Welcome to Holland?

Noah, Aiden and Eva hovering over a tablet.

Being a mother is hard enough, as is. Being a single mother of three, two of which are autistic, is even harder.

Melissa Karpiel,31, is a single mother of three. She is a full-time mom who struggles day-to-day with finances, emotions and more. Two of her children Noah, 7, and Aiden, 5, are autistic, and they share the same father. Eva is 1 1/2-years-old, and she has a different father. Things are on rocky terms with Eva’s father. Noah and Aiden’s father has disappeared according to Melissa.

Melissa takes off Noah’s safety harness he wears on the school bus.

Her favorite poem is “Welcome to Holland” by Emily Perl Kingsley. She says she uses it to explain what it’s like to be a parent of an autistic child. The poem says that preparing for a child is like going on a vacation, and the parents are studying the destination, learning the language and preparing an itinerary. Once the parents are on board and in the air, the stewardess announces that they’ll be landing in Holland shortly, but this isn’t where the original destination was for. The parents are mad. They have questions that go unanswered and they aren’t prepared for Holland — they were prepared for somewhere else. Although Holland is much different than their original destination, Holland is not a bad place. It’s just different. It can even be more beautiful than the other place in different ways.

“The hardest thing is being alone, totally alone,” said Karpiel. “It’s hard to find people to watch your kids, it’s hard to get out of the house, and mostly it’s hard to just be stranded in your own house.” She was getting ready to go out for the first time in two weeks. She was going to a fundraiser.

Karpiel is currently unemployed, but hopes to get a full-time babysitter so she can get a job and go back to school. Karpiel use to enjoy playing pool for hobby and she worked as a bartender. Once she had Eva, she had to quit her job because she didn’t have anyone to watch her kids, nor could she afford daycare. She does receive help from the government.

Melissa helps her son Aiden with some math homework after school.

Noah and Aiden are have two different kinds of autism. Noah is very severe; he doesn’t talk, he’s still in diapers, and he resorts to violence often. Aiden is ‘high-functioning’; although he’s still in diapers, he is starting to talk more, and he is doing well in school. Melissa said that Noah might have to be sent off to a school where he would live at; she’s still on the waiting list.

Although she says it can be frustrating at times, she enjoys watching her children grow up right in front of her. She’s hopeful that things will turn around soon.

Melissa uses snacks to keep Eva away from her phone.