The Male Child came home triumphant. It has a new coin to boast of and a set of wings to wear on its uniform and it spews its new wisdom at the drop of a hat (go on, ask me about meteorological reports!)
For the past two days it has cheerfully and energetically helped one of the Female Children clean out the sun room and attempt to set it up as a bedroom. It has swept and vacuumed, shifted enormous numbers of heavy bins, hung curtains and moved furniture. It helped clean out the refrigerator (using my method rather than its usual one of eating everything in sight) and happily did a dozen other small chores it had been asked to do.
When asked what it wanted to do to celebrate its return it simply said it wanted us to do something together - anything really, it didn't matter so long as we were all there.
Two nights ago I called the Children to report directly to the dish washer and the Male Child immediately burst into a loud dramatic song, striding with slow dignity into the kitchen. It was, it told me confidently, just the theme song. The emptying-the-dishwasher theme song.
The Oldest Female Child looked at me and smiled.
"This is what we've been missing," it said.
Yup, we have.