A few weeks ago, as I was ferrying the shopping out of the boot of the car while the girls looked animatedly at muddy stones and dried up leaves in the front garden, Ava suddenly got most excited.
"My friend, my friend!" she yelled. A mother was walking up the road with her children, one of whom was a cute blonde boy of a similar age. Ava leant over the wall, waved wildly, and said: "HELLOOOO!"
It took me a second or two, but I realised we had met this family just once before – very briefly – at a stay and play group. I'm honestly not sure if Ava even remembered her 'friend' or if he just looked game for a laugh.
Anyway, after a few minutes, during which we (the adults) exchanged pleasantries about living in the area, Ava had finished showing her new companion the contents of the recycling box and was talking to him, head cocked to one side, little hands clapping.
She said: "Want have lunch with me and bounce my trampoline?"
"Charmed, I'm sure!"
He didn't actually say that – but he was quite delighted at the invitation (undeterred by the fact it was not lunchtime, but late afternoon) – and they were already through the front door when we pesky mothers put the kibosh on things.
Er, Matthew needed to go home and have his dinner! Ava and Ruby needed to have their dinner too! And as we made our polite excuses (complete strangers that we were), Matthew and Ava both had expressions that said: 'But if we all need dinner, why don't we just go inside together and eat?!'
After much cajoling from us, and bottom-lippery from them, we parted ways. But that little episode made me think how wonderful it must be to be so open-hearted. If I lived my life like Ava does, I would approach anyone in the street who bore some resemblance to me (similar height or age, for example), introduce myself and the people I was with, and immediately invite them over for dinner and a game of Scrabble.
At a party, I would hold hands with anyone who looked like they weren't having a great time to make them feel better. And if someone spilled their drink, I'd immediately offer them a sip of mine – and a hug.
That sort of attitude could make for an interesting life. Sadly, we adults do tend to maintain a degree of privacy until there is a feeling that we have met a kindred spirit, or at the very least a like mind (a mind that shares the same sort of shame about the state of their kitchen, for example).
Well, while Matthew instantly got added to Ava's list of best friends ("my best friend Maisie; my best friend Jeannie; my best friend Pearl; my best friend Louis; my best friend Olive; my best friend Esther" – and Esther was an eight-year-old Ava played with for an hour an a half on a beach in Cornwall), I decided I'd at least try to take a leaf out of her book.
When we bumped into Matthew and his mum again, I asked her if we could swap numbers and arrange a proper time for Ava and Matthew to play. I really do hope her kitchen looks a bit like mine does.