“I can’t sleep.”

It floats down from their room often; the voice behind it is always Briar’s. It’s never Avery, for her sleep comes like breathing. Sometimes Finley chimes in that she can’t sleep either, but she doesn’t mean it. Finley chooses not to sleep. She squeezes a bit more out of the day and then sleeps. Our Briar, though, she really can’t sleep. The nightly ministrations of lotion and brow stroking, storytelling and singing only deflect from the eventual struggle to sleep.

Last night when she called, “Mom and Dad, I just can’t sleep,” we looked at each other and knew. It was 9:05, they’d been in bed for an hour and half.

“Come here, Briar,” Sean called.

“What?” she asked.

“Come down here, Briar.”

We heard a sigh and then some shuffling. We waited thinking that Finley might wake up, but the house was silent but for the soft thump of Briar’s feet on the stairs. She slowed before coming around the corner. First a toe, then a knobby knee atop a tight, muscular calf with a pink tie-dyed nightgown swishing softly came into the room. Her face was soft, sleepy, but eyes incredibly alert. I know how she feels, her whole body ready to sleep but her mind unable to be quieted.

“Come over here,” I said. She was on the couch in an instant. She looked back and forth between us; Sean and I smiled at each other through her. I leaned into her, put my face in her hair and whispered, ‘I love you, B.” She took my hand in hers and beamed. Sean scooted over next to us and we leaned into the couch as the X Factor came on. She asked what the show was and we explained the premise to her. She watched, rapt, commenting on their clothes and voices.

Sitting there just the three of us, I remembered the year we had with just Briar in our first house. The wonder and enormity of it all came back in a rush, I traced my finger down her arm, so different, but still reminiscent of the baby she was. Her profile is so delicate, as perfect and impossible to believe as in those first hours I held her to my chest. The new shoots of young person that are appearing with each day can be traced back in the stillness of post-bedtime conversations. It is as if the absence of the rigors of our day-to-day routine unlocks in each of us a simplicity of being. I remember the early days of parenting being less about mom/dad/child ties than they were about all-consuming love.

We sat there, just the three of us, eating peanuts and watching a glitzy, boisterous reality show for an hour. Our hands brushed against one another as we scooped from the bowl, and our bodies pressed into one another. There was no tension, no worry and absolutely no bubbling-over-with need. As the credits rolled Briar’s eyes were droopy and her slim shoulders were slack, she happily rode in my arms and drifted off to sleep even as I lay her head upon the pillow. I kissed her still downy brow and we were as we started. This morning arrived with a new calm, sisters playing quietly, less roles clashing and more love softening the edges of the day.

I hope as you go into the weekend, you let a rule or two slip and discover that in letting down your guard you let in something incredibly beautiful.