Letting Go or Following My Son’s Lead

By Cindy Sandoval

California Hands & Voices

My husband and I live in a rural northern California town with our two sons, Jordan and Chrystian. In 2009, at the age of 13, Jordan asked to enroll at the California School for the Deaf in Fremont. Even though the idea of being apart from him tore our hearts, we put our emotions aside as his parents and focused solely on the needs of our son. We followed his lead.

Reflecting on that August day when we drove Jordan to the Fremont campus with suitcases in hand brings bittersweet memories. It was a monumental transition for the entire family. In the end we knew it would ultimately bring positive experiences for all of us, especially Jordan. There are so many things I can say about his first week. I saw Jordan’s self-esteem and confidence flourish. He immediately joined the football team and subsequently he joined the wrestling and track team. It was non-stop from that moment forward.

In 2014, before his senior year ended at CSD, staff shared the options to reach his goal of completing a high school diploma: 1) Enroll in our County’s High School DHH Program, 2) Enroll his first semester in our Community College and the second semester at CSD, or 3) Enroll at CSD for a 5th year. It was an overwhelming time for Jordan, but with guidance, he analyzed all the possibilities and felt that doing a fifth was the most appropriate opportunity to meet his goals.

In all honesty, letting go is tough. Coming from a Mexican family, my husband saw the transition to CSD as something temporary. Ideally, he thought Jordan would go to CSD, graduate, come back home, and go to the college in our hometown. Realistically, it has not been so simple. Jordan is making huge strides towards independence and self-assurance and is demonstrating to be a strong and independent young man.

Now that post-secondary discussions and opportunities are beginning to take shape, I am grateful Jordan continues to take the lead. He is sharing his life plans and dreams and I love it! That is exactly what I have been striving for all his life: giving him the confidence to take the initiative as I step back and play a supporting role. He wants to attend a Junior College after he finishes school in June and is currently visiting colleges and learning about the supports they offer. Let me share that none of the colleges we are visiting are close to home.

At first, when Jordan told me he wanted to do a fifth year, I felt as if I had failed him as a mother. I thought it reflected on my parenting and his potential for success, but he taught me differently. He was telling us he was not ready. Countless times I was asked which University he was attending; Gallaudet, CSUN, or RIT as if they were the only post-secondary schools available. Honestly, there was a time when I thought my son would only achieve success if he attended one of these universities, but now I know better. If he attends college or not will not determine my son’s success, but rather, success will be defined only by Jordan’s expectations and by what brings joy to his life. Without hesitation we will continue to be supportive every step of the way.

Dealing with post-secondary opportunities has not been the easiest transition time for us, but I am so proud of my son and all of his accomplishments, the decision to do a fifth year has worked for Jordan and he is feeling accomplished and successful and that makes my heart happy.