The school summer holiday is a long haul, everyone knows that. I notice that in spite of all the various squabbles and splits, they are around you to such an extent that there's a deepening of the bond.
It's not a chocolate box bonding between foster parent and child. It's not a love thing, more a trust thing.
So there's a bit of a mutual sadness when they clump down the stairs in their school clothes for the first morning.
When it comes to talking about Christmas, you obviously have to keep the conversation away from the matter of where they will be for Christmas and who they'll be spending it with. If that stuff comes up, you have to deal with it honestly, and move the chat to somewhere positive, and it worked.
"If you're here for Christmas, have you thought about what you'd like? It's never too early to start thinking about presents."
Daydreaming about laptops, mobile phones, electric pianos and puppies always takes the curse off almost anything.
It can backfire financially. We had a teenager in the build-up to Christmas, they couldn't say if she was going to be with us for Christmas itself, or go home. So we did the whole build-up thing, the gift list, the crossing out of things that were too expensive or inappropriate, and the antenna twitching for casual mentions of things for the stocking such as favourite band or singer, and nail colour dreams.
Then she went home on Christmas Eve. Laden down with our pressies in a sack. Brilliant. Although we never got to know what happened to the Blackberry because we rang it in January to say Hi and the line was dead.
We'd run all the gift ideas past Blue Sky, who have well-thought-out guidelines on mobile phones for young people.
It never came up, but I reckon Blue Sky sussed that the child asked us and her real parents for a Blackberry, ended up with 2 and flogged ours off.
The conversation in the car worked and we all cheered up.
It cheered me up until I got home and went to work on the house.
1. At least half a dozen opened envelopes with the letter put back inside having checked to see it's nothing too urgent but something that must be dealt with eventually scattered around the kitchen dating back to mid-August.
2. A smell somewhere towards the back of the fridge, not made by the glass of apple juice that did not get drunk at the time so got put in the fridge for next time someone asked and has been there since mid-August.
3. A child's vest that has sat on the landing outside a bedroom door in a semi-folded state so it's unknown if it's clean or needs a wash. Since mid-August.
The list goes on.
But before I got the hoover out, I made a cup of tea and turned the TV on. The house felt huge and empty. Like a Cathedral. A Cathedral that needed a good hoovering.
I turned on the Shopping Channel. QVC were doing Christmas.
Who are these people that wish our lives away, thinking about Christmas in September?
The Secret Foster Carer