I remember, when I was about 19 years old, I saw a robin sitting on my mum's garden fence.
And I was absolutely gobsmacked.
You see, it was the middle of the summer, and so a robin was absolutely the last thing I expected to come across. I realise how that sounds now, I do (and I might have even said: "Oh. My. God. I just saw a robin.").
But somehow, for those first 19 years of my life, I must have never ever seen a robin during the summertime. And therefore, I must have held a deep-rooted belief that robins were things that only ever went out and about during the winter – more specifically, when it was snowing.
I blame the Christmas cards. Ahem.
Anyway, I was reminded of that last week, as we went through the inevitable period of mourning.
It can be tricky bringing the children back to reality after the head-explodingly exciting Christmas period, can't it?
Of course, we parents build it all up. There's the tree, the mince pies, the carols, the parties, the lovely visits from family and, of course, Father Christmas and the presents.
All this makes for truly mind-blowing stuff when you're so little, and when all that Christmassy-ness is stretched over a good week or more, it must feel like it's never going to end.
Until it does end.
The girls were pretty gutted when the tree came down. I had given them both a three-day warning that the dismantling of our beautiful Christmas tree was imminent. But, nevertheless, it was a dark day indeed.
Ava, who was VERY upset at the thought of not seeing some of her favourite baubles for a whole year, kept nicking them and trying to hide them under her wardrobe upstairs.
Ruby seemed more defeated. She sadly helped me put things away, into a box destined for the attic. I told myself that, after a day or so, they'd be used to the empty, completely non-glittery space in the bay window. They won't be sad for long, I thought.
But Ruby kept talking about Christmas, or rather, how it wasn't Christmas any more. I mean, she mentioned it several times a day, with her bottom lip wobbling.
"Are you missing the tree?" I asked her.
"Yes," she said sadly. "But I really wanted Christmas."
"We had Christmas!" I replied. "And wasn't it lovely? You had lots of beautiful presents."
Ruby sighed, and looked out of the window.
Days and days this went on for. Ruby's usually a pretty happy little thing (unless you say 'No' to her, in which case she'll attempt to breathe fire at you – it's a phase, I hope). Yet, her sadness wasn't really abating.
In between playing with her favourite new toys, running round the house like a lunatic and going to nursery, there were still periods of silent sadness. She'd look out of the window at the sky, as if Christmas itself had flown away, and tell me she really wished it'd come back.
It was late one evening, when I'd let Ruby come into my bed for a cuddle, that I realised what it was really all about.
In the darkness, we were whispering about Christmas again... and how it had gone. I tried to cheer Ruby up by telling her that soon it would be spring – but that made her cry.
"Darling..." I began, not really knowing how on earth I could make it better, if the only thing that could make it better was a year round Christmas.
Through her snuffles, I could make out the odd word. "Rolling..." ... "Cold..." ... "Scarf..." and... "Carrot."
To Ru, the act of putting away all those baubles had meant the end of her Christmas dream, to make a snowman. Because, rather like me and my robin (although admittedly, she's not 19 years old), she thought that with Christmas comes snow – and that snow comes only when it's Christmas.
Well, since then, we have been talking about the weather more than usual in this household. Metcheck tells us that snow is forecast in London on January 22nd.
So, for one little girl, 'Christmas' will be coming very, VERY early this year.
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