On Tuesday Ezzy went to the summer camp program at the independent school she visits once a week. We’ve missed a number of camp days due to trips to Boston, a few days of sickness that I worried might be viral, and days that it was just too hot for her to play outside.

But the days she has been able to attend have been amazing reminders to me about why we bring her to spend time with her peers. The changes in Esmé since last fall have been really mind-blowing to me. They might not look like much to the casual observer, but to us these changes are huge. And they give me so much hope that we are heading in a direction where I can imagine someday being able to leave Esmé safely at school for a regular school day. I want this so badly for Esmé–because I want her to have an exciting life that allows for some independence for her. I also want it for me…to see a way toward having some more independence for myself, without being afraid for Esmé’s safety.

There is still a long path in front of us before we can begin to discuss Esmé attending any school for something that looks like a regular school day. I have a lot of questions about how all it would work out–they are practical questions that might not be obvious at first. Questions about finding a reliable and consistent caregiver to accompany Esmé. Questions about how to handle her therapies at school. Questions about how we can integrate Ez in a class without disrupting her classmates. How we push Esmé without overdoing it… And how, as a family and set of caregivers, therapists, and teachers, we can make a plan and move forward while knowing it all might just have to change dramatically tomorrow.

On Tuesday, however, I watched as a number of things happened that reminded me why we have to keep focused what is on the other side of these questions:

1) Esmé got dirty. After playing on the playground with her teacher and her friends I looked at my daughter as saw her shorts and the back of her shirt covered in dirt. Between her sensory challenges and our concerns about her mouthing, Ez pretty rarely gets dirty. When I first noticed her dirty clothes I was momentarily startled–and then all I could think was “how appropriate!”

2) Esmé tracked. For the longest time Ez would rarely pay much attention to other kids–especially those kids in motion. I think it was hard for her to concentrate on them because they moved so quickly and unpredictably. On Tuesday a few boys were chasing each other around the part of the playground where she was sitting, and I watched as she followed them running passed her, tracking them both with her eyes and her head, a curious look on her face.

3) Esmé told me to go away. I went over to where Ez was playing, just to check in. I poked my head around the corner of the play structure where she was with her teacher and a little friend and said, “Hi Ez, maman is still here! What are you doing?” She looked at me and shook her head, clearly indicating that I was not welcome in her play time.

4) Esmé queue up in line. After playing outside all the children in her class have to line up at the bathrooms to wash their hands before snack time. Ezzy’s teacher was distracting Ez with toys while the other kids did this, but Ez kept rolling to get in line for the bathroom sink. She was clear and insistent that she was supposed to be doing what her friends were doing too!

5) Esmé rode in a toy independently (pretty much). Ez likes riding in the toy car at school. It makes me nervous because she can slide right out. But on Tuesday we put her in and sat up beautifully without much help. She rocked back and forth to roll the car forward in tiny increments. And when she was done, she did the most fascinating thing…she turned to the side to push her feet against the door as if she were about to kick her way out.

As always Esmé has managed to remind me that she will tell us when she is ready…she will show us when enough exposure to something is inspiring to her (as school has been) and when it is enough and she is “all done.” I have such a tendency to think so linearly about all of this–with a list of plans a, b, c, and d…plans for what if’s and how’s. And, as always, Esmé’s steady progress reminds me that the right path is the one we are on.

We will take the next step.

And then the step after that.

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