Senior CJ Destefani and his wife, junior Bryna Destefani, are parents to a son while full-time stu­dents at Hillsdale College.

For most stu­dents, entering college marks a new period of tran­sition and mat­u­ration, but very few expect to expe­rience the change of wel­coming a child into the world. Junior Bryna Destefani, who has a five-month old son with her husband, senior CJ Destefani, dis­cussed how she had wanted to become a parent but didn’t always plan to do so in college.

“I won­dered how the aca­demic world would react,” she said as she recalled the thoughts going through her mind at the early stages of her preg­nancy and the warmth and help that she received from the com­munity.  “I had heard that the aca­demic and domestic worlds don’t mix, but it’s really not like that at Hillsdale. I’ve been very blessed by Hillsdale, espe­cially by the pro­fessors.”

There are still unique chal­lenges pre­sented to student-parents. Senior Victor Beeker, who has an almost two-year old son with his wife Cassidy, said they needed to gain parental skills quickly.

“It’s hard to raise somebody else when you yourself are still devel­oping,” Beeker said as he dis­cussed his journey in fig­uring out how to best raise his son. “It helps that my wife works with young children, pri­marily autistic or men­tally dis­abled kids. She’s been doing that her whole life, so she knows the ins and outs of it, and I was just kind of along for the ride.” 

CJ Destefani said having a child has forced him to adapt his daily routine. “I was always a morning bird, but now it’s 7 or 8 every morning whether I like it or not,” he said.

For Bryna Destefani, one of the most chal­lenging aspects of being a parent and full-time student is having to spend some time away from her son.

“I wish that I was a super­human so that I didn’t have to sleep and I could just be with him all the time,” she said.

Bryna Destefani noted that aside from the normal day-to-day activ­ities that might keep a parent busy, being a student adds an extra level of respon­si­bility as well as time spent trav­elling back and forth from home to campus. “When he was three weeks old until he turned about four months, that was a lot of running back and up the hill. I think the longest I was ever away from him was an hour and a half,” she said.

When asked about the most beau­tiful day-to-day aspect of par­enthood, Bryna Destefani said, “He’s got an amazing laugh. It’s probably the most joyful sound I’ve ever heard.”

Another remarkable aspect of par­enthood is the way that these parents can vic­ar­i­ously expe­rience the wonder and fas­ci­nation that their kids feel as they learn about the world, according to Beeker.

“Watching him fill out the lan­guage without being able to say the words is inter­esting,” Beeker said as he described how his son used one single word to com­mu­nicate a plethora of emo­tions by using facial expres­sions and hand motions. “He has this one word called ‘choo,’ and he uses hand ges­tures and context and location to inform you as to what ‘choo’ means.”

CJ Destefani said his favorite part of being a parent was seeing everyone smiling. “A lot of people don’t expect him and it’s a joy to just take him around the union and see so many people,” he said.

Bryna Destefani said being a parent has made her look to the future, and she described how having a son opened her eyes to pos­sible dangers that could affect her son down the road. For her, having an emo­tional con­nection to her future children made her more sen­sitive to societal problems.

“I def­i­nitely see the world dif­fer­ently in how deci­sions impact future gen­er­a­tions. It wasn’t some­thing that I thought about before,” she said. “I started thinking about my future children in this abstract way … there are so many factors that affect their lives. That can be a little over­whelming some­times.”

The Deste­fanis and Beeker expressed the impor­tance of encour­aging children to do what they love and to pursue excel­lence in that. 

“I just want them to have the tools to make deci­sions with the most infor­mation and the most wisdom they can,” Beeker said as he reflected on the pos­si­bility that his children might not choose the same path in life as him.

He also stressed the impor­tance of faith in the role of his children’s edu­cation. “I want to raise them in the Christian faith, so I want to make sure that they have a faith-filled upbringing that they can look back on and make their own decision about as they will even­tually have to do,” he said.

In advising stu­dents con­sid­ering mar­riage as they tran­sition out of college and into adulthood, Bryna Destefani said having a child in college was a great thing for her, but it is not the right choice for everyone.

“If that’s where God weighs in your life, I’d say def­i­nitely go for it because it’s won­derful,” she said.