The Journey

Baby in Mac
By Heather Kennison

Meet the youngest Mac Man: Padraic Mulcahy. He's red-haired, blue-eyed, single and isn't yet thinking about a major. Which is understandable; as a four- month-old, he's got other priorities.

Padraic lives with his parents, Sean and Grace Mulcahy, in the two-bedroom resident director's apartment in McMillan Hall. He can frequently be seen at Mac's Prime Times or visiting Ballard.

"There's always this big crowd around him; it's like a celebrity coming to town," Ballard resident assistant Janna Silvis said of Padraic's visits.

He joined the Whitworth community on Saturday, Oct. 18, 2009. Though 10 days late, the timing couldn't have been more perfect.

"We just hung out in Mac and watched the Notre Dame football game and counted contractions," Grace said. She and her husband, resident director Sean Mulcahy, slipped out of their apartment without causing a stir among the Mac Men.

For the first few months of his life, Padraic was secluded from the other residents. Because he was born during the H1N1 flu scare, Padraic's doctor advised his parents keep him from contact with students, Grace said.

Despite this, both Grace and Padraic were able to be a larger part of their community. Grace recently quit her job as a school therapist so she can be a stay-at-home mom. She expressed surprise at the response from residents to having a baby in the dorm.

"I wasn't sure how a baby in Mac would be received," Grace said. "It's really fun to see boys cooing over a baby saying, 'Oh, he's so cute!'"

Padraic's presence has created a new dynamic in the Mac community. Sean tries to take him to Mac Prime Times a couple of nights a week. Having a baby has been a nice icebreaker, Sean said.

"I think it has certainly been fun to be able to talk to people about what it's like to become a parent," Sean said.

But raising a baby in a college dorm has had its uncertainties. Grace has tried to be mindful of other residents' living spaces.

"I just get anxious about the noise level from [Padraic]," Grace said. "I don't ever notice the Mac boys being too loud but I am always worried about the people below us."

But resident assistant Josh Klute, who lives directly below Padraic's nursery, said that he has never heard Padraic. "It's not really what I expected, living under a baby," Klute said.

In fact, he's almost disappointed. "I kind of wanted to hear him cry but…not a peep," Klute said.

With a generally mellow personality, little Padraic has won the hearts of "Mac Men" and "Ballard Babes" alike. The men seek Padraic out more often than Grace would have expected. Some of them have never interacted with a baby before, she said, so it gives them a good first experience.

The interaction is good for both sides. Research has shown that being exposed to different faces and held by different people can be positive developmentally for a baby.

"You can tell that he's a dorm baby," Grace said. "He sleeps through anything. And he's so used to being passed around. Anyone can hold him and he doesn't care at all."

Because resident directors are allowed to stay for only four years, 2010 will end Padraic's stay at Whitworth. The Mulcahys came to Whitworth in 2006 and Sean received his master's degree in education and administrative leadership from Whitworth in May 2008. He had previously been an RD at Benedictine College in Kansas. Now, he said, he is just waiting to see where the wind blows him.

"I think it'll be weird living outside of a dorm," Sean said. "It'll be so awkwardly, uncomfortably quiet."

It is possible for Sean to get a live-in position at another university in student conduct or housing. The Mulcahys are willing to go anywhere, but would love to stay in Spokane because of their roots here at Whitworth, Sean said.

"This is like our first home as a married couple," Grace said.

Having grown up with four or five siblings each, living in a dorm doesn't faze them at all, Sean said. They would both like to have a large family someday. But for the time being, Padraic will have to make do with his 79 "brothers" of Mac Hall.