Smith finds balance with school, family

Senior+Christian+Smith+and+Lylah+Pereira+hold+their+daughter+7-month-old+daughter+OakLynn.+The+two+parents+have+fallen+into+a+routine+as+Smith+juggles+parenting+with+finishing+his+senior+year.

Bailey Hall

Senior Christian Smith and Lylah Pereira hold their daughter 7-month-old daughter OakLynn. The two parents have fallen into a routine as Smith juggles parenting with finishing his senior year.

By Bailey Hall, Kingwood Park High School

Running, school, and being a dad is all senior Christian Smith knows these days. He trained all summer to run track his senior year, while also preparing to be a dad. Six months ago, his daughter OakLynn was born.

“I love and I enjoy the family life right now,” Smith said.

Smith and his girlfriend Lylah Pereira started dating three years ago when Smith was a sophomore and Pereira a junior.

At the beginning of Smith’s junior year, he and Pereira said they knew something was different. Pereira worked at a daycare and had been feeling weird all day. When she got home she took five pregnancy tests – four were positive and one was negative.

“I was actually so scared because I wasn’t planning on having kids – not until I graduated,” Pereira said. “Well, like [after] I traveled and graduated college. In the future, I wanted kids. But she happened and it’s OK.”

Pereira was scared, knowing both of their lives were going to change. She called Smith immediately.

Smith was raised to take things on the best he could and not back down. He said he instantly knew that if something like this was to happen he would be there and do his best for their child.

Smith called and told his mom right away. He knew she would help.

“She’s always there for me,” Smith said. “If I didn’t have my mom, it would probably be really difficult because she went through six kids and she’s got it. She knows everything.” Smith’s dad, Stephen Smith, was a little shocked at first. But quickly made it clear to his son that he would be there for him – to teach him how to be a parent and to help raise the baby.

“[He told me,] ‘You got to be the bigger person now, you got to start pushing yourself,’” Christian Smith said. “You know, to become mature and be able to take care of situations.”

Pereira and Smith tried to spend nine months preparing for the baby’s birth. However, Pereira said some health issues made the pregnancy hard. She had a number of fainting spells, which meant that she was in and out of the hospital throughout her pregnancy.

“She’s more of a miracle [baby] because Lylah might not be able to have another one,” Smith said. “You know, this is the only one she might have. That’s something to think about and to have her is literally a miracle for us.”

She’s more of a miracle [baby] because Lylah might not be able to have another one. You know, this is the only one she might have. That’s something to think about and to have her is literally a miracle for us.”

— Christian Smith, senior

Everybody helps take care of the baby financially – Smith’s parents, Pereira and her parents.

Since graduating last May, Pereira has spent this year working.

“[I learned] don’t spend your money on anything that’s wasteful,” Pereira said. “Everything goes toward her and always will go toward her.”

After the baby was born last April, OakLynn stayed mostly at Pereira’s house. Her stepdad helped during the long nights when the baby stayed up and cried. Now, OakLynn stays at Smith’s house more. Pereira takes care of her during the day while Smith is at school. He is with her at night when Pereira is at work.

“I see the smile on OakLynn’s face every day,” Smith said. “It’s like you work with her and she learns something new. She’s growing really fast, and that’s the thing I don’t like. I like when she’s young. She’s happy, she’s able to do things.”

The past few months have been different for Pereira and Smith, who have worked hard to learn and improve on how to be parents. Smith still runs track – he even competed in the State Championships with the cross country team this fall.

“He’s taken dedication to a whole new level,” Stephen Smith said.

Pereira currently works but plans to return to college and get her degree.

“[OakLynn] helped me a lot – from getting into trouble, lying, fighting with my parents,” Pereira said. “Ever since she’s been here, I haven’t had any fights, I haven’t had any arguing or anything.”

Smith and Pereira still plan on going to college and graduating. Smith hopes to still run track in college. For now, they just enjoy going on walks with OakLynn and being together. It’s the start of a new chapter for the both of them.

“Originally I was already in college, but I had to drop out because I couldn’t attend school,” Pereira said. “So yes, it changed the course of my life, but I’m going to get back on track, and hopefully nothing else changes.

“I’m just grateful that she’s in my life.”

This story was originally published on Park Times on December 4, 2022.