SINCE I became a mother, my new acquaintances have become younger. Recently, I was having lunch with my two-year-old son, Julian, at a food court.
Before long, we had struck up a tentative friendship with a six-year-old kindergarten boy who was by the kiddy rides near us.
Left to his own devices, as his mother sat engrossed in a chat with her friend a few tables away, the boy welcomed our polite overtures.
Soon, he and Julian were pretending to race their stationary kid-sized cars and aeroplanes, as I flagged them off like a race queen. He told me about the countries he had flown to (Canada, Japan and Malaysia) and prattled on about cleaning his make-believe cockpit.
When it was time for me to go, he looked uncertain and morose.
"My father drives an aeroplane, you know," he said, pulling out all his conversational stops to try and stall us as Julian and I waved goodbye.
"That's good," I replied, "Bye!" The boy continued staring at us with unblinking, expectant eyes, refusing to return our farewell.
Suddenly, his need for attention from us, mere strangers, seemed overwhelming.
Shouldering my own child, I smiled at the boy a last time and left him sitting alone.
Children are the ghosts of society.
We may have moved on from the Victorian belief that children should be seen and not heard. But that hasn't stopped many adults from ignoring small kids, under the assumption that they are tiny, mute and uncomprehending puppets.
When Julian and I step out, there are kindly "aunties" and "uncles" who carry on one-sided conversations with him.
But there are an equal number of folk who brush past him as though he is invisible, leaving him to wobble in the slipstream of their impatience.
Just the other day, he accidentally toddled into the path of two teenage girls.
"I almost tripped over him," said one, looking down at him with stony reproach in her eyes. Julian stood there silently, wringing his little fingers under her withering gaze.
The nubile lass turned huffily on her heels and walked away.
Standing a few yards away, I took in the scene, and remembered anew the strangeness and struggles of being a pint-sized human being in a grown-up world.
Chairs and tables were often too big, requiring clumsy clambering.
Cinema views were blocked by men and women with big heads. Elevator buttons were always out of reach.
To compound matters, adults thought nothing of treading on you if you were a kid.
Taxi drivers snapped at you if you stuttered over your destination when travelling alone.
Shopkeepers tried to cheat you of your measly allowance.
And people merrily cut you in queues.
It's little wonder that children are so alienated that they become the stuff of horror films.
The Evil Child trope is alive and kicking in movies from the successful Japanese-to-Hollywood franchise Ju-On (The Grudge), to the Spanish spooky hit The Orphanage now showing in cinemas here.
These films are the collective sub-conscious mash of child-phobic or apathetic individuals.
But, perhaps, like the ghosts in supernatural thriller The Sixth Sense, children are not scary: They only want your help.
They don't mean to be pests in public, they are often merely bored and restless.
Talk to them, and you'll find that many of them just want someone to acknowledge their presence.
If children are expected to know how to behave themselves in society, it makes sense for society to understand and take a little more notice of them, too.
So go on, make a little friend today.