Peaks & Valleys


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“Don’t wait for a light to appear at the end of the tunnel…”

“…stride down there and light the bloody thing yourself.”

Sara Henderson

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10-year old boy rollerblading on bike path under highway overpass past mother

[Accessibility Description: Aidan spreads his arms wide, coming out from under an overpass. Sherri walks behind him holding a dog leash.]


“It’s a series of challenges. You’re going to work through that one and you’re going to make it through to the other side…and then there’s gonna be another one.”

“But you’ve already made it through one hump and you’ll just work through the next one.”


Aidan glides past his mother on roller blades, arms outstretched to cut through the humid August air.

His wheels are silent on the pavement, but we can hear him coming. He’s talking non-stop, engaging us with questions about the trees, musings on his skating technique, showing Sherri the Pokemon he’s caught with her phone, a bundle of long legs and arms, blue eyes, and a goofy grin, ideas upon ideas.


Mother helps son lace rollerblades

[Accessibility Description: Aidan and Sherri lace up roller blades]


“Our life together can be ridiculously difficult and incredibly enlightening at the same time.”

“I go through periods where sometimes I get lost in his needs, in the things going on in his life and lose sight of the things that are just for me.”

Wrestling with his skates, Aidan turns those big blue eyes up to his mother and asks for help. She reaches down and pulls, expertly working the laces. It takes a while. They joke around while they work together.

Sherri is a single-mother, raising Aidan in a multi-generational home, along with Aidan’s grandmother Pam, and LJ the family dog. Aidan has been a bundle of energy since birth.

They’ve managed to stumble through the rough patches – the death of Sherri’s father and her divorce from Aidan’s father all before Aidan turned 1, and the peaks and valleys that come with Aidan’s learning disabilities.


Head & shoulders portrait of son and mother smiling at each other

[Accessibility Description: Aidan & Sherri smiling at each other and laughing.]


“For us, I do the very best I can, remind myself I’m not June Cleaver and move on to the next challenge. By June Cleaver I mean I’m not perfect and I never will be. I will however, do the very best I can.”

“I want to capture the beauty of our multi generational family. I want to remember this time when my son still thinks I’m wonderful! He still loves to snuggle up for a movie. I love that he won’t go to sleep without a kiss and a hug.”

Goofing around on the sofa, Aidan makes faces at his mom to make her smile. He climbs into her lap and she laughs as he tries to flops over her shoulder. He’s still young – just ten years old, and she knows he’s in the last years of bedtime hugs and wanting to wrestle with her on the sofa.

This summer has been particularly smooth. They’ve reached a bright peak, where she can look back and see how far she’s come as a parent. As Aidan enters middle school, they will have a bumpy trail ahead – but none years after the most challenging year of her life, Sherri sees the light at the end of the tunnel.

It wasn’t always like this. She and Aidan didn’t always have the tools and support network they have now. The self-doubt and judgement she faced while Aidan was little hasn’t entirely disappeared, but she’s learned how to manage it and keep going.


…Find out more in Part 2: Always Like This


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“They want to cut out the valleys and just show the peaks. And valleys are important; the valleys make the peaks stand out.”

– Tracy Letts

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This session is from the Invisible Obstacles Series. Families in the Invisible Obstacles series provide a glimpse into daily life while navigating adversity. Names and locations of minors may have been changed to protect privacy. Permission & quotes attributed to Sherri L. unless otherwise specified.

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