Friday, January 17, 2014

Why I hate "Welcome to Holland"

A well meaning friend recently sent me this essay.  It is called "Welcome to Holland", and was written in 1987 by Emily Perl Kingsley, a special needs parent who describes her parenting journey as being like getting very excited for a vacation to Italy (parenting expectations) only to find that she has been landed (permanently) in the quaint country of Holland (reality of special needs parenting).  It's very poignantly written, and definitely tells a story of how beautiful an adventure special needs parenting can be.

And yet, I hate it.

I really do.

And people keep sending it to me. "Read this!", they say excitedly, as most "neurotypical people" do. "It's so beautiful! It's exactly like what you are living. You love being a parent- it's just not what you expected!"

And I smile, and nod, and avert my eyes. They are so well-intentioned. I certainly don't want to hurt them or to discourage them from trying to find meaningful ways to relate to me and to our family.

But deep down inside, I want to punch someone in the throat beat the walls with a bouquet of proverbial Holland tulips.

Why, you ask?

Well, I can guarantee you this much: it's not because I hate Holland.
I also don't hate Italy. I've never been to either place, and I'm sure I'd love to visit them both.

And it's not because there isn't a certain element of accuracy to the idea that my reality doesn't match up with my expectations, thus sending me into a very unexpected place.

It's that, like it or not, every parent winds up in ITALY.

Yup, I said it. I'm about to blow this "parenting expectations" myth right out of the water.

You see, I would be willing to place a bet- a pretty substantial one at that- that, if you are a parent, your expectations of parenthood didn't quite match up to your reality.

Each and every one of us finds ourselves on this parenting journey a little lost, a little confused, a little disillusioned.  We each come into this game thinking that we know what the rest of our lives are going to look like.

From pregnancy to newborn, childhood, graduation, marriage, house, dog, cat, kids, grandkids...we have this beautiful picture of the baby that we are bringing into the world and how it will fit into our lives.

Some of us may even have gone so far as to dream of what they would look like. What career they would have. What hobbies they would love.

We fill our minds with countless dreams and expectations and anticipations...and it is all very happy and peaceful and joyous...

And then, bam- enter reality.

It happens to us all in different ways.

Reality hit me hard when the doctors told me that my 19 week old fetus would probably not live to term and would try to take me down with it.

Reality hit my husband hard when he got home from the hospital, looked at his newborn son and said "So...what do we do now?"

Reality hit my best friend when she was first pregnant and told that she was carrying a boy, despite being desperate to have a little girl. Reality hit her again when, just as she had gotten used to the idea of having a son, a little girl was born instead.

Reality hits the family of a child with severe egg or nut allergies.

Reality hits the family of the child who is gay.

Reality hits the family of the child who doesn't want to take over the family business, and instead dreams of being a ballet dancer.

Reality hits the mother who expected her son to sing as beautifully as she does, only to learn that he is completely tone deaf.

Reality hits the uncle who thought that autism meant "like that kid in Touch"

Reality hits the father who's son just can't stand still, no matter how many times he is spanked.

Reality hits the grandparents whose child has just been in a car crash, and may not live to see the next day.

It happens at varying times and in varying degrees, but one thing is certain: Reality will hit you, like a ton of bricks.

Nothing about parenting will be anything like what you expected.

The reason for this is extremely simple: Your expectations are about you. They aren't about your child. So when this little person enters into your world, with their own personality, opinion, experiences, beliefs, skills, talents, weaknesses and strengths, it breaks your brain.

Who they are and who they are to become actually has very little to do with what you expect from them.

It has to do with who they are, and how you guide them towards self-discovery.

So, in a way, we all wind up in "Holland"- a foreign country with absolutely no idea how to navigate it....

And I could leave it there, except for one thing.

We don't wind up in Holland. Being in Holland would imply that we were not involved in the final destination.  But we were. Special needs parents and non-special needs parents alike. We all chose our destination: Parenthood.

We CHOSE to go there.

You see, parenting is a choice. And it's one that is riddled with uncertainty, responsibility and- sometimes- heartache. But it is a journey we chose to embark upon.

None of knew what kind of kids we'd get. None of us can say for certain that our kids will do a, b, or c.  Hell, none of us can know for certain that they won't drown in a pool.
Or lose their legs in a crash.
Or spend a year or more in the hospital, recovering from a brain injury.

None of us know anything about the final destination. We are all flying blind.

So, instead of Holland, I posit this: We all wound up in Italy. 

The story goes like this:
What is special needs parenting? Well, it's pretty much like every other kind of parenting. Yes, we have very unique struggles, and yes there are definitely challenges, but there are struggles and challenges in everyone's lives and who am I to say that they are better or worse than yours?  
It's kind of like planning to go to Italy. You read all the books, you pick out all the restaurants you want to eat at, you dream all the romantic strolls you'll take. But then you get there and your trip looks nothing like what you thought it would look like. Some of us get lost trying to find our hotels, and wind up discovering a beautiful bed and breakfast to stay at instead.  Others lose our luggage, and spend the first two days at the airport, using the sink as a sponge bath. Others realize that being in a country where you do not speak the language is very scary and intimidating, and spend the whole time in their room, afraid to leave. Others still, get stormy weather the entire time- so instead of laying around on beaches and enjoying wine on patios, they discover the history around them in museums, and halls, and opera houses.  
The truth is, this trip is nothing like what you planned it to be...even if everything goes exactly as planned! Because you can't predict how something will feel. You can't predict how something will smell. You can't predict what will captivate you, or terrify you. All you can do learn as much as you can, before you leave and when you land, and focus on being adaptable and flexible. 
Whether or not you enjoy the trip is entirely up to you. 
So here we are, all in Italy.  But we're all having very different vacations, because we're very different people, raising very different children.

Is life with my Autistic child quite the same as what I thought parenting would be? Nope- it sure isn't.

But neither is life with my neurotypical daughter. And neither is life with my husband. And neither is my life, in and of itself.

It's all one crazy, wild ride, every day defying my expectations. The only thing that has actually gone exactly as I expected was this: I wanted to be a parent. And now I am one.

Italy. Not Holland.

Because I don't know about you, but the slower, tulip-picking pace of Holland has very little to do with my hyper crazy days.

And I wouldn't have it any other way.

Ciao, friends. Enjoy your stay while you're here.


96 comments:

  1. I have no words for how much I love this post. And your blog . Everything I've read.

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  2. Thank you for reading and for being a proud advocate for kids like mine. Our voices grow stronger every day! ~Zita

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  4. Replies
    1. (Blush) Thank you for reading. It actually always kind of struck me as common sense, but sometimes we just need to be reminded...:)

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  5. This is in definitely one of my favourite blog posts of yours. I love it!

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    1. Coming from you, that means so much. <3

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  6. Wonderful description. You don't parent a diagnosis, you parent a kid. And those small people are often more incredible than we could have expected.

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  8. I never really had expectations for my first child. I didn't know at all what to expect. For my second son I expected that he would play with my first son. That was the only expectation I ever had. At 6 months old, my son had his first gran mal seizure. I didn't know what was happening and thought he was dying. He went on to have 30 gran mals the month he turned one. He's 4 yrs old now. He's had the left temporal lobe of his brain removed and is on 5 medications, doesn't talk, can't self feed or dress and is at a 12 month old dev level...and STILL has daily seizures. He does play with my other son in his own little way. I can relate to the welcome to holland essay. It is painful to see my son have seizures and heartbreaking to watch him not be able to communicate. I do understand what you are saying...but still feel like I'm in Holland. I accept it and it is beautiful here...but at times it hurts.

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  9. You've made a compelling argument but you've missed the point of the poem. It's not for those of us well into our journey as, like you say, it doesn't apply, what it's good for is putting words around the hurt and confusion we feel when we first get that diagnosis, it provides a framework we can then build from.

    So, sure, it may not apply now but don't dismiss it out of hand. 8 years on, I still sometimes turn to it when I'm feeling low regards the hand my son was dealt.

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    1. I'm with you Jon, I found Welcome to Holland pinned to the parents notice board outside our daughter's ward one night whilst wandering the corridors unable to sleep, again.

      It gave us a new perspective and helped us come to terms with what was happening as the reality of our situation really hit home.

      We didn't go to Holland but we didn't go to Italy either, we toured the 'world' for a short but wonderful year and a little bit with our beautiful and unique little girl and we met some wonderful people along the way that our 'normal' friends never got to meet.

      I say to anyone, take from 'WtH' what you want or don't but do not 'hate it' please...we read it at our daughter's funeral along with a piece my wife wrote to our friends and family and I think of it even now when I think of her.

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    2. I'm with you Jon, I found Welcome to Holland pinned to the parents notice board outside our daughter's ward one night whilst wandering the corridors unable to sleep, again.

      It gave us a new perspective and helped us come to terms with what was happening as the reality of our situation really hit home.

      We didn't go to Holland but we didn't go to Italy either, we toured the 'world' for a short but wonderful year and a little bit with our beautiful and unique little girl and we met some wonderful people along the way that our 'normal' friends never got to meet.

      I say to anyone, take from 'WtH' what you want or don't but do not 'hate it' please...we read it at our daughter's funeral along with a piece my wife wrote to our friends and family and I think of it even now when I think of her.

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    3. As Jon Davies said, this poem was helpful for me when my child was diagnosed. In my case, it was with Down syndrome. And the Holland analogy works perfectly because everything is a lot slower. While other parents were bragging about how early their baby reached every milestone, we were waiting for that day our daughter would reach hers, if she would. But we learned to appreciate it all the more when it did happen. And while it's true that the years fly by and we should appreciate every moment of our kids' young years, with our daughter with Down syndrome, it's different. Her development is a lot slower, so it seems longer. She's 19 now, but looks and behaves like a 13yo. So we've been able to savor every moment with her. Yes, savor. The first several years were hard because of all the medical, physical and emotional challenges... Some due to expectations and some real concerns. But honestly, like the first and the second poem say, follow-up to the Welcome to Holland, I wouldn't exchange Holland for Italy, if given the option....not for my sake. Only for her sake, to make life easier for hers, maybe, would I change it.
      Our girl has taught me love, forgiveness, joy, and selflessness.

      All to say, both poems have helped me put into words what it's like for us as parents of a child with Down syndrome. Truly she is a blessing in my life!

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    4. As Jon Davies said, this poem was helpful for me when my child was diagnosed. In my case, it was with Down syndrome. And the Holland analogy works perfectly because everything is a lot slower. While other parents were bragging about how early their baby reached every milestone, we were waiting for that day our daughter would reach hers, if she would. But we learned to appreciate it all the more when it did happen. And while it's true that the years fly by and we should appreciate every moment of our kids' young years, with our daughter with Down syndrome, it's different. Her development is a lot slower, so it seems longer. She's 19 now, but looks and behaves like a 13yo. So we've been able to savor every moment with her. Yes, savor. The first several years were hard because of all the medical, physical and emotional challenges... Some due to expectations and some real concerns. But honestly, like the first and the second poem say, follow-up to the Welcome to Holland, I wouldn't exchange Holland for Italy, if given the option....not for my sake. Only for her sake, to make life easier for hers, maybe, would I change it.
      Our girl has taught me love, forgiveness, joy, and selflessness.

      All to say, both poems have helped me put into words what it's like for us as parents of a child with Down syndrome. Truly she is a blessing in my life!

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    5. I agree. I did very much like this poem. It did give me pause to think of all the things by daughter will do in her life that are so beautiful, even if they aren't some of the things I had planned before she arrived. I see your author's point, but feel there is plenty of people who do/did find peace from it.

      If I may, for the people that hate it, my two cents. I not very religious. Yet people often say religious inspired things regarding my daughter. Though I sometimes get sick of hearing it, I know they mean well. Why should I try to argue their statement, when a simple 'thank you' will do.


      Please know I am not against you opinion in the post, and I see many agree with you.

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  10. Thank you for writing this, I was sent a link to the Welcome to Holland essay a week ago and while I liked the idea there was something about it that I didn't like and reading this post has helped me realize what was bothering me. It starts out nice and relatable, you expect to land in Italy but you end up in Holland but as you stated that is true for all parents. When I reflect on it I think this is because people write more about 1 experience, but children don't come in just 1 or 2 types, these little ones have their own personalities, their own experiences, very few people get Italy and we should be happy that is the case, Italy is cool but if that was the only place people went Italy would be boring and predictable.
    The other key thing that bothers me about Welcome to Holland is that it doesn't talk to how Holland feels being compared to Italy all the time. It is nice that the traveller learns to appreciate and even love Holland but the entire thing is focussed on the traveller, as a parent you learn very quickly that what is important is the journey, providing for and improving the quality of life for Holland or Italy, or wherever life takes you.

    I understand the intent and I can appreciate how it may help some people cope with the stress at times but for me remembering that this journey is about improving the quality of life for Holland makes all the difference.

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  11. Thank you! well said!!! x a million. I am a parent of a beautiful child with multiple physical disabilities and an OTR/L etc...and cringe every time this poem is given out! Someone needed to say this and I am glad you did!!!!AWESOME!!!

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  13. So let me try this again and check my spelling before I post!
    Anyway, what a wonderful post - clarity! Helps me see our own situation in a much clearer light!

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  14. I agree with Jon Davies, about one thing...."Welcome to Holland" is for those who just left the plane and are wandering around in the terminal--confused and afraid.

    I found your blog today and thank you for it because of the clarity it brings to the reality of where we are--years down the road.

    I encountered "Welcome to Holland" in the waiting room of a Developmental Disabilities clinic shortly after I VOLUNTEERED to parent 1/2 of a set of twins born to a known drinking and drugging mom (birth mom didn't want to 'give up' both children at 4 weeks old).

    I figured I've fostered children with alcohol and drug-related strengths and weaknesses since I was 19; I have a differently-abled birth child who was nearly 30 years old, "I'm good to go!" However, when the second 1/2 of that twin set was left in my care, I was suddenly floundering--totally lost and confused.

    Why? My non-identical twins, were not even identical in the level/type of abilities caused by the SAME alcohol/drug-contaminated prenatal environment! It was like I had volunteered to return to a place with which I was familiar--knew the language, loved the people, tulips and daffodils and windmills--but recognized NOTHING when I turned a corner on this trip.

    Trying to reorient myself was not working. I was in a part of the country previously not visited--the badlands of struggling twins.WHO KNEW?!!

    For whatever reason, after 13 years, I had lost contact with my reality, and thought we'd moved to Belgium or Germany...we were out of Holland. Although we were repeating third grade for the third time, it seemed my twins were finally "getting it", making progress and no longer needing my constant vigilance on every lesson. Not so! Their steep drop in grades made that very clear.

    As I wandered around in the Valley of Denial--I again faced the reality that we have not moved. We're NOT going to move I Googled for "Welcome to Holland" and in finding it, found you.

    What your blog post did for me was bring me back to sure footing. Holland is, indeed, the Italy of parenthood. PARENTHOOD is what I do, and do well. All of the many facets of Italy (and it is a multifaceted, totally enthralling country) make it what IT is! Venice is not exactly like Florence, Rome, Trieste, or Budioa, but they all have one thing in common. They ARE places in the country! They have similarities. Each has a church, bell tower, market place, streets, houses, gardens, trees, animals and people...the "stuff" that makes up the country. And the things we encounter on the daily are the things that make up parenthood. Why, if you just MUST be in the Netherlands somewhere...there is even a city with canals like Giethoorn--Venice!!!

    Thank you for your insight and willingness to share. I'm good--again! :)

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  15. I disagree. My Holland is Italy. At first I didn't think so which is what this poem is saying. If you are faced with something life threatening or lifelong it's different than if a child decides not to follow the family business. Life is full of disappointment. Of course. I still face those types even with a child with a lifelong illness. Those are minor. The people who "go to Italy" don't always stick around to support and understand the journey that one takes somewhere else. So I think you are way off.

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  16. Wonderful reading to pep up special parents. However welcome to Holland is relevant reading for those with not special kids to learn the value of what they have, not brood over petty matters.

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    1. I'm the parent of an 18-y-o quadriplegic beautiful smart daughter with CP. Welcome to Holland was the first thing ever to ease the pain. I love the essay.

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    2. I'm the parent of an 18-y-o quadriplegic beautiful smart daughter with CP. Welcome to Holland was the first thing ever to ease the pain. I love the essay.

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    3. I'm the parent of an 18-y-o quadriplegic beautiful smart daughter with CP. Welcome to Holland was the first thing ever to ease the pain. I love the essay.

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  17. Everyone has their own interpretation of "Welcome to Holland" but the bottom line to me is it is a beautiful way of saying that we are all here for a reason and not everything in life is going to turn out perfectly and usually never does. When you are presented with a special needs child in your life, you become special. As the parent of a special needs child you may not be treated special by others but that doesn't matter because you only need to be special for that child who needs your love and understanding and care. I rarely write my feelings down in blogs but I came across this and felt I should write my feelings about it. I usually would devote this time to my child because he needs my time more. I know the intentions are good but there is way too much time spent picking apart an obviously well intended story here in this blog. Devote the time to making things better for your child and you.

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    1. I totally disagree and I seriously resent your implication that blogging is a waste of time that could be spent on your child. Just because something is well-intentioned doesn't mean it is above critique or on-target with its message. The author is not arguing against the intentions of "Welcome to Holland," she's offering an informed alternative to its takeaway. Part of supporting our kids is advocating for them, and to do that effectively we need to carefully and skeptically analyze the slew of opinions and interpretations that are flung at us daily. The details matter.

      In addition, all parents, of kids disabled or not, need a life outside parenting and a way to express themselves. Kudos to this blogger and all the others who devote their time to serious thoughts and educating others when they could be sleeping or playing video games!

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  18. Everyone has their own interpretation of "Welcome to Holland" but the bottom line to me is it is a beautiful way of saying that we are all here for a reason and not everything in life is going to turn out perfectly and usually never does. When you are presented with a special needs child in your life, you become special. As the parent of a special needs child you may not be treated special by others but that doesn't matter because you only need to be special for that child who needs your love and understanding and care. I rarely write my feelings down in blogs but I came across this and felt I should write my feelings about it. I usually would devote this time to my child because he needs my time more. I know the intentions are good but there is way too much time spent picking apart an obviously well intended story here in this blog. Devote the time to making things better for your child and you.

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  19. I would have to say that "Welcome to Holland" was an important milestone for the time and is still very relevant today. Especially because there are the parents that read all the books and are super prepared for their baby and know every milestone that they are suppose to hit, but then are suddenly at a lose when they get a diagnosis. They don't know where to turn or what to do. They don't know the resources and they are having to learn a brand new world and speak and brand new language.

    "Welcome to Holland" is perfect for parents that feel lost. Its not about predicting your child's future, but rather its about going to experience Italy. And you knew—in a general sense—how to experience Italy and go on the adventures Italy would give you. But then you find yourself in Holland where you have zero knowledge, zero competence in the country, and what was once a journey you were confident to take is a journey that you are now terrified to embrace because you don't know how to do it. You don't even know where to turn to get help, because your plane is gone. You're left stranded in Holland with no reservations, no ideas of navigation (and remember this was pre-internet, so there was no looking things up on Google), and not even any money, because you exchanged your money for Euros before you left.

    But you are now forced to think quick on your feet, and roll with the punches and live life in Holland while your friends live in Italy. And sometimes you'll visit, and eventually you will integrate your Holland into Italy, but getting there is a very different journey than everyone else. You get there on foot, fighting off therapies and medication and IEPs and EEGs, where other parents hop on the plane from America and gather up their T-Ball and Piano lessons, and loosely planned family outings, while you still meticulously plan your next expedition to advance your front to Italy.

    Welcome to Holland is all about how its not good, not bad, just different. And as a parent of a child with a disability, you must learn to work within that different and still always being working to get them as close to independence and adulthood as possible. Because if not, you risk stagnating and undershooting their potential.

    My brother with Cerebral Palsy was never suppose to walk or talk according to the doctors. He's now a Shift-Leader at Burger King. Holland is about the resilience parents like my mother are forced to exhibit. And its resilience in a much different way than other parents.

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    1. Hello Kyle Sanders, your response speaks to me, one hundred percent. I ask for permission to share it with a new friend who has just had twins - one of them has undeveloped limbs and my friend is devastated. I have a daughter who is blind and Welcome to Holland was one of the first things I read when she was born. It helped me then and it helps me now. Or should I be asking the blog owner, Momma Dulock, for permission instead? Thank you anyway. Stay well!

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  20. I read all your realities and yes they are things out o the norm But when you are given a baby who can't walk , see or hear you are faced with a lot more than a gay son or a child who don't want to behave . This is where Holland comes in. it helps people that yes we all have struggles we all have our own ways to cope with things but we can still cope and enjoy life. I have a son who happens to be gay. I have a daughter that is physically handicaped And just so you know It is a huge difference in dealing with both . dealing with being gay is a Sunday drive to the ice cream shop compared to dealing with the fact that your life will have someone depending on you until the day you take your last breath

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    1. Your comment confuses me a little....my child was born with very severe disabilities, and will likely be fully dependent on me his entire life. He has not declared himself to be gay or straight, though I would not feel upset by it. Historically, having a gay child has been something very difficult for parents to cope with. It makes extremely happy and hopeful that this is becoming less and less the case. Social acceptance is a beautiful thing- one I hope my son will also get to experience one day. I certainly don't mean to imply that having a gay child is the same experience as having a severely disabled one; rather, I was trying to highlight that every child is their own person and has their own path, regardless of your plans and expectations.

      If you did in fact read of my realities, you would know that I also have a typically developing child as well, and am familiar with the differences (both harder and easier) that each child presents me as a parent.

      That said, if my post doesnt speak to you, that is fine. it is based on my experience, perspectives and opinions, which are equally valid to yours.

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  21. Strongly disagree. Your view point is missing the entire point. The pain of having a special needs child is watching them suffer. It is not a selfish thing. So many parents have kids to fill some sort of a void or complete what they want. Me me me me me. I want a baby, i want a boy, i want a girl, i want him to do tjis or do that....parenthood is selfless. The more i grow, the more i witness others, the more grateful i am i was a tenn mom and had to choose my baby over my path from day 1. Having 2 special needs children for 22 years has taught me plenty and it makes me sick to witness the older parents being so selfish. Humans .....ugghhh...it isnt about you, its about them. I am not advocating teen parenthood, good god no, but i am unsure if older parents are choosing to have kids for the wrong reasons. Setting unrealistic expectations on them. And the gay comment....any parent who is devastated by having a gay child never deserved to be a parent in the first place. For shame

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  23. I feel you are reaching quite a bit here. Having a child with a disability is WAY different than having a child who doesn't like sports, or isn't as pretty as you wish they were.
    Most children are born healthy, without functional or cognitive issues. It's not a stretch to expect that when you are pregnant, most parents get that. So when I unexpectantly had to deliver 3 months early a 1 lb 2 oz baby, had to look at her through an incubator for 2 months before I got to hold her, and spent the first year taking care of an extremely critical infant, including having to perform CPR twice, it's safe to say that the "normal" I rightfully expected was lost.
    All I felt your post did was minimize the difficulty and loss felt by those who have had to endure some pretty significant suffering.

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  24. I think the whole point of the poem was that people are initially disappointed at ending up in Holland but then learn that its just as good a place to have a holiday. Its about letting go of the idea of an Italian holiday and instead finding a good coffee shop, having some schmokes and enjoying the very different by equally enjoyable dutch experience that is special needs parenting. I think most parents go through a shock, terror and grief phase when they learn their kid is autistic (or what ever special need). I know I did, I was very upset for a while. But now , I'm relaxing in a nice Amsterdam coffee shop, smoking a fat one and enjoying my wonderfully weird parenting experience.

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  25. Great post. I just bought (seriously, ten minute ago, ha!) a Holland Tourist (It's beautiful here) shirt. I was really excited about it. Your post has dampened that a bit, but now I think it still suits me. I will be a tourist in Holland for a bit, and then we will get to Italy for our long term trip. I think Holland will be a detour for awhile, to teach me some things and better equip me for Italy. I will have a deeper appreciation for Italy.

    Maybe I'm wrong. Our daughter with DS isn't due until August, arriving via adoption.

    She'll let me know :)

    Thanks for another voice.

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  27. Thank you for writing this! I have a son with multiple physical disabilities and intellectual disability and my take has been I hate this poem because the reality is I was not trying to go on any trip.

    Parenthood is the destination yes as you say and everyone has their expectations changed but also in absolute reality we live in whatever country we live in and Parenthood to me is not a trip anywhere. It is the regular everyday existence in our home...not a trip or vacation and my kids, one who is "typical" and one with "special needs",all have to grow up and function in our home country which happens to be the U.S. In the U.S. and everywhere we all should have realistic expectations that we should have access to opportunity and have a place at the table. So that is an aspirational expectation for both of my sons. And when, in reality, the law and what is right is not realized we must fight for it.


    I feel like (not really) wanting to punch someone in the face for talking about me traveling anywhere but where I live in order to experience Parenthood. Home, not Italy or Holland, is where the heart is. It is where the family is. It is where your life is.

    Parenthood is truly a choice. The choice is a major one for one's life and Parenthood is predominantly and primarily experienced at home not on some trip or vacation like this poem suggests--I cant relate, it just does not make sense to me as a metaphor --to be flying away from home...the whole way in my view to making a wonderful healthy life with children is to accept them and accept your circumstance, fight for them where you are at....there is no flying away to any foreign countries, there is no abdicating or denying, no way to heal and be healthy but to move through it each day...there is only being brave to stand and fight and love and survive where you are....at home...a trip suggests temporariness, change different than home, yes, new experiences but also inevitably a return to home, to reality....this poem does not capture this at all ....my son with special needs is 26 now so I have had a lot of time to gauge the landscape and become so very grateful for him and to fight like hell for him....and for all people to access equal opportunity and be valued....while trips are nice and we all need to care for ourselves especially as caregivers...this analogy making a choice to be a parent is not like taking a trip to me. It is an irrefutable, beautiful, life-changing experience I live each day at home where I want to be....

    ReplyDelete
  28. Thank you for writing this! I have a son with multiple physical disabilities and intellectual disability and my take has been I hate this poem because the reality is I was not trying to go on any trip.

    Parenthood is the destination yes as you say and everyone has their expectations changed but also in absolute reality we live in whatever country we live in and Parenthood to me is not a trip anywhere. It is the regular everyday existence in our home...not a trip or vacation and my kids, one who is "typical" and one with "special needs",all have to grow up and function in our home country which happens to be the U.S. In the U.S. and everywhere we all should have realistic expectations that we should have access to opportunity and have a place at the table. So that is an aspirational expectation for both of my sons. And when, in reality, the law and what is right is not realized we must fight for it.


    I feel like (not really) wanting to punch someone in the face for talking about me traveling anywhere but where I live in order to experience Parenthood. Home, not Italy or Holland, is where the heart is. It is where the family is. It is where your life is.

    Parenthood is truly a choice. The choice is a major one for one's life and Parenthood is predominantly and primarily experienced at home not on some trip or vacation like this poem suggests--I cant relate, it just does not make sense to me as a metaphor --to be flying away from home...the whole way in my view to making a wonderful healthy life with children is to accept them and accept your circumstance, fight for them where you are at....there is no flying away to any foreign countries, there is no abdicating or denying, no way to heal and be healthy but to move through it each day...there is only being brave to stand and fight and love and survive where you are....at home...a trip suggests temporariness, change different than home, yes, new experiences but also inevitably a return to home, to reality....this poem does not capture this at all ....my son with special needs is 26 now so I have had a lot of time to gauge the landscape and become so very grateful for him and to fight like hell for him....and for all people to access equal opportunity and be valued....while trips are nice and we all need to care for ourselves especially as caregivers...this analogy making a choice to be a parent is not like taking a trip to me. It is an irrefutable, beautiful, life-changing experience I live each day at home where I want to be....

    ReplyDelete
  29. Welcome to Holland, or a version of it was published prior to 1987. I know this because a similar version of the story was used in a cultural awareness class I attended prior to expatriating to Eqypt in March 1986. The version used wasn't a parenting reference, but a parable on managing expectations and culture shock. I was googling "trip to Italy but ending up in Holland" and found your article. Imagine my surprise to find a version of the story with an author and a date. Very strange. Nonetheless, Ilove your response.

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  30. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  31. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  32. My opinion is that you make a wonderful point just as Emily Kingsley makes a wonderful point. However, I do not believe that her intention or the essence of her poem is the same as yours. I feel like you are drawing a line between the two and pulling it toward you so you could smash her point. It would be wonderful for you to bring another very important perspective, which I fully agree with, rather than becoming combative (using the word "hate") against those who appreciate and find consolation in the Holland poem. I hope your open and brave enough to leave this post up instead of removing it (I am sure you would hope those reading your post would give you the same).

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  33. This is in definitely one of my favourite blog posts of yours. I love it!

    best tour of italy

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  34. I'm going with Hebron on this one - very well expressed btw. Interesting take on "Welcome to Holland." Your post and the Holland story seem identical to me, just different ways to illustrate. Perhaps the "hatred" comes from those "well meaning" friends who conclude for you "It's so beautiful! It's exactly like what you are living. You love being a parent- it's just not what you expected!"
    (Whew - I have never had anyone say anything like that to me even when attaching the Holland story, but I'm certain I would react strongly to any comment remotely similar.)

    I reference the Holland metaphor frequently, but it's because it's such a simple story that reflects unexpected paths - in a day, a marriage, a job, a family, a holiday, etc. And yet I continue to imagine, anticipate or otherwise create expectations even if I'm not doing it deliberately and inevitably my path turns one way when I realize I expected to go another. I always interpreted Holland as a caution against living a life of buts, ifs, and could haves. 19 years later I firmly believe the author pegged it - and so did you in your summary. My journey has been incredible in ways I never imagined. Thank goodness I didn't keep my head bowed in regret or grief (though I did feels those sometimes and many others). Thank goodness I had the good sense (or sage advice) to look up and be open so I could see the incredible blessings in my life - again so many blessings that surely wouldn't have existed had our journey been altered years ago. (And I'd parallel "parenthood" with "travel" as the choice. One chose to travel (have kids) and made plans for Italy (probably using many's most common reference point . . . seemingly typical children) and while one chose to get on the plane, one didn't choose to land in Holland (i.e. predetermine a child with significant disabilities).
    Just another perspective in case it's useful. Thank you for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
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  35. I feel you are not giving credit to the wonderful analogy of Holland and Italy as being a positive way for us to pick ourselves up and keep going. I found your blog a little selfish in that you discounted the value of this poem because of your own opinion. I had it on my fridge for years and it helped me enormously.

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  36. I feel sad that the poem makes you angry. For me, your thoughts were difficult to read. The overwhelming feeling of negativity around the poem and tone you set may have held me back from fully understanding your intensions. My understanding of the poem is to help parents, family and friends understand what a disability diagnosis might feel like, as they will truly never know unless they've experienced it first hand. My family and experiences lean toward both Holland and Italy. Holland when you're fist starting out and things are new, scary and tough. Then Italy when inclusion becomes more prevalent in grade school years. When challenges arise that only relate to my son's disability, then we go back into our Holland area where our specific resources and support live. Then back again to Italy. It's a balance and that balance does not only relate to disabilities, but for this...this new disability diagnosis, it just fits.

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  37. This sort of attitude is exactly why there is a division between people with neurotypical children being afraid to open their mouths in case they say the wrong thing, it's why people cross the road to avoid a mother at school that now has cancer, or avoiding someone who has had a death in the family the list goes on they are scared they may say the wrong thing and upset some super sensitive soul.

    I am a mother of a child with autism. I encourage people asking questions because it makes the world more aware. I loved the poem although written by a mother with Down's syndrome I also related to it. It can relate to any mother or parent or friend who knows anyone with any journey that has not turned out to be what they expected from a teenage suicide or child born with any problem straying from the expected "norm".

    This mother wrote it pertaining to her journey but anyone can apply it to their own journey. No one knows or fully understands your personal journey but articles like this one pretty much make sure no one will want to try in case they say the wrong thing. This world needs to stop being so damn PC and just accept others. The poem gave an insight to one mothers journey and if people read it get a tiny bit of insight to another's overwhelming journey then that's got to be good.

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  38. I totally disagree with almost everything you've said; but you're entitled to your opinion. I love being in Holland. I don't interpret the poem as I had no decision in where I ended up(Holand) with my special child. On the contrary, I ended up by choice in a new, different, unexpected, and simply amazing place. I've been to Italy. It is beautiful & exotic... But so is Holland.

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  39. I have Galactosemia, a rare metabolic condition that affects my ability to breakdown lactose. Anyway, I completely agree with you. I, too, hate this poem. I feel as though it degrades not just myself, nor just people with Galactosemia, but anyway who is "different" from the rest. We should not be labeled and degraded just because we are not "normal." Nor should we be told that we shattered our parents' dreams of "going to Italy." I've seen people share this in the Galactosemia community, and I always cringe reading it. I absolutely hate it- totally agree with you.

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  40. I have no words for how much I love this post. And your blog . Everything I've read.

    italy honeymoon

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  41. I didn't read all the comments but I think the poem is beautiful. It helped me to be thankful for the place God has placed me. I think too much emphasis here was put on Italy and holland.....it was just a beautiful way of saying my life didn't end up like I thought it would.

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    Replies
    1. YES! exactly. It's just trying to say that expectations were not met. And what's more, the reality is way off from the plan.

      Delete
  42. "Welcome to Holland" is not about Holland or Italy. It's a metaphor about how to enjoy and live life....no matter what happens.
    David

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  44. We all end up in Italy? Did you mean Holland? You keep flip flopping the two which seems to show that you have misunderstood the main point of the essay.

    The piece is about planning for something that turns out completely different from our plans and turns out to be beautiful all the same--HOLLAND--a child with special needs. It also touches on missing the experience that never will happen--ITALY--a child that is "normal" (forgive the inappropriate language for some).

    While none of us can plan for every unexpected aspect of parenthood, not everyone has both the joy and pain that comes with having one with special needs. Likewise, while in Italy, you may not be able to translate some of the Italian phrases, but you at least brought the correct phrasebook.

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  45. I only just stumbled on this "Welcome to Holland" story today while organizing old papers at an elderly friend's house. The story resonated with me, as a parent of a high functioning autistic boy. He's my only child, so I have no idea what it is like to raise a neurotypical child. I thought I would google the title and this blog popped up as one of the first few search results.

    The story is basically describing an analogy for parenting expectations which are not realized. And your blog about it is emotionally driven and appears to criticize neurotypical parents whom I expect must have sent you the story.

    You know the different country example was just to show an exaggerated difference of expectations. While I see your point, I disagree. The Holland story is a simple truthful analogy.

    While life is not so simple, the essence of the story is merely to illustrate the surprise of landing in a very different place than one anticipated.

    Why don't you simply write a new story? You can entitle it, "Welcome to Italy". For that matter, you might as well entitle it, "Welcome to Holland". Because if you maintain the spirit of the original story, and add in your points about how nobody gets to where they actually had planned to vacation, you would have written that every parent thinks they are going to Italy, but they ALL end up in Holland.

    Life isn't simple. Parenting is a trial, no matter what type of child one has. Vacations in foreign lands where you don't speak the language are not always as fun as one thinks they will be. Nitpicking an analogy is not going to make parenting a special needs child easier or more like the neurotypical parenting experience.

    thank you for sharing your point of view. I feel enriched for having debated the ideas on my own for a little bit.
    May your visit to Italy, or Holland, be filled with moments of joy and delight even if it is also not what you planned.
    Cheers

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  46. It's funny: I just Googled "Does anyone else hate the Welcome to Holland poem?" and this blog post appeared. I've never read your blog -- only this post -- and I really enjoyed it. I agree with a previous comment that suggested some of the anger toward this poem may actually be more appropriately directed at the people who share it with me and assume that A) nobody has ever shared it with me before, or B) my reading it will cause the clouds to part and brilliant rays of wisdom to come beaming into my brain. Yes, all of that is frustrating. But what really frustrated me about this poem was that I just couldn't relate to it. I totally understand that a whole lot of people can, and for that reason, I think it's great. I think that if this poem gives a framework to your pain and confusion during the time when you've just received a special needs diagnosis, then it's a wonderful thing. But it didn't do that for me.
    I get the metaphor; it's pretty straightforward. It just didn't apply to me. I've traveled extensively in my life, and I continue to do so (with my son who has Down syndrome -- he's quite a jet setter). I have been to both Italy and Holland a couple times and love them both. The idea of thinking that I'm going to Italy and landing in Holland instead is comical to me. I wouldn't be flustered. I wouldn't be scared or confused or angry. I'd probably laugh and skip off the plane and see what kinds of things I could get into in Holland. This is NOT how I felt when my son was born and I was told that he might have Down syndrome. So the poem didn't really give me comfort or aid in my understanding of the new situation I was unexpectedly confronting. I loved your post because it challenged something that is widely accepted as truth (i.e. special needs parenting is perfectly captured in the Welcome to Holland poem), and also because it offered a different metaphor that I could definitely get on board with (no pun intended). While I wouldn't be thrown by the reality of landing in Holland instead of Italy, I would definitely have to adjust to a vacation where all of my luggage had been lost. I would definitely become angry if I had to wander around forever looking for a hotel that I expected to be in a certain place. Having a beach holiday rained out and having to instead spend my days in museums and galleries, finding myself grateful in the end for having learned so much about a culture I wouldn't have otherwise explored, HAS happened to me and THAT speaks to my experience as a parent to a child with special needs. Lastly I want to mention that the Holland poem is dated (perhaps OUTdated, but that's a matter of judgement). I think it was pioneering when Kingsley first published it in the mid-80's, but I'll be damned if my child with Down syndrome is treated or regarded in the same ways that kids with DS were treated and regarded in the 80's. The expectations were minimal, at best. But fortunately, things have changed! We have new research and legislation, and society is shifting (slowly, but surely) toward inclusion and acceptance of neurodiversity. So as much as I respect Kingsley's poem for being so groundbreaking in its time, and for giving comfort to so many people, it didn't apply to me and it doesn't apply to my kid. Your post, however, does. Thank you for writing it.

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  47. I went to school for early childhood some required classes taughtbabout children with disabilities and I heard professors read this peom a lot. At the time I didnt know what to think I did not have children but I knew I wanted to have them eventually. I did think it kind of putva whitebpicketbfence on having a child without disabilities and it did kind of seem to put rausing a special needs kid in different category. However, it seems to poem is just a moms interpreation o her experience. Perhaps she had a certain picture in her head about being a mom and after having her child felt it wasnt what she expected. But I life is not always what we expect. Italy might not be what we thought as you said. Now Im trying to start my own family and it hasnt happened as easily as I hoped. I wont get into details but it has been sad for us. We expected to have a family by now, but we are not wiling to give up trying.
    I saw some sad stories on here and I am so sorry about what some of you experienced.

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  48. Excuse my poor typing, In college I mastered my typing skills, now all keyboards became virtual. Ill never get used to these keyboards.

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  49. From what I looked up tge writer of the poem actually worked for Seaseame street, thats interesting.

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  50. I just wrote the longest diatribe explaining why I wholly disagreed with you on your disdain for WtH. Ive decided to save it and start my own blog. Apparently, as the mother of a deceased child who lived 10 yrs of medical complexity I have a lot to say, so ill do it my own space. It does make me sad that you dont take away the encouragement and gift of perspective of WtH but to each his own I suppose. I was also discouraged from reaching out to my cousin whose son was just diagnosed with autism and sharing the poem. When I Googled it and then saw your post, I thought, well, she may well feel the same way, and think I’m being trite, belittling her situation, better leave it here. Look at that, you caused an effect. What other ripples are you going to cast in this pond of a blog I wonder?

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  51. Perfectly put. I am not a fan of Holland either.

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  52. My comments do not fall in line with the author. I think she is totally missing the purpose of this poem. This poem starts a journey and presents a perspective. Not everyone's journey is going to be the same. Some people will be proactive, some reactive and some won't acknowledge at all if their child has a disability in any capacity. This poem raises awareness and that in itself is helpful. If you don't like the analogy, then find another one. I have been to both Holland and Italy, BUT THAT IS NOT the message. I once had someone ask me if I could "fix" my daughter. Of all the odd things people have said to me in more than 15 years, that really struck me as the oddest. So to the author, WELCOME TO HOLLAND.

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  53. My comments do not fall in line with the author. I think she is totally missing the purpose of this poem. This poem starts a journey and presents a perspective. Not everyone's journey is going to be the same. Some people will be proactive, some reactive and some won't acknowledge at all if their child has a disability in any capacity. This poem raises awareness and that in itself is helpful. If you don't like the analogy, then find another one. I have been to both Holland and Italy, BUT THAT IS NOT the message. I once had someone ask me if I could "fix" my daughter. Of all the odd things people have said to me in more than 15 years, that really struck me as the oddest. So to the author, WELCOME TO HOLLAND.

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  54. I couldn't even imagine that HOLLAND is so thieves country! I've been always travelling by cars so i haven't dealt with keeping an eye on luggage or something like that. btw renting cars is not as expensive as we fancy especially if you are travelling with friends (one more tip :)
    attractions in Italy

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  57. I loved Welcome to Holland. This last article was also very good, but the author sounded bitter, and bashing someone else's experience does not make her any better. Sorry life is a rough ride, truly.

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  71. Am so happy and thankful to God for what he has done in my life,i am Mrs.Juliet Daniel from U.S.A after four years of seeking for loan online the internet Scammers has succeeded in taking from me the sum of $13,000.00 without given me my loan, I lost every thing i have because of scam and ever since i was scared to make contact online concerning loan. One day, as i was browsing , i saw a comment by a woman Name Mrs Anna from Ukraine thanking about the Dr Olivia Alexander Loan Company for lending a loan saying that if there is any one who also need loan are to contact the company and they will surly lend anybody loan so i took there email and i contacted them we had every agreement to pay back the loan and i submitted my bank account to them and they told i will receive my loan in 24 hours and to my greatest shock, exactly 24 hours, my bank send me an alert of confirmation that the Dr Olivia Alexander Loan Company has transfer my loan amount of $280,000.00 dollars to my account am so happy and i want to use this medium to advice every one who is in need of loan or You have been scam in the past worry no more contact the very right company who can lend out loan on{Droliviaalexander@gmail.com}. and please beware of internet scams most of this Email of lenders you see online are all scams so contact the Dr Olivia Alexander Loan Company because they are capable of given you your loan thanks

    LOAN APPLICATION FORM:
    1. Name Of Applicant in Full:……..
    2. Telephone Numbers:……….
    3. Address and Location:…….
    4. Amount in request………..
    5. Repayment Period:………..
    6. Purpose Of Loan………….
    7. country…………………
    8. phone…………………..
    9. occupation………………
    10.age/sex…………………
    11.Monthly Income…………..
    12.Email……………..

    Regards.
    Managements
    Email Kindly Contact:{Droliviaalexander@gmail.com}

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  72. DO YOU NEED A LOAN FUNDS WITHOUT NO HIDDEN UPFRONT PAYMENT OR FEES ? YOUR CHANCE COMES NOW .

    GET OUR FAST AND GENUIE LOANS NOW WITHOUT ANY UPFRONT PAYMENT AND FEES .

    DO YOU NEED AN URGENT PROJECT FUNDING / PROPERTY INVESTMENT LOAN ?

    Hello Everyone,


    Hi, I'm Mrs Winona Millaray the director of operations of the Winona Millaray Loan Foundation! Welcome to The Winona Millaray loan foundation! We'ar a naturally-minded loan organization, a reputable and an accredited loan foundation who has been putting smiles in the faces of thousands of the financially distressed persons out there and who have been calculated to be in the loan lending business/sector for 3 decades (30 Years) with over 20 branches in various countries of the world,We are a legitimate financiers as we have the entire document to show for our transparency in the carrying out of our day to day transaction. the CEO of the Winona Millaray loan foundation with branches across Asia, Europe , America , and Africa as we are up to lease any kind of loan to serious minded business men / investors like you .

    Our dignity is to respect while providing the highest quality services, We will not also forget to bring to your notice that we grant loans to sincere and serious minded customers that need to be uplifted financially with the help of loan / loans Should you need any kind of property investment loan / general type of loan .. do not hesitate to hit me on the company email address for more info on how our online loan release deals works as our online loan release terms and condition are very flexible , which means that .. it was carved out for great benefit to the entire world business active / engaged individual populace .

    What is the loan Process ?

    One can apply for a general loan any time in anticipation of a quick, hassle free and unsecured finance for any purpose.

    The verification / approval process is physically done within 6 hours on submission of all documents required.

    The time frame of getting an unsecured international loan funds that we are currently providing is not more than 24-48 hours as it highly depends on the total commitment and seriousness of such an esteemed borrower during the loan processing period which may take 1-2 day.

    Here are a few of the options we are currently offering from this new year:

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    Email : mrswinonamillarayloancouncil@gmail.com
    Email : thewinonamillarayloancouncil@hotmail.com


    You all are free to apply now for an unsecured legitimate and a guaranteed loan from the WINONA MILLARAY LOAN FOUNDATION as we are all ready and set to fulfill your various financial desires and dreams this season by granting you loans this New Year season .

    TAKE NOTE: THE RULES AND REGULATIONS THAT HAS BEEN LAID DOWN HERE CANNOT BE BEND TO SATISFY ANY CUSTOMER WANTS, AS EVERY CUSTOMER IS EXPECTED TO MEET WITH THE RULES / TERMS IN TRYING TO ACQUIRE A LOAN HERE. IF ANYONE COULD NOT MEET WITH IT HERE, HIS OR HER LOAN APPLICATION WILL BE CANCELLED.

    Regards,

    Pastor Mrs Winona Millaray .
    Director of Operations

    ReplyDelete
  73. Dear Sir/Madam

    This is like a lifetime opportunity to get a legit loan today, have you been searching for a loan and still have not gotten your loan, seek no more, Virginia Gulon Loan Service ltd is the major key to getting a legit loan, loans are being approved with just 3% interest rate to private and 5% interest rate to companies and the world at large, there are no such fees like Transfer fees, loans are transferred from the companies bank account straight to the loan beneficiary account that will be required for the transfer of your funds.Email me today to apply for a loan to finance whatever it may be, loans are quick and transfers are quick to reflect on the beneficiary bank account balance.
    we render the following services:

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    A
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    Best regards

    ReplyDelete