When you're expecting a child, you have all these things in mind that you want to do with them, and things that you're excited for them to do. Play sports, be in theater, play an instrument, etc. Play catch with them, run around playing soccer, and hanging out at the park.
When I found out I was pregnant with Nicholas, I was a little bit (okay, a LOT bit) in shock. He wasn't planned, but a nice surprise. Of course we found out ahead of time that it was a boy. (So I'm a planner, okay?) I was so looking forward to being a baseball mom....teaching him not only to play the game, but to love watching it as well. We bought him Vikings clothes galore, and teeny baseball caps. He played a few years of baseball and soccer, but decided it wasn't for him. Instead, he's the intellectual.
18 months later, Emily came along. Yay, a girl to dress up and do her hair! An independent little thing from the start, and still is, she loves to dress in pink, but hates having her hair done. She plays softball, soccer, and hockey, and comes in from playing outside absolutely filthy.
When Emily was 2 1/2, Jacob was born. A couple years later, he was diagnosed with Autism. I could see my dreams changing. Instead of watching him on the ballfield, I was watching him spin in circles and walk on his tiptoes back and forth behind the backstop, trailing his hand along the links of the fence.
At the park, I couldn't just sit and watch him play. I had to be two steps behind him, making sure he didn't run off. He didn't sit and play with the other kids, he walked along the border of the park, flipping his hands around.
He might be able to play baseball someday, but until then, I'll be content with the fact that *he's happy wandering around the park.
I read this poem years ago, and it pretty much sums it up. It's called "Welcome to Holland"
Welcome To Holland
Emily Perl Kingsley
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.
So, I haven't given up on my dreams for my kids, I've just changed them a little.