“We all rely on one another for support, resources, and to meet our needs. We are all interdependent. This interdependence is not weakness; rather, it is a part of our humanity.

A.J. Withers

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Mother helps her son with socks

[I/D: Aidan lay on the floor, stretching his foot up to Sherri, who is rolling up a sweaty sock]


“‘Don’t sweat the small stuff.'”

“My dad died 4 weeks before Aidan was born. It was something he always said and something I try to practice.”

“And then I divorced his father when Aidan was very young – still less than a year old.”

“If I didn’t have family involvement and I didn’t live where I live – then I don’t even remotely think they would be the same as they are now. I know my circumstances are different. I know they’re because of my family.”

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Aidan is still young enough to crave his mom’s attention. He pretends he can’t pull his socks off. He begs for help, flopping over the floor like a fish.

She winces and pretends to gag as she grabs the sweaty, stinky socks. Aidan’s grandmother Pam prepares the doggie treats and Aidan jumps to his feel and pulls out toys to occupy LJ while they’re out. Sherri gathers Aidan’s hockey gear.

They move around each other like clockwork, a daily going-out ritual. Pam cheers from the stands at every one of Aidan’s games, and most of his practices. She’s his biggest fan.

Grandmother and grandson in backseat of vehicle

[I/D: Pam and Aidan in the back seat of an SUV, looking at each other in mock-seriousness.]


“He likes to talk. There are times when he’s talked for an hour and a half straight during our car trips, and I go, ‘You have to give me five minutes. I just need five minutes to bring it all in, to quiet it all down, and then we can go back to it.‘” 

“Sometimes when you get caught in the thick of it, especially when things are difficult – you lose track of yourself. Your needs and desires and all that get put on the back burner. I lost complete sight of everything I did just for myself this winter and realized when the spring had rolled around that I had done nothing for myself – not a thing.”

“…Which isn’t great because – how can I take care of him if I’m not aren’t taking care of myself?”

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We’re stuck in traffic – and the rink we’re heading to is about to close. I’m a nervous for them – the one thing Sherri was hoping for were photos of Aidan in action on the ice.

Sherri is unfazed. She talks it over with Aidan, makes a quick call, and plugs a new address into her GPS. She’s found another rink. She makes it look as easy as changing the radio station.

If I were in Sherri’s position – my breathing would speed up, and I’d be gripping the wheel tighter. I picture myself bark orders to my partner, blaming everyone in the car for heading out too late. I’d snap and scowl at the cars blocking me from my perfect plans. I’d curse the August sun for ruining perfectly good frozen ponds and send invisible daggers of voodoo against all rink-owners who closed before midnight. I would be a frazzled, illogical, grouchy mess.

Sherri, in contrast, is smiling lightly and chatting with Aidan. It’s life-changing, watching her. She’s a super-mom, handling this non-crisis without raising an eyebrow.

Forget June Cleaver – I want her to write a parenting book. She’s the mom I wish I could be.

Sherri does get overwhelmed sometimes, but she’s prepared, and she doesn’t sweat the tiny blips of life the way I do. She manages it because she does one key thing that I never realized I was allowed to do.

She sets limits. She asks for help. She takes a break. And then she gets back to it.

She really should write a book.

Grandmother sitting alone in hockey rink

[I/D: Pam watching Aidan from the balcony bleachers at the ice rink]


“My mom has taken Aidan and gone away for a few days. My brother and sister-in-law have done the same thing and it gives me a little break – a sort of reset. Because sometimes, it’s really overwhelming.”

“I am really lucky. There are lots of people who don’t have the same support I have. His father is not very supportive – but his parents have been. My brother and sister-in-law have been involved. My mother has been very involved. He has a very special relationship with her.”
“That made it easier – a lot easier.”

“There are so much to keep on top of because he’s not as independent as some other kids. He doesn’t remember to do all those things you assume they would be doing at this point. So it gives me a break to be able to be like, ‘Alright, I don’t have anyone to worry about but me and the dogs,‘ – and then he comes back and I’ve recharged and we can get back at it.”

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Sherri’s path has swerved and dipped in unexpected ways – but she’s humbled by the support of those walking alongside her.

She’s also been courageous enough to accept help when it’s offered – and ask when it’s not.

“I think some of it is because I use my voice. It’s something I’ve had to develop – I’m not always the most vocal person. I’m an introvert by nature, and an extrovert only by force. There are things you have to ask for and I don’t like to ask for help.”

How did she learn do that?


…Find out in part 7: Lighting the Path

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Family relaxing in living room, dog begging for treat, mother and son playing video games

[I/D: Pam offers LJ the dog a treat while Sherri & Aidan play video games.]

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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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