Welcome To Holland

Even though she has won 17 Emmy awards and has been nominated an additional 14 times, you may not recognize the name Emily Perl Kingsley. She has been a writer on the Sesame Street team since 1970 and has written over 20 children’s books in addition to contributions on numerous other videos and shows.

In 1974, her son Jason was born with Down Syndrome. The doctors told her he would never walk or talk, that he should be institutionalized and they should tell everyone he died in childbirth. They didn’t listen to the doctors.

In 1987 Emily wrote Welcome To Holland. Since that time it has been set to various music formats and been printed on t-shirts, aprons, cards, calendars, posters, dolls, stained glass and numerous other surfaces.

If you’ve never read it or if your life has been touched in some way by a special needs child, her words are an inspiration to all.



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.

32 thoughts on “Welcome To Holland

  1. aFrankAngle

    Life is so much about perspective, and Emily has hit that point to the side of everyone’s head. For the past 1 1/2 years i have volunteered with ballroom dance for adults with DS … and the experience has been absolutely wonderful!


  2. vanbytheriver

    What a beautiful piece. To miss the beauty around you because of other expectations…her story can be applied to so many things in life. This is a wonderful perspective. Thanks for sharing it, George. 🌻 🌹 🌷 🌼 🌸


    1. George Post author

      You’re so right. She really nailed not only her situation but that of so many others who face difficult times in their lives. It’s such a creatively beautiful piece.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Ann Coleman

    What an incredibly beautiful post! I’ve never heard of this book, and am very grateful to be introduced to it. I like the honest admission of the sense of loss, and the even stronger sense of accepting what has been given. Thank you so much for sharing this…it’s given me a lot to think about, and a much better understanding of the lives of parents with special needs children.


  4. ntexas99

    As a survivor of chronic physical and sexual abuse, I spent a good amount of time mourning the person I might have become had that chapter of my life not been written in that way. It took me many years of counseling and therapy to finally reach a place where “Holland” was a place that held something of value, and although the sorrow of having never visited Italy was real, and valid, and understandable, an appreciation of Holland finally allowed me to move forward in my journey of healing. I couldn’t erase Holland, so I might as well try to see the beauty.

    I echo what the others said … thanks for introduction to this lovely author, mom, and traveler, and thanks for sharing a glimpse into her story. Very uplifting, and encouraging. May we all learn to embrace the Holland moments in our lives. πŸ™‚


    1. George Post author

      I’m sorry to hear about the difficulties you faced in life but happy to know you’ve begin to heal. I can’t imagine what it may have been like for you and I know the journey has not been easy but hopefully you will find the beauty in peace one day.



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