The little fellow has been here now long enough for us to feel he's family, what ten weeks or so.
Our first ever placement was a weekend respite lad, his regular foster parents had a wedding to go to, it was an overnighter and they wanted to give the happy couple their full on.
The boy was a bit angry about being farmed off, so we had some soothing to do, we learned a bucketload from Friday to Sunday, but not how to re-configure our family to accommodate a foster child. That takes time.
About three months I find.
It takes that long generally, ten to twelve weeks, before you know them, and more important, they know you.
It's one of the joys of fostering, when a child who needs stuff they don't know they need knows not only the rhythm of their new house, but the basic ins and outs of their new home.
They learn our humanities.
Not just basics such as our regular bedtimes, breakfast routines, how we allocate the domestic chores, how the house functions. They have started to pick up our dividing lines on what's right and wrong.
They've seen our standards of kindness, respect for others, mutual support, politeness.
They've seen our self-respect, tidiness, order.
And they've seen our normalcy; they've seen me hacked off when the dishwasher run fails and everything comes out caked in baked food because the own-brand capsules I bought don't break out of their plastic sacs. Or when I can't find my phone when it's three minutes past leaving time for the morning school run because someone has walked off with it to try and play some app game on it and left it somewhere I can't hear it ring when I call it from the landline.
I'm not going to say that this moment of belonging means the end of their troubles and woes. That's something they may never get on top of for the rest of their lives. But when they become 'family' there's a small peace comes over them, and me.
When I know them as children, as damaged people, there's less guessing has to be done. The release of knowing a new child is profound. You know their little quirks and preferences, likes and dislikes. you know how to bring them round a little when they're upset; "There's a Fab in the freezer and it's saying "I wish someone wanted to eat me".
So; Romeo (not his real name) is joining in. He knows a few of everybody's personal traits, how to wind up 'dad' about football. How to wangle a pre-teatime Fab out of me. He knows where the biscuits are and how many he's allowed without asking and when.
He bathed himself.
Sounds like nothing put like that, but until now I've been running his bath for him, making sure he's in his pyjamas and DG, tapping on the bathroom door and saying 'make sure you soap up' and 'don't get suds in your eyes' etc.
But two nights ago I just said;
"Oh y'know, you're grown-up enough to bath yourself. Come down when you're done".
It was a TOTAL JOY to see him walk out the living room a foot taller, a man. Someone trusted to run the taps, check the water was not too hot or cold. Wash his hair. Get out and pull the plug.
Of course the bathroom looked like a bomb had hit it. He used every towel off the rack, and the floor was awash.
But I resisted the urge to tap on the door.
His bath, his bathroom, his experience, his growing-up in his foster home.
I tell you, every single day there are fostering joys, so small if you're not careful you miss them, for us and for them.
New arrival is on course. Long, long way to go. If only one could bathe away the emotional grub and grime so neatly...