I gave the girls a bath tonight, partly because they were in need and partly because before long they won’t all fit. I love watching the three of them, elbows and knees pointing this way and that, shoulders plastered with slick, wet hair and knotty spines twisting and bending.

Their eyes take me back to early day cuddles, hours spent holding them on my knees and learning the contours of their faces, little maps of a future I couldn’t possibly know. Now, watching their long necks, there is no cradling, they can hold themselves up and toss out a steady hand when they start to slip. They do things like hold dolls under a stream of water and say, “With this ring thee be wed,” and press their faces into the water and come up without sputtering.

When Fin holds her arms out and says, “I just so a’sleepy, momndad,” I melt. Holding the towel in my arms, I scoop her up and we slip out of the room as the big girls stretch out in the tub. It’s in these moments that I am so fiercely grateful that Fin won’t relinquish the title of baby. I am in no rush to seal this door.

“I’n Fin-a-lee and I’n your baby be-caws you’re my mom. Put on my diaper, brush my teeth and give me a cuddle and a little bit’a milk, please please please?”

“You bet,” I promise as I lay a kiss in her ear.

After she’s dressed we go to pick out a book, but tonight she is taken by a stool beneath her window. “I go up and up and up and I catch you to me?” she asks. “Sure,” I nod as I watch her climb. Her feet poke out from a pair of unicorn bedecked long johns, while her arms look like twigs poking out of a size 6 Bowl-for-Kids-Sake t-shirt. The light coming through the window is familiar and I search, wondering what it could be. Fin’s throaty laugh tickles me as she leaps into my arm and climbs the stool again.

It is Fin’s light, 8 days shy of her birthday it is the quality of the light during those days when I longed for her arrival. Now, clambering up and down on this felt covered stool, she is nearly two, almost weaned and spectacularly defined in her Finness, “I do it to myself, all myself, ok?” I have mastered the art of letting her advance while preserving the soft edges of baby that she still so deeeply wants. Tonight, I found a selfish reprieve in the light, a moment of grace in acknowledging these last grains of her true baby self before they slip away into the light of her third summer here.

I can see all the wrinkles and folds of my babiest Fin. Dark ringlets clinging to her face before leapfrogging from chin to shoulder, eyelashes curtsying to the sides of her eyes and that mouth, a little smudge of scarlet just waiting for a kiss. Tonight when I asked to kiss her she stood up tall, tossed her head to one side and said, “I catch the kiss to you in my air?”

And with that, we kissed. Forever.