Welcome to Helland
Looks like I hit a nerve with the last post about the so-called metaphoric essay, Welcome To Holland. It is worth noting that Ms. Kingsley apparently wrote the piece specifically for parents of kids like her son, if I may call that the category of the higher functioning disabled. My comments in the last post, and this, are directed at those of us who are parents of the severely disabled receiving the story as an attempt to console. Additionally, the intent of the sender is always, as far as I can tell, with the absolute best of intentions. I have had people who truly love me and Pearlsky send the essay, as well as other bloggers whom I greatly admire. But I guarantee you, the sender is never in my (our) club.
I’ve been thinking as to why the essay is so awful and I think I nailed it …
This is the key to the complete failing of the essay for our population:
You begin to notice that Holland has windmills. Holland has tulips. And Holland even has Rembrandts.
Right there is the false analogy, where the metaphor falls apart.
Many years ago I was trying to understand several concepts. Concepts such as god and evil. The question was, as I learned, a common question. Why would a god allow for evil? What is the point? I was told that in order to understand good you need evil. If there was never any evil then there would be nothing to compare the status quo to and you would not appreciate good.
Damn good explanation for the holocaust, no? No.
Italy has great vacation things to do, that is why it is in the essay. Italy also has some downsides, teams of child pickpockets, for instance. The essay does not take you to April 11, 1954 in Henderson, Nevada (the proposed most boring day in the proposed most boring city). Nor does it take you to a city that claims to be pickpocket free. It takes you to a different city with different positives, different “good.”
Take a look at Erika‘s post for the upcoming holiday entitled “Dear Santa.” Note what she is praying for … one can argue she is asking for “normal,” not great, not even good, just “normal” … a good night sleep, a mucus-free day.
My life, with respect to my children, is at best “normal.” I don’t have a shot at Italy or Holland. I pray for a seizure free day. I pray my daughter did not asphyxiate silently in the night and that I can wake her in the morning. The best possible is decidedly not Italy or Holland, it is staying home for vacation and not having the house burn down.
In Ms. Kingsley’s “Holland” her son has been in over 50 television shows. He is an active participating member of the “normal” society. He may be in Holland, or be his mother’s Holland, or wherever you want to take the metaphor. An argument can be made that her Holland is better than many cities (lives) with “normal” children.
Let’s geek out for a moment … here is a graph of a typical life, with its highs and lows.
Time goes on, you have your highs, good times, proud of your kids, etc. and you have your lows, job issues, illnesses, whatever.
Now let’s look at the life of parents and the severely disabled.
There ain’t no Italy, there ain’t no Holland.
The essay fails miserably in the metaphor. Where it could go is the discussion of where life is outside of the disabled child. My life at home with Pearlsky is the second graph. My work life, my social life, my blog life, those are the first graph. That is what keeps me alive. Read those two sentences again … my life does have good and bad, highs and lows, but my life with Pearlsky does not. It has acceptables and lows.
Praying for what most would consider “normal” is not what we envisioned. I’d love to pray for Holland, but my fantasies only go so far.
Another great one…man…I truly respect your smokewagon.
You seem to have this poem pegged – surely no one who knows you would give you a copy now-?! If anyone does give you one – well – into the circular file, eh?
Your graphs communicate clearly your life status. Entirely subjective but I expect members of your ‘club’ will relate.
Barbara, I fear sometimes that it might even go into THE GIVER’S circular file if you know what I mean, if given in close proximity on a physical sheet of paper.
Hey you know what would be the greatest? If Nurse Ratched gave SD ‘Welcome to Holland’ etched on a sheet of rolled up aluminum!
Hey does commenting twice make me a Blalker?
I guess it’s not around anymore, but I recall a more reality- based,
darker version of WTH, called Welcome to Beirut…..
A copy of Welcome to Beirut is here: http://www.bbbautism.com/beginners_beirut.htm
It’s not a parody, it doesn’t follow the metaphor to the same extent as WTH (known as the WTF essay around the ICF), but it’s less breezy. More agony and confusion, fewer Rembrandts.
The author’s son, Ben, has Autism and is severely disabled.
I just found your blog and have been reading from the beginning. I love your outlook and the way you choose to write about life with your daughter. I’ll be back often.
Awfully quiet out there. Everything OK? Or are you just suffering from the winter blahs like the rest of us?
JWG: I appreciate the concern, yeah, basically ok. Just added a new post. Trying to survive, as we all are! Thanks.
Excellent post. I always disliked “Welcome to Holland” but I wasn’t sure why it made my bullshit meter ring. Now I know. Having taught autistic teenagers (whoops! Sorry! The correct New Speak is “Teenagers with autism”) I’ve seen how parents suffer when their disabled (Darn! I did it again! “Differently abled” is the correct term) anyway, I’ve seen how parents suffer when their children gnaw their wrists bloody and scream all night while tearing their rooms apart. I didn’t see it first hand, for which I’m eternally grateful, but I saw it close up enough to know that it sucked.
I deeply mistrust the neuro-diversity bunch who seem to think that “accommodation” is going to solve the problem. Not only are they not living in reality but many of them are mad as hell that their kids are “differently abled” and they tend to lash out at innocent bystanders. I caught the wrath of one such parent when I left a comment that mentioned that my kids are “normal.” I wasn’t boasting, just stating a fact but whoa boy! I was taken to task for using the N-word. Apparently, they don’t know the definition of normal.
It scares me a little and I’m reminded of a certain short story by Kurt Vonnegut about a future society is which everyone is forcibly made equal in very unpleasant ways.
Anyway, good work. I like your attitude.
I kind of wish you had your own blog, Eliza – so more of your writing would be available. SD is good about referring new readers to his early postings, and so I will follow suit by giving the address for an early post I wrote: http://www.therextras.com/therextras/2008/07/the-n-word.html
These days I am (much) less apt to ‘speak for parents’ as I did in that post. I am more apt to say there is a continuum of response from parents to just about every word used regarding their child. Until I met SD, I knew no one who was so specific about the term ‘diagnosis’. Agreeing with you Eliza, SD does good work.
yes, you nailed it. brilliant, as always 🙂