friends and loved ones in a beautiful place with a boat that doesn’t work, there is no escaping… Even if I wanted to — which I don’t — I wouldn’t even know which direction to go. I’m very happy here on Gilligan’s Isle… with a twist of Holland.