Lighting the Path



“Believe that there’s light at the end of the tunnel.”

“Believe that you might be that light for someone else.

– Kobi Yamada

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Boy peers through glass door into dark interior

[Accessibility Description: Aiden peers through a glass door from outside]


“I am not a bad parent but I struggle with that idea. I see Facebook and I see all of the people who only show the perfect side of it – and I get hot and I think, ‘My life’s not like that!'”

“It took me a long time to realize that parts of my life are like that too. They are only showing you the great parts. I can show you the great parts to – because they really do exist.”

“That’s what parenting is all about – it’s never perfect, it’s never sappy pictures all the time. I’m sure there are a few dirty looks behind the scenes once in a while. And it’s not just me.”

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June Cleaver is figment of a sitcom. The actress who played her had a wardrobe staff, hair and makeup stylists, someone to write thoughtful, peppy things to say to her children unburdened by real-life problems.

We have nothing to learn from June Cleaver.

We learn from those who have hit obstacles survived. They show us more than happy, curated highlights of their best moments – they show us what real obstacles look like, and how to climb over them.

Sherri grew up learning from someone like that.


Grandmother, mother, son, and dog in kitchen

[Accessibility Description: Sherri, Pam, Aidan & LJ the dog prepare to leave the house]


“I’ve learned to use my voice from my mother. She was an 18-year-old woman who didn’t drive, who got married and moved off to Virginia because her husband was in the Navy.”

“Here is a woman who has been taken out of her comfortable surroundings, moved off to somewhere else, and now has to rely on herself. And she did – because my father would be gone for long periods of time.”

“I watched the strength of her doing what she had to do – with or without someone else there to help her. For the most part – what she needed, she asked for. Or even – she demanded.

Mother holding screen door open for son and grandmother as they leave a ranch-style home

[Accessibility Description: Sherri leads Aidan & Pam out the front door of their home]


“I hope that Aidan finds this place within school where there are things he’s really interested in, where he understands it – something that will take him on through high school because he’s struggled in school off and on for quite a bit of time.”

“I want him to be able to speak up for himself and say ‘I don’t understand this,’ or ‘I love this,’ or ‘This is great,’ or… ‘It’s terrible!’ and navigate his world himself. Because he doesn’t do that. He hasn’t figured out how to stand up for himself.”

“He could talk you till you’re blue in the face, but he hasn’t really said, ‘This what I need,’ or ‘This is what I want,’ especially in school.”

Aidan hasn’t learned to self-advocate yet – but he will. He’s his mother’s son, and his grandmother’s grandson. They learned to identify what they needed and speak up for themselves. They learned courage when it didn’t come naturally. He will too.

Boy playing game with basketball hoop hat in living room

[Accessibility Description: Aiden smiles as he throws balls into a basketball hoop hat on his head]


“Remember, the transition periods between elementary school to middle school, middle school to preschool, have difficulty within themselves. So know that when he goes to sixth grade – the potential of that year. It won’t necessarily be easy for anyone.”

“And then it evens out. And then he’s going to transition to 9th grade, and that’s going to have a set of challenges within itself. They are what they are.”

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Sherri has opened her life so we can see there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. She’s sharing what she’s learned – how to get past snide comments and judgement, how to speak up and advocate for herself and her son.

She’s doing this because ten years ago, she wishes the path ahead had been a bit brighter, a bit easier to navigate.

She’s doing this for young moms who will follow along a similar path. She’s doing it for moms like me.

I saw an average day in their life, and it’s made a difference in how I handle the hardest parts of parenting two small kids.

Because sometimes, I wonder if it’s just me. I wonder if I’m just not managing my spirited kids ‘the right way.’ I work with families and kids in my day-in-the-life sessions, and I’ve never worked with a kid as unruly, as loud, as intense as mine. I often wonder what these parents do that I can’t – maybe I’m crap at this.

Before I met Sherri – I wasn’t sure if there was a light at the end of the tunnel. I had never met a kid like Aidan, who had been a bundle of energy, and had turned that energy into something so positive and charming and delightful.

Sherri lit the path for me to follow. And now it’s up for us to do the same.

What can we do for those single mothers still reeling from family tragedies, parenting alone, navigating a system not designed for their kids?

…Find out in part 8: Map-Makers & Dynamite


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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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