We were downstairs just after bedtime. I’d gone to take out my contacts and wash my face, meanwhile Avery had shuffled down the stairs and wiggled her way into Sean’s arms. They looked equally complicit and content and so, as I heard Finley start to cry, I left them with a smile.

Closing the door softly behind me, I made my way upstairs, Finley’s cries ratcheting up with each stride. Half way up the stairs I heard Briar begin to warble a tune of her own making:

Go to sleep, little Fin.
Go to sleep so nicely and sweet,
Little Fin, little Fin,
Sleep so you sleep,
Dream so you dream.

I stopped and listened. Her voice quivered a bit as she started each line, but then would grow stronger and more melodic as she moved to a higher note. I could hear her feet on the floor, imagined her dancing with a doll to entertain Fin. Briar is becoming more and more like me each day. Taking on responsibilities, stubbornly insisting that she do things on her own and care taking her sisters.

I find myself so torn by the way she tends to Finley without a second thought and the way in which Finley responds. She finds comfort in Briar, shades of what she does in me. I don’t mean to put Briar in this position, don’t want her to feel overburdened, yet I also don’t want to deny her the gratification she must feel in having this ability.

I listened, waiting until I was sure Finley was asleep, and I called to Briar.

Briar? Briar.
Come here sweetie, come sit in mom’s room.

She darted qucikly, her hands holding her nightgown down as if the fabric’s swishing might wake Fin. I scooped her in my arms and carried her to my bed. We sat together, with her in arms, talking conspiratorially. I ran my fingers through her hair and listened as questions and new details of the school day bubbled from her perfect little lips.

When I’m a mommy will I drive to the hospital?
And when the baby is out of my belly will you still be my mom?
And then I was just pumping and knowing how to swing at school.
And then Daniel was talking to me about how he does his swinging.

I found myself overwhelmed by the absence of guilt as I just listened. These few stolen moments felt as momentous and precious as anything I can remember. We crawled under the covers and touched noses, enjoying the time. Sean and Avery cuddled below and Fin slept the kind of sleep that comes from sharing a room with sisters.

I’ll remember this simple moment forever.