Will she always live with you?

Will she always live with you? It’s a question I get a lot about Kate. And understandably so.

For many parents, the idea of their children always living with them isn’t the ideal. After all, we want our little birdies to fly from the nest. Spread their wings. Go out into the world and be independent, healthy, self-sufficient adults. We want to believe that after the hard work of child-rearing is over, we’ll be able to enjoy the fruits of our labor with gardening, golf courses and Caribbean cruises.

Many look forward with anticipation to the “empty nest.” And when they realize that—as parents of a daughter with Down syndrome—we may not ever have a fully empty nest, they wonder if that’s concerning for us.

But I can honestly say: I’ve had a lot of concerns when it comes to Kate having Down syndrome—medical, social, societal—but never has the idea that she may live longer in our home than our other children ever bothered me. When I express this, I sometimes receive a surprised response. And at one time, I may have been surprised, too—what? You’re not looking forward to having freedom again finally?

But I’m in a place right now where my priorities have given me a new perspective. One that reminds me of the simple words of Mother Teresa:

“The fruit of service is peace.”

The truth is, I’ve never been more tired. Challenged. Busy. I’ve never had less sleep and more chores. Less me-time and more to-do’s. I’ve never been pulled in as many directions—or have had so much responsibility. Life has never been more stressful, messy, or chaotic. But it’s also never been more joyful.

I’ve never felt as full of purpose, meaning, love—or peace. I’ve never felt as complete. In serving my family as a wife and mother, I’ve stumbled upon the real riches of life, the good stuff, the stuff that even when it’s hard, is so very rewarding.

And because of this, I always want a full nest. Perhaps not in the traditional sense of having my children living at home—but in the sense that I always hope to have a home where I can serve, love and enjoy the people around me. A place where I can be who I am meant to be and help others do the same. A nest where grown children and grandchildren visit often. Where family elders may come live someday. Where neighbors and friends and extended family feel welcome.

So when I think of Kate still being there—with her hilarious personality, darling little smile and sweet spirit—I don’t feel robbed of anything.

Will Kate always live with us? Possibly. But very possibly not. Many adults with Down syndrome live on their own and have incredibly independent lives. But if she happens to stick around because that’s what’s best for her, we will love to have her here.

When it comes to motherhood, I always try to live for today anyway—the good and the challenging times will pass and soon another stage will replace this one. But I work hard not to hold my breath for the future—when there’s too much happening right now that takes my breath away.

Sure, right now my husband and I don’t get a lot of alone time—but when our eyes lock from across the room and he gives me that grin I fell in love with—and there’s a house full of laughter between us, we feel so very blessed. (Not to mention, we never take for granted our special times alone because we know that they’re few and far in between!) We don’t have tons of relaxation, but we have incredibly rewarding responsibilities. We don’t go on a lot of vacations, but the view we love the most is the outside looking in.

With hearts so full, our nest will never be empty—no matter where our children fly away to. And that’s exactly how I like it.