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.