My eldest daughter Shann went to Liverpool university to train as a nurse in September of 1989. It was natural to chose a career in a caring  capacity, because she had plenty of experience helping me to care for her nine siblings.
Before we left her to the airport we had a farewell meal for her.  This was the beginning of a tradition that we have had for each child leaving home.  It was difficult for us as parents to say farewell.  Would she return to Ireland to live after she finished?  Many Irish children have gone to England in the past to study or get work and settled there.
Down through the years many young men and women have left these shores because of famine, forced exile, to find work or to avoid the troubles. The Irish are to be found all over the world.  When young people last century went to America the family would have a meal and get together with friends.  They called it a wake because the family would not see them again.  It must have been heartbreaking for parents to say farewell without the hope of seeing their son her daughter again.  The sadness is often found in the songs and music of Ireland.
Brendan remembers seeing men having to register for work twice a day in his home town.  If they did not find work they had to go to England.  His two uncles went to England and never returned.
Ireland is known as the Land of Saints and Scholars.  Down though the centuries young men and women left Ireland voluntarily to bring the Gospel  to the nations.  We have a wonderful Christian heritage despite the internal wars.  Brendan and some of our children work in the nations.
We left Shann to the airport and said our final farewells.  Brendan was sad to see his little girl wave goodbye. We were all in tears.  The children would miss their big sister.
Many years later, Shann told me she was crying on the plane.  She had mixed emotions; sad to be leaving home but glad to get away as well.  This was Brendan and myself’s first experience of letting our child fly the nest. Parents rear their children but have to let them go as well.  We had plenty of work to do back home to take our mind off our sadness.

Panic Attack

Panic attack

I have fourteen children and the last seven include six boys in a row, with my daughter Angela at the end.  Before these boys were born God spoke to me from the scripture in Psalm 147 v 13 LB  “Blessed are the sons within you”.

At one stage five of these boys were at primary school, where children attend from the age of five to eleven.  They were getting along fine.  We lived within walking distance of the school, so each day they were able to come home for lunch. They were keen to get back to school, so they could have some play time with others in the playground.  All was well.

When I look back it was great when the children were young.  We had a routine which no one rebelled against.  Bedtime was at seven for the younger ones. The others did their homework and went to bed a little later.  Brendan and I were sure of some time for ourselves then.  I did not have the time to go over homework with each one.  I may have signed a homework book to make sure the work was done the odd time.  It is great that some mums home school but that was not for me.

When I had four children I remember reading a scripture that really stayed with me. 

It is Isaiah 54 v 13 RSV  “All your sons will be taught by the Lord and great will be your children’s peace”.  

 I am so thankful to all the teachers that have been involved in my children’s education. They were being used by God!  A big thank you to you all.

Once a year the school arranged an evening when the parents were invited to attend to meet the children’s teachers and to hear how our little loved ones were getting along.  I had always looked forward to having a chat with the teachers because they were helping me.  Thank God for school.

I got glowing reports from Isaac’s, Jacob’s, David’s and Patrick’s teachers.  They were well behaved and doing well with their three Rs.  I was smiling, joyful that my young boys were doing me proud, like little saints.  I thought only John’s teacher to see now.  He was the oldest of the boys at the school and was very responsible in helping with his brothers.  As it turned out he was too responsible in defending his brothers when they were called names or wrongly treated.

I sat down with his teacher expecting another good report.  She drew her chair close to me and said, “John is doing very well in his work but he is a terror in the playground!  The principal doesn’t know what to do with him.  He is always fighting”.  This was a big shock; surely not my son John.  He was a very lively, happy boy.  If this is how John is doing what is it going to be like when these other boys get older.  I panicked.

My panic attack lasted all weekend.  I thought, “How am I going to rear these boys”? What will happen if they start fighting with each other at home as well.  The future looked bleak.  The head teacher did not know what to do with my eleven year old boy, whom to me was pleasant and well behaved.  How was I going to rear these six boys!

On the Sunday night I had a dream.  I do not remember the details but in the dream God reassured me of his love.  Scripture says in 1 John 4 v 18, “Perfect love casts out fear”.  My panic attack was over.  God would help me rear my boys.  He promises me in Psalm 91, “He will be with me in trouble”.

My husband and I were on holiday in Israel.  My husband was telling the Muslim taxi driver he had fourteen children, because Brendan heard Muslims have big families.  The man responded, “How many sons do you have?” Brendan replied “I have eight sons”.  “You will go straight to heaven because it must be hell on earth”, the man replied.

God is faithful.  It never turned out to be hell on earth. Indeed my sons are blessed.