Parenting in college

A defense of early fatherhood

Becoming a father changes you in numerous ways and can even prompt you to recreate your identity in fashions unseen by the previous incarnation of your formerly childless self. For instance, one way I never imagined I would spend my time was reading advice in parenting articles and magazines.

A defense of early fatherhood

Becoming a father changes you in numerous ways and can even prompt you to recreate your identity in fashions unseen by the previous incarnation of your formerly childless self. For instance, one way I never imagined I would spend my time was reading advice in parenting articles and magazines.

Obviously, before my daughter came into my life, I did not have much need for parenting advice. Still, I was certain that when the time came, common sense would prevail enough for me to avoid seeking the advice of “parenting experts” and successfully keep my children from harm. Like my ancestors, I would rely on my wits to turn them into healthy, happy American citizens.

It was almost a point of pride, actually.

Yet now that I am a father, I consistently find myself reading advice from other parents and the so-called experts about techniques for child-rearing. I still take it with a grain of salt, but I find it is good for soothing anxiety about the “normalcy” of childhood behavior and development.

Reading these articles, I’ve also noticed, is a good way to gauge the current state of the American family unit. The articles subtly make assumptions about who parents are, what they do and often how old they are.

One thing I’ve discerned through my engagement in parenting literature is a trend toward late-life parenting and oftentimes advocacy for later parenthood.

Many recent articles praise the increasingly common practice of parenting later in life as being highly beneficial for emotional maturity, employment security and monetary reasons. Assuming that stability is the best thing for a child, all of these are good incentives to wait to procreate.

But as a 24-year-old man with a 2-year-old daughter, I have to say that there are many benefits to reproducing young. Specifically, I believe that being a college student and a father at the same time is conducive to inventing a positive parenting style that will shape my child into a happy, curious yet rational young person.

I have been told by family members and people in my community that I am too young to have kids. Yet I believe that youth is necessary to produce children that are empathetic, creative and driven toward human progress.

In my experience, the benefits of having a college-aged parent are multifold.

A smaller age break between parent and child will decrease the likelihood of generational gaps that could lead to ideological misunderstandings. That means that parent and child have a better chance at becoming friends down the road, simply because they will have a similar world perspective.

When they are good, college classes are designed to challenge a student’s perspectives. They provide a forum for honing critical-thinking skills and instill an open-minded approach to learning. I feel this aspect of being in college has reinforced within me a similar open-minded perspective toward parenting.

Open-mindedness is critical for developing children who are sensitive, caring and confident. I believe that as the world continues toward cultural and economic globalization, the ability to think from differing perspectives will be an asset in reshaping the framework of the human population from one favoring ethnocentric nationalism and patriarchal control to a world society based upon egalitarianism and harmony.

I also trust that as child-rearing becomes intertwined with self-education, the college-aged parent undergoes a humbling transformation. The parental identity is aligned with that of the pupil, the student who seeks self-elevation through increased knowledge. Thus the student-parent understands the various levels of the hierarchy of authority.

The child, in turn, is able to observe the beauty of a life in flux through the incidental examination of the parent’s reconciliation between student and master. The child witnesses the degree to which the student-parents must adapt, compromise and innovate. He or she learns that change is a constant of life and therefore will likely be able to handle stress better than those with a more “secure” or sheltered lifestyle.

People talk about the wisdom of age being the best reason to wait to have children.But there is a wisdom that comes with youth, which is the virtue of uncertainty. Age tends to bring assuredness, and that can sometimes inspire ideological rigidity. The ability of the young to maintain fluidity in their beliefs is a tremendous asset when attempting to raise a child because it inspires the student-parent to weigh all aspects of his decisions.

This is because the parent does not have the added influence of years of past experience to affect his present reasoning and as such must rely simply on his own sensibilities (as well as advice from others).

It is reasonable to assume that the more life experience you have, the more you rely upon that experience to predict the outcome of a given situation. But the fact is that children are not predictable, and no matter how settled you think you are, children have a way of challenging your notion of self.

Simply because young people do not expect to know everything, they may be better equipped for such unpredictability. Their views tend to be less oppressive and finite, and, I believe, provide a great opportunity for facilitating growth of both parent and child.

Youth easily lends itself to the elimination of bias due to personal history, preparing a person to cope with the undefinable new experience of parenting.

It is not that I believe youthful people will always make better parents. I simply feel my desire to raise a child in my 20s is just as valid as another’s desire to wait.

I do not believe there is a set age for determining adulthood or emotional maturity. Everyone comes to that point in his own time. Whether you becomes a parent in your 20s or 50s, it is all a matter of realizing how to expand the definition of self to include your offspring; to do so without also losing autonomy and without willfully shaping a child through attitudinal domination.

I understand my view may seem outlandish to some. I believe maturity is the biggest factor in deciding a person’s readiness for parenthood, something many 20-somethings are not readily capable of.

But for those of us who feel we are ready, parenthood is vastly rewarding.

Sometimes when I watch my daughter spin around, wild-eyed and free, I can’t help but become dizzy at the sight. Yet when I was a teenager, a mere five years ago, I was a veritable spinning top myself.

Now, in my 20s, I appreciate more the centered feeling of being grounded. And that is the way a parent’s mind should work.