A little over two years ago, after a decade of living in the city limits of Chicago, we packed up and moved to the suburbs. My husband and I sometimes refer to the cultural city vs. suburbs divide as "the chasm." Having lived on one side of the chasm in the city, I had some preconceived notions about what our suburban existence would be like. And you know what? I was wrong. Here are some aspects of suburban life with my family that have surprised me.
The suburbs can be diverse
When we announced our move, some people told us that our decision to leave the city meant depriving our daughter of the benefit of growing up with a multitude of cultural influences. I have to admit that I worried about this, too. Yet the diversity in our suburb has been one of my greatest surprises and delights.
At my daughter's birthday party last month, more than half of our tween guests had parents or grandparents born in countries other than the United States. These countries included Bangladesh, India, China, Italy and the Philippines.
Not every suburb is like that, but ours is and I'm so very grateful.
Also, those wonderful cultural establishments and ethnic neighborhoods of the city are only a short drive away.
There are more than just chain restaurants in the suburbs
There are fabulous dining options all around us - wonderful family establishments with delicious food and quirky, unique dives.
Many city dining establishments even have suburban outposts. Our town features city favorites ranging from Hugo's Frog Bar to Heaven on Seven.
In fact, we had lived in the suburbs for more than two years before my daughter made her very first trip to Olive Garden. At age 10, she had never been. She didn't love it, she didn't hate it, but more importantly, her palate has not been scarred for life.
You can still enjoy the city even if you don't live there
It's shocking but true - suburbanites are allowed back into Chicago if they wish to return, even for a few hours. And doing so is not all that hard. Okay, I knew we could go back, but I really am surprised by the fact that we visit with some regularity and it really isn't a big deal.
In the past year as a family we have enjoyed everything from the Art Institute and Wrigley Field to the Lyric Opera and the Museum of Science and Industry. The amount of time it has taken us to return to our home has not been so onerous that we have refrained from making another trip.
Who knew that the 'burbs were full of so many wonderful surprises?
Although she’d like to be taller and have more time to dive into good books, Shannan is awfully happy with her life in the western suburbs, where she moved after a decade of living on the north side of the city. She blogs about parenting a tween at Tween Us on ChicagoNow and at Families in the Loop.
See more of Shannan 's stories here.