There's a ghostly space left in a house when a foster child leaves.
There are positives, such as the 'Job Done' thing - fostering is all about helping a child go back home and repair a broken family. Then there's the relief of the reduced number of household tasks and responsibilities that go along with having a foster child in your house.
But the positives are eclipsed by the sense that in it's tiniest form there's been a minuscule death in the family.
Obviously in no way comparable to the real thing. Is there anything more awful for parents than the loss of a child?
But when a foster child leaves there's an empty bed, a spare place at the table.
There's a wheel missing off the family trolley.
We talk nostalgically about Romeo. Sitting at the table eating, if someone mentions football someone will say;
"Good job Romeo isn't here he'd be going on and on about Pogba..."
"Now that Romeo's gone does the kitchen still have to smell of macaroni cheese (his favourite) on Tuesdays?"
Other half and I still lie awake and discuss his prospects, just as we did when he was here;
"He's got a good brain, he could do okay at school it's just that the other stuff is filling his head. He needs some private lessons in..oh no, wait WE'RE NOT HIS MUM AND DAD ANY MORE."
We get a bit gloomy thinking about how it might not work for him back with his chaotic mother, but re-assure ourselves we did our best for him while he was with us.
There were no tears from him when we had a quick goodbye hug before he got into the social worker's car. It was the usual tentative fostering hug, I put my hands on his shoulders and sort of leaned into his space without touching. He just sort of raised his arms and let his finger-tips brush on my shoulders.
Foster children and hugging is something you get good advice about from Blue Sky. It's not a big deal but there are some useful tips I always stick to, mainly to let the children take the lead, if they want a hug fine, just make sure it's a quick social arms-round-the-shoulders hug and then move swiftly onto whatever next, best don't over-do.
It takes resolve not to give in to the urge to want to wrap your arms around them as a protection against the big bad world that has done what it's done to them, but that's you doing what you want to do, and everything in fostering has to be right for the foster child, not just you.
I had a little cry on my own after the car carrying him back to his mother disappeared round the corner at the end of our road.
We have only two rules in our house;
1. Keep waving until the car is out of sight.
2. Do everything I say.
See what I'm doing there?
Good tip that one. I could sell it on EBay.
I'm off the point now because I'm getting that welling up thing all the while I'm thinking about him.
How I love it.