The Kids on the Block
Reported by Alicia Wolverton
If you spend anytime in the Canyon Commons at George Fox University (GFU), you have likely had the experience of being passed by a small giggling streak. Before you have a chance to comprehend what happened, they’re gone, weaving their way between the legs of your peers. When you see a parent following close behind, it becomes clear what the mass of giggles was. There are kids living here.
Although faculty members will occasionally bring their kids to campus for visits, the children of the Area Coordinators (AC) are unique in that they live on campus year-round. GFU is not just a place to visit, but it is their home.
So what’s it like raising kids among college students? The ACs Min Choi, Matt Dyment, and Liz Simmons shared some of their insights into the challenges and joys of the environment their kids know as home.
Ava Dyment, age 11, has lived at GFU for over seven years. “There are so many wonderful experiences with having a child on campus and it seems to keep getting better as Ava gets older,” Matt noted. “The deepest good I receive from having a family on campus is serving in a role where my spouse and child get to participate on so many levels of what I do—team meetings, adventures, pottery lab, climbing wall, meals in the Bon, gardening, acts of kindness, etc.”
For Min and his three-year-old Isaac, the involvement of students with his son has been a sweet experience. “Students and their willingness to watch him, babysit for him, and in general, being around him has been such a cool thing to experience. I love Isaac’s enthusiasm and spontaneity around college students,” Min said.
Liz Simmons further notes the role college students have played with her kids. Bina, who is almost 4, and David, who is 6 months old, have lived on college campuses their entire lives.
“I think my daughter is brilliant from having learned how to communicate with college students. They’ve never baby-talked her, but they still get down on the floor and play with her or toss her into the air or swing her around,” Liz said. “They both are in daycare, and Bina’s language skills surpass those of her classmates. By a long shot. Her ability to articulate her thoughts is also pretty incredible. And David? He’s still kind of a blob. Time will tell.”
Despite the good experiences that come with campus life, the ACs also articulated some distinct challenges that come along with it. Describing his time working at a previous university, Matt noted, “While in Chicago the noise and crime dynamics around campus were a major challenge. When Ava joined the family, it became clear we needed to move to a role more hospitable to family life.”
Liz also weighed in. “I find it challenging to have little control over their environment. I have found it more difficult to teach my three-year-old boundaries when we’re out in public (i.e. she doesn’t know a stranger) like when we’re in an airport and she shouldn’t be as trusting, but the boundary lines on campus and the friendliness of students I think can be confusing to translate into the real world. Also students come and go—starting, stopping, starting, stopping relationship. In short, the difficulty for me comes when it feels like there are more factors outside of my control than if we lived like normal human beings not on a college campus.”
Min notes that the interruptions that come when work and home life collide. “I think overall the college environment is a fantastic place for kids. The challenge is more to do with the AC position and it being an ‘on-call’ position. There are lots of nights where events or other unexpected things happen and that adds complications to parenting.”
Despite these hurdles, each AC made it clear that the interactions between their kids and college students have been life giving. “I think kids are a great conduit for community building,” Min said. “When Isaac is scooting across the Canyon Commons and is screaming or saying ‘hi’ to people, I see students smiling and responding in a really positive way. It makes it feel a little more ‘home-y.’ He has randomly gone up to students sitting by themselves, he has built relationships with some of the cooks, and he has interacted a lot. He's normalized family-life a bit on campus and I think that can add value to a lot of individuals.”
For Ava, Matt has been appreciative of the decision-making skills college students model for her. “One of the unanticipated gifts has been how the college students have modeled good decision-making with hard choices or the importance of boundaries and determining your own voice,” Matt said. “Sadly, our elementary, middle school, and high school students are being exposed earlier and earlier to porn, violence, and knowledge of very difficult and painful things in life. I feel as though Ava's interaction with Fox students has helped her think, frame, and make decisions about areas we consider out-of-bounds or painful in a more mature way than her peers, especially after her 3rd grade classroom was exposed to aggressive porn while at school on school devices.”
Finally, Liz expressed gratitude for the voices of students in the lives of her children. “They're helpful and loving. Michael and I really want Bina and David to be raised by a village of people,” Liz said. “I want them to have multiple men and women they look up to in order to help shape who they are. I value the voice of the college students around me in helping to shape that. The ones who have earned our trust have also earned the right to form our children in some way. I take that really seriously. On another note, having college students around to toss my hyperactive daughter into the air until they experience muscle fatigue means that I get a break from it. I like what college students are teaching my kids. It is a gift to have them in our space.”
While for some students these kids have been consistent streaks of giggling running through the cafeteria, others have experienced them as gifts to the creation of community at GFU.