While I’ve always appreciated the sentiment behind the “Welcome to Holland” poem, I’ve always felt it wasn’t us. Sure, we experience a lot of the emotions that parents of children with special needs experience, but something was different.
Then I realized it. We’re not flying to Italy. We’re not even flying to Holland.
We’re sailing to Ithaca.
It’s not the loss of our destination that we’re grieving. We will get to Ithaca. But we’re learning that our journey will be slow. And we’re learning that that is a blessing.
We see people zooming past us, up on a plane, doing 20-50 knots. On a good day, with a perfect wind, on a beam reach, we do 7.5. Yet our destination is the same.
Because we move slower, we see more port than other people see. Every new word is a visit to Harrisville, to Roger’s City. “Banks (thank),” “I wuv you,” and, yes, “sushi, peez!” are all treasures. Other parents will cruise past all this, but we see every stop, every milestone. And they all are celebrations. Nobody is as proud as us–or as proud of Beanie’s team.
We see to port of Head Start, which is wonderful. We anchor out at Family Respite Day (at her therapy center) and modified movie day.
We don’t worry that we’re not in port yet, because we’re dancing with the wind.
Sometimes we’re weathered into unpleasant ports–potty training has definitely been our Alpena. But Moonraker left, and so will the Bean. Some ports are wonderful–like our unexpected stay in Tawas. Beanie’s articulation disorder has actually been this for us. What could be cuter than “banks”, “nuggle”, and “cool bus”?
So, if you have a child with special needs, don’t be afraid to keep the destination in mind–Ithaca is why we set out–but still relish the slow journey. And, if you do not have a child with a disability, focus less on the destination and more on the parenting and the childhood. “They grow up so fast.”
Have Ithaka always in your mind.
Your arrival there is what you are destined for.
But don’t in the least hurry the journey.
Better it last for years,
so that when you reach the island you are old,
rich with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to give you wealth.
Ithaka gave you a splendid journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She hasn’t anything else to give you.
And if you find her poor, Ithaka hasn’t deceived you.
So wise you have become, of such experience,
that already you’ll have understood what these Ithakas mean.
by Constantine P. Cavafy