Chicago is a great city. It really is. Despite the occasional police choppers shining their lights in my backyard looking for the latest escaped felon, there is plenty to love. The food. The people. The culture.
So I’m almost embarrassed to say this, but I must ask:
Am I the only parent feeling a bit Chicago-ed out?
While I actually grew up in the suburbs, I spent much of my childhood in the city. My parents were both native Chicagoans, so they introduced their offspring to all their favorite places and haunts. I moved downtown when I was 23 and quickly learned to romp through the city with my friends looking for Nickel Wing nights and dollar drafts. For nearly two decades, I’ve visited the museums. I’ve seen the theaters. I’ve eaten the pizza. I’ve been a passenger on every color El train that exists. I’ve waited for the 22 CTA bus in the middle of winter while pregnant. I’ve cheered on each sporting team from both the cheap seats and courtside.
For the record, I still get lost. But that’s only because I am missing that magnet thing in your brain that’s supposed to help with directions. I think my grandma dropped me on my head as a baby.
But anyway, I started wondering.
Was there anything left to see?
In an effort to branch out, I started dragging my children on suburban outings. The Morton Arboretum. Brookfield Zoo. Great America.
And sadly, that’s when it occurred to me.
I’d done those all as well. Like a jillion times.
What the flying flip was going on?
Had I been over-served a diet of entertainment and culture for too long? Like many addicts, my threshold for that desired buzz, that coveted high, had grown insatiable.
I needed to detox.
I started hatching a plan to let my boys stay local and explore their own neighborhood this summer. Perhaps they could ride their bikes to different blocks and appreciate the sidewalk chalk artwork of friends.
I wanted my kids to do the stuff that other kids did who didn’t have insane outing junkies as mothers.
We are now only a few days into summer break and I can’t get over how many times the boys have reported meeting up with friends at the park or playground. They are giddy over bumping into classmates and pals. It’s a whole new experience for them.
When my husband first pressed to move us from our downtown condo to the neighborhood community we now live in on the southside, I resisted. My gypsy spirit fought it every step of the way, despite not having an extra square foot to put an ExerSaucer. So I filled our days with outings and field trips in an effort to counteract consistency.
Along my evolution from suburban child finding Indian arrowheads in the cornfields to annoying city snob, I forgot how fun it was to build a fort out of sticks in the backyard with the kids who sat next to you in Math.
Staying local this summer may turn out to be the best adventure yet.
Even without those dollar drafts.