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When People Ask, ‘How Could You Let Them Live Like That?’


As he said goodbye, it hit me.

A son returning to college. It’s a common occurrence. But when James, my younger son, leaned over and said “See you in a couple months,” to my daughter and other son, MaryEllen and Kevin, I began to wonder.

What must it feel like for MaryEllen and Kevin to know their siblings are grown and leaving home to have lives of their own? Do they feel slighted? Are they sad they don’t get to experience an independent life outside of our home? I hadn’t thought about this since they were young, when it was too far off to worry about.

Then, as quick as those thoughts passed, others began to fill my head, comments I have heard and seen regarding MaryEllen and Kevin throughout their lives.

“I would never want to live like that.”

“How could you let them live like that?”

I don’t often feel sad when I think about MaryEllen and Kevin. Times like this day, though, brought these uneasy feelings to the forefront.

What is a good quality of life, and do they have it?

From my perspective, I think they do. They are loved beyond measure, and they know it. But is that all it takes to have a good quality of life? My other two “typical” children are loved beyond measure as well.

mother and daughter

As I contemplated the depth of these questions, I came to this: A good quality of life is not traveling or making lots of money or doing everything and anything you ever wanted to do; it’s doing what makes you happy. We are all different. What brings me joy may not bring the same for you.

MaryEllen and Kevin are surrounded by those who love them. For some, maybe living “a life like that” (whatever that means) wouldn’t be a good quality of life. But from MaryEllen’s and Kevin’s perspectives, maybe our lives are less than ideal.

I think I have discovered the secret. A life well-lived is experiencing unconditional love all the time. A life well-lived is smiling and being able to feel that smile from deep within. A life well-lived is being able to savor all the good life has to offer while disregarding the bad.

Just brilliant, isn’t it?

mother and son

Follow this journey on The Heartful Mom.