I gave birth for the first time in New York City, brought my
baby home in a taxi and spent two glorious years strolling through
parks and museums. I thought we'd be an urban family, thriving on
the energy of the city, lulled to sleep by distant sirens and the
rumble of passing trains, but a second baby and private school
tuition drove us out.
Finding the right suburb for our family took some time.
We were house poor in New Jersey and miserable in an Ohio
McMansion. In the Oak Park area, we found our ideal town: River
Forest is close enough to the city to have some diversity and urban
edge, yet distant enough to give us a tiny backyard.
My other children were born in the suburbs. Their infancy was
not very different.
They too logged many miles in the stroller, but they played at
playgrounds and the library, meeting other babies with whom they
will go to school. Finding playgroups for them was actually easier
and less transient than in the city.
The steep price of private education drove us out to the
suburbs, but attending public school has been an amazing
experience. Our oldest two children have thrived in their public
school. They have gym every day, as well as a rich music and art
programs, and when they walk to school, the crossing guards greet
them by name.
In the suburbs, we've been able to make our home the
neighborhood hangout house. Our children's friends are always
around: in our house, on our teams, and at our local pool. Our
house is noisy and busy, but it's a happy chaos that lets me really
get to know my children's friends.
Great restaurants and culture are just a few exits away, but
being so near Chicago keeps us aware of crime and poverty. Bikes
are stolen, shopkeepers are held up at gunpoint and the food pantry
has long lines. We enjoy the perks of small town life without
losing touch with the urban reality of the Chicago skyline we see
from our yard.
I wouldn't want my children growing up any other way.
See more of Vanessa's stories here.
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