The chance to drive by during lunch recess. I used to create these "chances" through complicated logistics planning of meetings and errands. But I just don't need the reassurance as often anymore, so it's been a while.
Today was truly by chance. I slow as I recognize the winter coat of a classmate on the playground, realizing my luck. Change of seasons brings a different jacket each day for my girl as we determine which still fits, which has the best fasteners for her, so I lower my scanning eyes for the consistent identifier in April: rain boots with blue whales on them.
I find them among the wood chips and Reeboks. I have long since ceased using an adult, her aide, as my GPS for where Addie is - no longer is Addie always a package deal with a paid support person. Sometimes the aide is with her at recess and sometimes she is at the other end of the playground observing. I see today's aide a few feet and a few friends away from Addie. While that once would have provoked a squeak of concern and desperate plans to remedy it, now the distance elicits a brief smug grin on my face. She doesn't always need the aide at recess. She owns parts of it herself.
As my gaze shifts north of her boot heels, I see her slowly turn. I don't have much time. The crossing guard at the stop sign I am coasting towards is a bit militant and does not cotton to lingering either by motorists or pedestrians. And she'll have the parents of the half day kids to cross back over after drop off, so I know I'll be waved on in exasperation no matter how long I take.
As I arrive at the stop sign, I crane back slightly to see Addie standing at the base of a ladder leading to up to some playground amusement or another. She looks towards the intersection. While I cannot be certain that she saw me, the squinty grin, each moon eye centered in the middle of a diamond shaped opening in the chain linked fence, all lead me to understand that she knows I am there. Her tight smirk and confident eyes tell me what I already know:
I'm here mom, in my element. I am making my own choices, indulging my curiosity, gaining traction in this small community of my class, of my school. Sometimes I make mistakes (like the fall on the way in to school today that resulted in 2 split lips and some stain pre-treatment for the lapel of mom's new jacket), but I get up again. Sometimes I need help and sometimes I don't. Sometimes I'm the helper myself. I am learning new things every day. I am teaching new things every day. Don't worry mom. There is a place for me here.
And there will be a place for me where ever I go from here.