Expectations, Butterflies and Holland.

“We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” ~ Joseph Campbell

Yesterday as I knelt down on the carpet in the brightly colored room to once again replace E’s pretty gold shoes on her first day of school at the UCLA Early Intervention Program, I looked around the classroom. As I wiggled her too big shoe on to her tiny foot she gave me her radiant smile. My heart moved to the front of my chest. As if witnessing our experience from above, I could hear Q as he enthusiastically banged a drum in the corner while KSP ensured he didn’t throw it across the floor as he is recently so inclined to do.

With her shoe now back on her foot, E leaned into me and I whispered into her ear.

“You are such a big girl. You can do this. We can do this. I am so proud of you, you can have come so far.”

Bustling around us the teachers and therapists settled the other minis and the parents kindly introduced themselves. ; Just then, it hit me, we were here. ; Like a wave washing over me, my expectations revealed themselves and I felt a combination of overwhelming gratitude and sorrow.

I know that may sound bad, but allow me to explain.

It really all goes back to my “Welcome to Holland” post. ; When I found out I was having twins, I had visions of 2 minis who were the same. They could run and walk. Pre-school meant backpacks, and adorable lunch boxes and toddling into a classroom. ; It never occurred to me that the children might be wearing helmets and special shoes and that our little E or Sweet Pea as I thought of her at the time wouldn’t be walking, crawling or speaking at 2 and 1/2. It didn’t occur to me that while she might look completely normal save being small, her whole person would not be that of a 2 and /12 year old but instead that of a 9-10 month old. Yesterday, I found myself disembarking into Holland from the plane bound for Italy.

It really started a few days ago as I drove back from Burbank through Coldwater Canyon and I happened to glance over at the dog park as I entered Beverly Hills. What I saw, took me back to those visions, those expectations, to Italy. ; Near the fence at the end of the park stood a boy and girl. They were clearly twins. As I sat at the stop light I was captivated by them. ; I watched them laugh and right as the light turned green, the little girl, with her honey-colored ponytail, leaned over and touched her brother’s shoulder. ; ; ; As he turned to look at her, my heart leapt and my breath caught in my throat…tears forced their way behind my eyes threatening to spill over. That was my Italy. As the essay so eloquently states, “people will come and go from Italy and for you that pain will never ever go away.”

So yesterday as I sat on the floor in Holland, I quietly looked at the beautiful minis around us. Like beautiful butterflies they were each special in their own way. Starting with my own butterflies, in their own special way they belong. In our own special way, we belong. We belong in Holland. I still sometimes long for Italy, I can’t help it. I am normal. I try, but I too am a butterfly, trying to find my wings to fly.

Shared from the page "You are Enough" on Facebook.

The love and support we received on Monday was beyond anything I could have imagined. Facebook posts, blog comments, texts and calls. My heart is full of so much gratitude. Holland is lovely because we have so many friends here and you all don’t care that we didn’t land in Italy. ; I am learning slowly that there will still be moments where I miss those visions, but I also know that I wouldn’t want things any different because that might mean it might not be E and Q and that’s really the unthinkable in all this.

Yesterday, was really more like the first day of school for me…the minis did great and it was mama that learned the most. ; I learned more about Holland, butterflies and that hope, love, gratitude and letting go of expectations are all beautiful gifts to give to yourself and others. ; Thank you for all of you for all the love and support. It truly touches my heart. ; You made what was a very emotional and highly charged day for me into a feeling of safety and warmth. ; It was indeed ‘mynewfavoriteday.’ I hope that today, if there is something you are holding on to, perhaps you can breath in and when you exhale just a piece of those expectations might float away, lightening your load and making today ‘yournewfavoriteday.’

E and Q ride the "Magic School Bus" as we head outside to play at school.

(Featured image shared with gratitude from webexhibits.org)

Also linking up this week with a ton of talented folks at


51 thoughts on “Expectations, Butterflies and Holland.

  1. After a couple of trips to Italy, I found myself diverted to Holland on my last holiday. Having been to both places, I can assure you that they are equally beautiful. But the greater rewards are in Holland.

    1. Awww, Lisha coming from you, I feel the sigh of relief whenever I see your wise and thoughtful words. Yes, I do believe that is true as you realize just how much it takes to achieve any success. I am glad we live in Holland together, it’s the people that help make it so special:)

  2. Shannon, I just read the post ‘Welcome to Holland’ and then finishde reading this post. A tought came to my mind that I like thinking and consciously ponder upon.
    WHAT IF our beloved little, these precious little souls chose us before they even came to earth and were born? What if they chose us as their parents because their souls knew we would be the ‘perfect’ parents for them and give them exactly what they need to bloom and blossom? What if we were meant to be their learning partners on earth and they are ours?
    In moments or phases of frustration, exhaustion, tiredness, worry and doubt I like to remember WHAT IF ..and it helps me to accept, to embrace what is and to welcome the learning for them as our children as well as for us as their parents.
    I have a highly spirited boy who challenges and hurts me, worries me and lets me doubt..and I find asking myself ‘Why me?’ and then after letting the thought above sink into my heart, I can say YES, me ..because I am the best for him to help him grow and blossom.

    1. I think you are exactly right Sandra. I do think this. They were meant for me. I am the one. The one that can give them what they need, just as they do me. They fill my soul and give me more than I could every really write and I look into their eyes and know I do the same for them. Thank you for the gift of the “What if?” today, it’s a very special gift.

  3. I’ve worked in Holland for over a decade. I don’t know what Italy is like, but Holland is fantastic. You savour every success because it has been earned. It sounds like you and your children have found a great place to learn and grow together. And really, if you are learning what your little ones need, then your therapists and teachers are setting up your family for a lifetime of success no matter where you go.

    1. Awww I love your comment! Yes, you do savor every success because it’s been earned. So much work, so many hours, so much trying by so many people for that one minute success. It’s beautiful and we have found a perfect place for us right now. Thank you so much for what you did for that decade. People that work and dedicate themselves for any period of time for families that ended up in Holland are a huge gift and many hugs to you for the gifts you have given, including this comment to me today.

  4. Your opening quote is so powerful and so important. I think that life rarely turns out the way we plan, but it always turns out the way it’s supposed to.

  5. they are lucky, lucky twins to have a mother who sees them–and loves them–for who they are, not who they were “supposed” to be. it’s a hard lesson for all of us, granted, but it’s key to their happiness and, ultimately, to our own. lovely post.

    1. Yes, the word “supposed” is probably a dirty word in some ways as it sets expectations but we can’t help it can we. What we can do and as you so kindly say, is love love love them for who they are now. It’s as again as you say, the key to all of our happiness, now and in the future. Thanks so much for your kind words Deborah…you made my heart smile.

  6. “Overwhelming gratitude and sorrow…” my heart goes out to you; it sounds like this experience was ultimately a beautiful one, though. The picture shows little children who are clearly full of joy, and your positive perspective shines through your writing!

    1. Yes, they are full of joy and therefore in the end, no matter what emotions we experience along they way, we see the smiles as they ride the Magic Bus and know that makes it all worth it. Sadness will not last forever but the gratitude will. Thanks for you kind words Sarah….:)

  7. This was a beautiful post about a beautiful and poignant moment on your journey of parenthood – thank you so much for sharing it with us. How EXCITING (and I’m so glad the first day of school was full of kind people all around you.)

    1. Thanks so much Ado:) It was definitely a poignant and pivotal moment in our journey. It’s like nothing I ever imagined but am so pleasantly surprised by the situations and people we encounter even if it takes me a bit of processing to get there in my heart and mind.

  8. Prior to being a mom, I had worked as a special education teacher at the Kindergarten level. A student’s mother shared The “Welcome to Holland” post with me. Immediately I felt enlightened, as if I had a glimpse into the feelings & emotions my students’ families may have felt.
    Even those years later, that piece still is powerful.
    I’m so glad to hear your first day was such a success!

    1. So lovely Jackie. You were a gift to those families. I find the poem is powerful for any situation in which things turn out different than what we might have expected. A divorce, premature birth, special needs, death of a loved one, the list goes on. It’s so powerful in so many ways. Thanks for sharing your experience as I am in awe of teachers and people like you, what you have given to the families, while it may have been a while ago is a very special gift.

  9. What a full of emotions this post was. I, as well, have dreams and expectations to be back home one day. Sad comes and then I try to remind myself why I was here, Canada, to begin with and it all goes away. It’s hard work to turn it into a favourite day lol

  10. I’m so glad you and your minis had such a wonderful experience. It makes my heart happy. I was just saying a similar thing to my dad about letting go of expectations. The baby isn’t sleeping as well as his brothers did at this age, by a long shot, and it’s been hard for me. Somehow, in a moment of clarity, I realized the sooner I let go of what he “should” be doing, the sooner I would be happy. Yes, sleep deprivation sucks (although, I realize it’s a grain of sand in comparison), but my attitude about it makes all the difference.

    1. Stacey, I so hear you. It’s exactly that right? Where is it that all children are the same…nowhere. They all do things that challenge us at different points. It’s so hard not too sleep, I feel your pain and I agree that if you can give up, “he” should be doing the load lightens a bit. It doesn’t make the lack of sleep that much easier but you don’t have an internal war everytime he wakes up! Thanks so much for your sweet words and I hope he does give you a little respite for your rest.

  11. I work with many early ed families although not in EI. It’s a wonderful service and have been able to witness for myself so many loving, caring early educators walk families through some difficult seasons! Thanks for sharing. I really enjoyed this post.

  12. So heartfelt, so real, and so raw. Thanks, Shannon, for sharing your journey. I’m happy to know your first day was so positive, and I love that you find the blessings in each moment. 🙂

  13. Fantastic imagery, Shannon. I know the park you are talking about in BH. I always love that ride down Coldwater. It’s so peaceful, (unless it’s bumper to bumper and takes an hour.) Thanks for letting us in.

  14. I am always so happy and energized after reading your posts. Big step, big day for E. She has the most beautiful smile. And one wonderful mama who can write like no other!

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