Any parent of a child with special needs knows the poem "Welcome to Holland."
In the beginning, this poem resonated with me. I was in shock over my child's diagnosis, hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, and what that would mean for our future.
But as I came to grips with our life and our new normal, the poem became a cliche that I just didn't want to hear any more.
My feelings are shared by lots of other special needs moms -- perhaps even you -- including four of my very best friends whose kids all have an HIE diagnosis like my daughter.
So, when we learned during a recent get together that we were a 15-minute drive from a small community called Holland, Michigan, we decided to go there.
Our goal was to get a photo near a "Welcome to Holland" sign, get a good laugh and have something to post on social media that our SN community would "get."
But once we got there, we saw signs for a windmill park -- just like in the poem -- and we just had to see it.
And that's when our quick trip turned into a metaphor for all things special needs.
We ran into construction. We ran into traffic.
When we were so close to where we were supposed to turn, there was a detour because the road we were supposed to take was torn up.
We hit bumps in the road, made U turns and had to find a new route through unfamiliar territory.
The irony was not lost on us.
And then, when we finally got to the windmill, it was closed for the season and the best we could do was get a picture from afar.
We could have been disappointed. But instead we laughed and embraced.
Because we made it.
We had followed each other in five separate vehicles. None of us were sure where we were going, but we didn't lose each other even once.
On one of our detours, we passed Hope College.
And we found our way to the windmill.
When we finally got there, we took dozens of pictures. We grinned. We laughed. We breathed in the fresh air and chuckled at our struggles to get to the fabled windmill of Holland.
What did we learn on our trip to Holland?
That together, we are stronger than we are alone.
That when life threw us blockades and detours, we could lean on each other and get through it together.
And that Holland is a heck of a lot better when you can be there with your village, who you may have never met if you hadn't started this crazy journey in the first place.