The Blog

The Two Principles of Family Love: Change and Constancy


My wife and I went to see Titanic fourteen years ago. I lapped up every moment of it. Rose and Jack running along the decks of the ship hand in hand? Sure, that was my wife and I - The Greatest Love Story Ever Told. We went to see it again recently with our three children. It was a completely different experience. Everything had changed.

For starters, we reached our seats late, having quibbled with the cashier for fifteen minutes over the price of a family ticket and 3D glasses. "Have we missed it? Has the ship sunk already?" my youngest asked as we squeezed in past two young lovers, whom I was certain were there just to remind us of our glorious, child-free past.

"No," I explained, "that woman up on the screen is the old Rose looking back on her life and thinking about how beautiful her life was before the ship went down."

My irony was lost on her. She jumped up onto my lap and curled into a ball while my second daughter strategically annexed the seat between her mother and me.

Then, my tears started. Seeing as I had cried the first time around, I wasn't surprised, but now each time I reached out for my wife's hand, my middle daughter hollered "Gross! You two are weird!" and pushed my hand away. And then I began to cry at all the children's bits too, which hadn't happened the first time around. My heart all but listed as a mother of two young children read her children the story of Tír na nÓg while the raging waters engulfed them. I was a total mess.

"Why are the men not allowed on the lifeboats?"my youngest asked as fathers were separated from their daughters.

That dam burst.

"Women and children first," I blubbered. "Men were meant to be stronger, and women were weaker."

This time, the irony wasn't lost on her. "I am glad it's not that rule anymore," she said as she wiped away my tears with her sleeve. (I did nothing to tarnish her illusions. I mean, I didn't want her crying as well.) Then, slowly, she manoeuvred my head around until I was looking straight in her eyes.

"I never want you to go. I don't want you to die. I will never leave you," she said, plonking a big, sloppy kiss on my lips that I would have preferred to have had from her mother just then. Not what you'll be saying in ten years time, I was thinking.

By the time Adrian Millar, aka Leonardo de Caprio, had died in the frigid waters of the Atlantic, and my wife had been rescued by the Carpathia, I was an emotional wreck. My wife and I clung to each other as the credits rolled to the sound of our favourite love-song, My Heart Will Go On, safe in the knowledge that the children were out in the foyer enjoying Cokes and weren't likely to come back in to disturb us.

Family life - everything changes, and nothing changes. We are still on the decks of the Titanic.

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