It began with the pretend sneezing and it actually took me a little while to realise what she was doing, probably because Ru has never really tried to push my buttons in this way before. To be fair, she does a very good fake sneeze – it sounds very realistic indeed. But after approximately eight sneezes, one after the other, and with my autopilot self responding to each one with a "bless you, darling!" I began to get suspicious.
There was no snot, you see. Her eyes were not streaming. Her forehead was not warm. Everything was absent, bar the sneezy noise. I waited for her to sneeze again.
I remained silent. I might be set in my ways, but in my book, fake sneezes do not warrant bless yous. I watched Ruby eyeing me. She tried again.
"Aaaaaa-choo...!" It still wasn't working, all she was getting from me was a couple of raised eyebrows, so she took a risk and tried a multiple sneeze: "Aaaaa-choo, aaaaaa-choo, aaaaaa-choo!"
"Ruuuuuuby!" I said, "That's not proper sneezing!"
She deliberately sniffed and toddled off, sneezing and blessing herself.
Her next (and somewhat more irritating) trick was fake crying. I might have bought it, actually, because the noise was suitably grating – but she was doing the face all wrong. Ever since Ru has been a tiny baby, genuine crying has involved that that bottom lip thing – she can't help it. Her fake crying face was laughable!
So, naturally, I laughed. That didn't go down well with Ru at all – having tried so very hard to squeeze out a tear for dramatic effect, the realisation that her pretend crying wasn't up to much was enough to genuinely upset her. I gave her a hug when the bottom lip popped out.
Little did I know that she'd soon be plotting her revenge. She waited until we were in a supermarket to whip out all the tricks and of course, to strangers, it probably appeared that I was callously ignoring my child (not a tissue in sight) as she repeatedly sneezed, and then cried. How could they have known she was merely fake sneezing and fake crying?
I talked quietly to Ru, (partly to reassure onlookers, you understand): "Darling, I just need to pay for all this shopping and then mummy will be able to pay you some attention, Ok?"
I brushed some loose hair away from her face. And that's when she did it – it was genius really. She said, loudly, and with a fantastically convincing face: "OWWWW!"
I had literally barely touched her!
"OWWWW!" she said again. I was getting looks now. Oh lordy, this was going to be like the sneezing thing, wasn't it? I felt sure she was about to start yelling "Oww, oww, oww!" at the top of her voice, in a busy shop.
Well, I wasn't going to say sorry for not hurting her, no way, José. So I thought for a second, then turned the dial back a couple of notches: "Bless you!" I said.
And Ruby laughed.
You can catch up on previous Terrible Twos columns here.