Here is an article I wrote a couple of years ago when my kids were younger. Thought you would enjoy it.
Once in a while you start to think that you are as clueless as your preteen thinks you are. Now, I see myself as being very good at judging human character and being able to “know” someone in a very short time, but on this occasion I missed the mark. Last summer I was at a large family reunion in my hometown, Pierz, Minnesota. The reunion was set in a park which had the amenity of a nice swimming hole created by a small dam placed on the Skunk River back in the 40’s. Now I know at this point you think I am making this up, but it is all true and I’d swear to it. The Skunk River is about as clean as it sounds. I grew up in Dairy Farming County and I swam in the Skunk when I was growing up and I can tell you that when you swim in the Skunk you occasionally have to push a floating cow pie aside as the Skunk is lined with prosperous dairy farms for miles upstream. We did not mind. It was a great place to grow up.
After leaving the farm I went to college and then law school and I am now a city dweller. I have a whole new appreciation for rural Minnesota and the Skunk River, and I miss the lifestyle terribly. I miss the fresh air, the genuine people and the simpler lifestyle. (I have met some attorneys who could use a good swim in the Skunk).
I brought my husband and three children to the family reunion and my children were immediately drawn to the swimming hole. It wasn’t the cow pies that attracted them, but the four to five foot dam with a pool just deep enough for them to stand on their very tippy toes and still have their face above water. It looked and felt dangerous, so they thought it was great. I stood on the dam to watch my son jump repeatedly into the water and I would clap when he jumped off. My 12-year-old daughter thought the whole thing was beneath her and just stood by me while I cheered my son on. I clapped and mockingly gave a score of 1 to 10 to judge his jumps as if in an Olympic diving contest. Very shortly, another older boy started jumping in, in front of me and then looking when he emerged to see if I would cheer him on and give him a score. Now, because I hang out with kids a lot I know the look.
This is a kid whose parents are nowhere to be seen and kids love attention. So, recognizing the symptoms, I started to give him a cheer and a score when he jumped off too. He seemed to enjoy it and we carried on an exchange as he and my son took turns jumping, always starting with the “watch this” and “well, now watch this.” We all laughed and were totally enjoying the day when he popped up in the water and yelled, “Why don’t you come in with us?” I said “Oh, I don’t even have my suit along.” He looked at me a little put off and said, “not you – you,” pointing at my daughter, who now had that look on her face of, mom you are so clueless. While I thought I was entertaining some kids, the preteen boy and my preteen daughter were making a connection to which I was oblivious. I don’t think I am ready for this. No, I know I am not ready for this.