Charm Lessons from a 3 Year Old

Other than a few broody moments, I've never really wanted kids. I'm more of a dog person. As my friend Tom Mitchelson says, "at least you can tie a dog to a lamp post when you pop in to the newsagents". I can't keep a pot plant alive for more than a week and besides I'm too selfish, even to own a dog. That's never stopped me enjoy my friend's children though and I am lucky to have some wonderful kids in my life.

You reach an age, somewhere in your 20s, when it seems everyone is having babies. For me, this was a tricky time. One minute my friends would be out having fun without a care in the world, the next they'd be knee deep in nappies and Calpol. A night at the movies would require the planning of a military tactician and the only thing they missed more than sex was sleep.

Every parent boasts that their children are uniquely the most advanced, talented, remarkable offspring ever to have walked the earth. And quite so - to them, they are.

I've found some parents are better than others at maintaining a sense of balance in their lives. While many take time out for themselves and keep old friendships alive, others have disappeared inside the Mothercare outlet store never to be seen again.

I do understand. Despite the pressures, expense and sacrifices, to watch your own child grow up and develop a personality of its own is nothing short of miraculous. Just to play a small part in a child's life, as I do, is an enormous privilege.

Recently I've been spending more time with two dear friends and their three year old, Josie. I have, at last, begun to understand why some parents never stop talking about their kids. Every day she comes out with hilarious, cute, adorable sentences. I want to post them on Facebook and tell my friends, but stop myself, realising that you had to be there otherwise it makes for very tedious 'news' indeed.

As any parent will tell you, children are experts at getting what they want and and getting away with everything. As someone who has read dozens of books on communication, I realise that Josie is a natural. It's like she was born reading 'How to Win Friends and Influence People'. There's a lot I can learn from her. For example, the other day as I pushed her pram, her parents asked her "Do you miss Gary when he's away?"

"No." "Oh, that's not very nice!" they persisted, "Have another think. Are you sure you don't miss him even just a little bit?"

Josie looked at me...paused...looked at the sky and after a moment said, "Look at all the pretty stars."

Brilliant. A perfect example of how to dodge a question and insult someone at the same time. Tony Blair couldn't have done it any better himself.

As if that wasn't enough, the very next day in the car, Josie said she had a poorly tummy. The parents, realising this is the sign that she's about to be sick, stopped the car, but not before Josie had thrown up all over herself, the back of my seat and the top of my head. The child puked on me and all I could say was, "Poor little thing, is she alright?" How did that happen?

I seem to remember the last time I was sick on someone I was thrown out of a club and had to walk home. Still, as someone later pointed out, at least my head is a wipe clean surface.

As a footnote to this, by the end of the day she did give me a cuddle and claim she'd miss me during my next trip. I wouldn't have got that from a dog, but then, I think the pink sparkly butterfly cupcake I bought her had something to do with her sudden affection.