About a week ago, I walked into a relatively new church plant in the west of Ireland with Erin and Méabh. It was a little bit embarrassing…being with Erin & Méabh that is (it’s okay…Erin was a bit embarrassed too).
Since we were a bit late (we did drive 2.5 hours to get there), the back rows were all taken and we had to walk to the middle of the room. As I made the walk up to our seats, I had a good idea what people were thinking…(old guy…much younger woman…baby.)
For some reason people have a tough time guessing the ages those in our family are. Usually they add a few years to the age of our teenagers…and subtract 10 to 15 from Liz and me. Most however tend to be pretty accurate in guessing how old Méabh is.
The craziest example was during our last year in NY. We were leaving one of Hannah’s (17 at the time) softball games and Brenna (13 at the time) was carrying Méabh. One of Hannah’s teammates pointed at Brenna and asked Hannah, “Is that your mom?” Okay, that is a bit extreme.
The year prior, right after Méabh was born, Liz was still recovering from the C-section, so Hannah and I took Méabh to the doctors for a follow-up visit. I had to explain a couple of times to the nurse (who kept talking to Hannah like she was the mom) that although Hannah and Méabh are 16 years apart, they are both my daughters. Their mom was unable to come, so my oldest daughter is helping.
Brenna, Erin, and Hannah are each physically old enough to be Méabh’s mom.
In fact when one of them is watching Méabh downtown, they have a game where they count how many looks they get from people who assume they are teen-moms.
I have had countless conversations with people where I have to explain that despite the age range, they are all my daughters. Even more remarkable is they are all from the same marriage!
So having been dealing with this for about 2.5 years now, I know how it works. I walk into a place with Méabh and one of my teenagers, and for at least a portion of the people there, the assumption is “old guy with a much younger woman and look they have a kid.”
It isn’t wrong, or bad…it’s just how things work. It is a pretty natural thing in fact; we see a picture and we fill in the back story.
There’s a part of me that when I enter a place like that, wants to walk up to each person in the room and say, “I know what it looks like, but it isn’t how it looks. Really, these are both my daughters. My wife will be here soon, and she’s old like me.”
But that would be weird. Plus, while some people might be thinking what I think they are thinking, many aren’t. And probably even more have enough going on in their own lives, that they really don’t have the time or energy to think about us.
About 10 minutes later Liz and Brenna came into the room. I felt better…I wasn’t some creepy guy with a way too young girl. But there was still some ambiguity. Perhaps the little girl was our grandkid, and we were helping our daughter raise her.
One story was ruled out…but still other options.
About 20 minutes later when Méabh began singing “See-saw Margery Daw,” and “Old MacDonald had a Farm,” during the sermon, Liz got up and hand-in-hand with Méabh they walked to the nursery.
And while that still left some confusion as to our family story (“was the baby an accident?”) Everyone’s position in the family (mom, dad, kids) was now much more clear.
In Jim Collins book, Good to Great. He writes about overnight success stories, and basically writes that there are no such thing. Every company that seems to “pop” on the scene overnight, generally was working away for an extended period of time, but we never hear about them until they do something worthy of making news.
We have a habit of looking at snapshots and thinking we know the whole story…but a snapshot doesn’t tell where we’ve come from…or where we are going. It is simply one part of the story.