A Theory of Relativity

The Science of Family

by , posted on November 2nd, 2010 in The Science Issue

Art by Rob Ryan


In the next issue we’re going to explore…SCIENCE (cue: mad maniacal laughter).

Maniacal laughter? More like widespread panic. What on earth? I. AM. TOTALLY. HOPELESS. AT. SCIENCE!

In school, I failed Biology miserably, couldn’t even manage the ‘try’ in Chemistry. And Physics? Please, I might as well have been studying Fizzicks.

So what to do? After much keyboard tapping, pondering, head scratching and pencil chewing, I was distracted by an exciting trip overseas. I was about to embark on nine days of family celebrations all by myself. No husband, no children, for the first time in four years.

My older sister was getting married and we would be celebrating both in London, and Latvia, where we would meet the new ‘in-laws’. The wedding was a precious moment, small and intimate, with the bride, simply stunning. However it was our trip to Eastern Europe that will remain a deeply humbling experience. With no common language to share stories, thoughts or feelings, the two families sat down to the ultimate social experiment. We could only connect through smiles, tears and lots of hand gestures, but the underlying message remained clear; a message of hope for the newlyweds, joy for their happiness and love for them both.

For all the excitement of reuniting and celebrating with my parents, two dear sisters and lovely new brother in law, not having my own precious family to share the moment with divided me in two. And that got me thinking. Sitting in my tiny seat on that very big plane for a whopping 23 hours, I decided to do something I hadn’t the luxury of doing for a while. Think. And so I did. And it came to me. Family.

Old and new. Immediate and Extended. Related by a labyrinth of genetics and ancestral patterns, family is what makes us, sometimes breaks us, but ultimately creates society, carrying us all from one generation to the next.

The apple had dropped, my Eureka moment! I had found my science, the science of family, a social science of gigantic earthly importance. So significant and unique that one could nearly say it can take its seat beside the Divine. Science and Religion, together?! Absolutely. Isn’t it where biology holds hands with a miracle? And after giving birth to two big, beautiful boys, I can certainly vouch for that.

So with this in mind, I realised that it is ten years since I altered my family’s makeup and created great physical distance by emigrating to Australia. From a tiny corner of a quiet suburb in Dublin, our family now spans three countries, four nationalities and a combined geographical distance of 17, 210k kilometres. Hey, you could just about call us the mini United Nations!

Little did I realise the impact though that I would have on the social structure of our particular family unit. Now with my very own to nurture and nourish it has made me understand and realise the force of that decision on the future of those five, now nine people. So knowing that boys will never call their mothers and only come home to do their laundry I think I need to start my ‘please stay in the same country’ campaign now, in the hope that they will never do what I did to my poor parents all those years ago.

So with nine days away from my busy daily life, I think I managed to consider quite a lot. And after ten incredible years of adapting, coding, hypothesising, micro analysing and theorising the universe and all its measures, I now know that where I came from, my origins and the roots in which I am firmly fixed will forever call me. And so will be the case for our children, and our children’s children. But if we, as parents, do our job right, those roots will spread thick and fast, hold them steady and allow them to flourish. And when it’s time for us to say goodbye, they will become their own scientists, discovering, and unfurling the mysteries of life all for themselves.

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7 Responses to “A Theory of Relativity”

  1. Jennifer Cooper Says:

    November 2nd, 2010 at 9:21 pm

    The science of family is such an interesting thing to study, isn’t it?


  2. Dave K. Cooper Says:

    November 3rd, 2010 at 1:52 am

    Love this take on science. People always talk about people having “chemistry,” and perhaps the best proof that this is true, is the lack of it in certain families. :) Lucky for me, my families get along just fine. (Phew!)

    Great piece.


  3. Kirsten Says:

    November 3rd, 2010 at 2:57 am

    Am I the only one who got goosebumps reading this?? Love your blog, love this piece.

    Science of family…. yep. It’s a science alright. :)


  4. Jen Says:

    November 3rd, 2010 at 9:34 am

    Thanks everyone – so pleasing to know my thoughts made a ‘connection’ – very scientific term ;)


  5. nuella Says:

    November 3rd, 2010 at 2:10 pm

    Kirsten was not the only one who had “goosebumps” reading this blog.
    For me , perhaps it was because , Jen was our middle daughter to whom I am so proud, and the one who changed our family dynamic almost 11 years ago.


  6. nuella Says:

    November 3rd, 2010 at 7:16 pm

    Correction….. Jen IS our daughter. !!!


  7. Vanessa Says:

    November 8th, 2010 at 6:11 am

    Well, goosebumps times three, together with a bit of a lump in my throat. I am the youngest of jen’s sisters and so biased. But this article hits the nail on the head. I too am far far away and that family science is the tug that is pulling me back to the ok sod. Ps like jen I am hopeless at all thanks science.


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