I hate the word “cute.” It’s generic and meaningless, like “nice.” But we happened to watch a cute movie titled, Parental Guidance. It stars Billy Crystal and Bette Midler as befuddled grandparents. They are assigned to watch their three grandkids for a week at their high-tech house. Marisa Tomei plays their neurotic mom.

We could definitely relate to the grandparents, who don’t understand how anything works. We could understand youth baseball games, where no one makes an out and all the games end in a tie. We could see how a speech class wouldn’t require speaking. 

We watched two of our grandsons for a few days at their high-tech house. Our daughter had left us a very detailed three-page note that spelled out the boys’ schedules. It contained key phone numbers, along with the names and locations of the various parks, where the boys played soccer and baseball. We were grateful for the note and quickly learned that raising kids in outer suburbia is much different from raising them in Forest Park.

It’s also a more complicated era. We raised what you would call “free range” kids. They were free to roam Forest Park and were not closely supervised. We rarely had to drive them anywhere. They could make it to school, The Park, dance school and their friends’ homes on their own. Watching the grandsons was a completely different story. I felt like their ride-share driver.

Suburban parents spend a lot of time in their cars. I recall seeing parents sitting in cars lined up at a suburban school and wondered, “Is this what suburban parents do?” I have since sat in that line of cars waiting to pick up my grandsons from school. That was no big deal, but they have so many activities apart from school.

They have the aforementioned youth sports, which require transportation to and from practices and games. They also have birthday parties and play dates to attend. They are not over-scheduled like some kids, but they had enough going on to require daily trips to the gas station. I could not believe how far-flung some of these places were. Plus, the parks were so vast they had multiple soccer and baseball fields. 

Once we located the correct field, I liked nothing better than plopping in my chair to watch them play sports. I’m not a big fan of soccer, but they were so well-coached and played with such teamwork, I could finally enjoy the sport. I also liked watching their baseball games, which are played more-or-less by the rules. There were actual strikeouts and the team with the most runs won the game. 

The young parents of other players actually spoke to us. After the games, I would drive the boys to pick up something to eat. They had expensive tastes and I was grateful for the supply of cash their parents had left us. When we got home, they would relax by watching their electronic devices. 

They were good about going to bed on time and waking up early to be driven to school. I don’t wake up early, so I was on pick-up duty after school. All the driving got to us. We developed a new appreciation for how much work their parents put in to make all these activities possible. But for befuddled grandparents like us, it was positively exhausting. 

We were grateful when the parents returned from their trip and we didn’t have to refer to the three-page note anymore. We also felt grateful to have raised our kids in Forest Park during much simpler times.