Three kids, you’d think I’d know better. I mean Briar was a nightmare, granted we didn’t know it, but in the bedtime territory she was a nightmare. Then came Avery, she wasn’t hard, but she wasn’t easy. Now Fin, my little Fin-diddle is such a riddle.

One day she sleeps, down at 9am with coos and sighs, up for giggles and cuddles again until 1 or 2. The afternoon is spent napping in her crib, then up again for more playing and eating, Dad walks through the door and they nap through the news. Dinner, then bed. Following a day of routine naps she might wake up at 4am, but I really don’t mind that.

What I do mind, dread really, are the days when she doesn’t want to wake up with the rest of us—it never ends well. Today was just such a day, when we got home at three Erin told us, “You guys, you guys, ok, listen to what Fin did. I put her down at 9:15 and she slept until—” (she looked at the clock and did some math) “she slept from 9:15 until 1:15. Can you believe that?”

I could. I looked at Fin and she gave me a placid look. I shivered. Lately it seems like when my normal allotment of sleep deprivation is tweaked, be it adding more or restructuring its composition, I suffer. Breakouts, breakdowns, you get the idea. Last night was bad and I knew after the nap that the night ahead was not going to be easy.

Sean is upstairs with Fin, the fifth time one of us has gone to her since she was put to bed. It is nothing short of relentless to go up and down, hopping this way and that to avoid the familiar creaks on the floor, the groans of the stairs. Just when you think you’ve made it she rouses, first a new and then a scream. Or you settle in for a cuddle and just as you feel as if you are done, free to just laze about, she wakes again, or somebody needs water, or a snack, or to pee or to just randomly wake up a sibling.

We groan a bit at each new cry, the passive aggressive game of bedtime chicken, until one of us finally pops up. I hate not wanting to go up, hate the sensation of just wanting peace. The irony is in the peace I find when I scoop her up, the intensity of her relief, the way she scoots her legs up as she wraps her arms around my neck. The warmth of her skin and the softness of her hair take me back to the delivery room. We had all three girls in the same room of the hospital and I can remember the way each head felt on my chest, the first time they nursed, the way their bodies fit into my arms.

I am grateful for this connection, because I promise, without the reminders of love and wonder, bedtime could effectively end the human race.