We were shopping for clothes in Next when the little girl tried to engage my daughter in conversation.
She started following us all round the kids’ clothing section and following my eldest like she was her shadow.
My eldest didn’t want the attention. She hid her face behind her hair, she hid behind the buggy and she hid behind me.
The other little girl wanted to know why my daughter wasn’t up for playing. She asked: “Why aren’t you talking?” Over and over again.
I tried to explain she’s just not used to speaking to strangers. The little girl persisted. She chased us through the winter coats section, past the baby section and into the pyjamas.
Her mother – distracted by her younger child and her attempts to browse the clothing – tried to explain to her daughter that her not-so-willing playmate wasn’t up for it.
The little girl asked: “Why doesn’t she want to be my friend?”
This made me sad – because my daughter was turning her back on trying something new, on trying someone new to play with – but then I thought about it and I actually realised that she’s more of a chip off the old block than I thought.
I don’t come across as shy. I’m a journalist. I can talk to anyone about anything without batting much of an eyelid. I’ve had arguments with strangers, I’ve had intensely personal conversations with strangers and I’ve asked a lot of awkward questions.
And yet I don’t make friends at the drop of a hat. I find it easy to talk to new people. I always have a steady stream of questions to ask. It’s the connection, the feeling of being comfortable in another person’s presence, that doesn’t come so easy for me.
Since becoming a mum some people told me I would be making new friends left, right and centre. The truth is that I have made new friends, no doubt about it, but there aren’t that many of them.
I don’t connect with new people all that easily. I don’t feel relaxed in their company until I know them a little better.
This is nothing to do with them, rather it’s to do with my own nerves at opening up to new people. I am a worrier you see.
I worry that people won’t like me. I worry I’ll say the wrong thing. I worry people will think I’m weird.
There’s no particular reason why anyone would think me weird. I don’t have a second head. I don’t speak Klingon or say “May the force be with you,” when I’m saying goodbye.
It’s just that I’ve never been a part of the cool crowd. I’ve never been the one at the centre of the group, or the one who had an invitation to a dozen different things on a Saturday night.
I’m the one who was at home when half of the year group was at a party at the weekend. I’m the one who had friends, but not best friends, at school.
I had a best friend for some time during my 20s, but the friendship fizzled out. Something that I will forever miss and regret.
To make it clear, I do have friends. I have small group of amazing friends who I would bare my soul to. They are ladies who understand me, who really like me and get me. I have friends who I met in the last couple of years since having my kids who I hope will still be a part of our lives for many years to come.
But none of those friendships happened overnight. They happened over glasses of wine, whispers exchanged from behind our computer screens at work, and dramas we still talk about today.
Later, when we were back home, I asked my daughter what she thought of the exchange. She told me she didn’t like it. It had obviously made her feel uncomfortable.
And so when I see my daughter rejecting the very strong friendships advances of another child, I don’t worry about it.
Because there’s nothing wrong with being the one who takes a little longer to warm up to the idea of a friendship.
There’s nothing wrong with being the kid who ISN’T the popular kid in school. There’s nothing wrong with not having dozens of people blowing up your WhatsApp with demands to know what you’re up to.
And if my girl can find even one amazing, loyal and kind friend who makes her feel happy, then I’ll be over the moon.