Ava and Ruby love each other so, soooo much. Whoever I pick up first, from school or nursery, their first question is always: "Where's Ava/Ruby?"
Sometimes I think that they're sort of joined by an invisible string. Quite often, the little monsters will sneak into our bed after lights out. So when I want to go to bed myself, I'll go upstairs and scoop one of them up to put back under their own duvet. More often that not, it's Ava first, as she prefers the side of the bed closest to the door.
I usually don't need to go back and scoop Ru up. Sensing that Ava has left her side, she gets up herself, and sleepwalks back to her room, where she tumbles into her own bed (which has been pushed right up against her big sister's).
Yes, they love each other something rotten.
But there's something else they love, too – winding each other up.
I don't think I am imagining it when I say their penchant for deliberately niggling each other to the point of screaming seems to be growing by the day. It's like a sport for them. As soon as one senses a little chink in the other's armour, they want to find a pointy thing, stick it in that chink and wiggle it around.
Quite often it will be as simple as making an annoying noise. Ruby makes a sound which I'm not sure I can spell. Er...
GNAARRRGH! Or perhaps NAAAARGGH!
Did you ever see Dumb and Dumber? There's a bit where Jim Carey does the most annoying sound in the world.
Ruby's noise is not dissimilar to that. Shorter bursts though – maybe a cross between that and the noise Pingu makes.
Yes, so if you can imagine that, you can probably imagine quite how irritating that noise would be, when it's being made over and over again for 10 minutes at a time.
Ava's reaction usually begins with a whiney: "Stop it, Ru!"
Then the hands go up to the ears and, frowning, she tries her best to ignore it.
Then her hands start pressing slightly too hard against her ears and her face starts going purple.
Then: "STOP IT, RUBY, YOU'RE MAKING MY EARS HURT!"
And then Ava usually screams.
She's not a completely innocent party, however. The other day, the girls were sitting down for dinner, and Ava moved Ruby's cup slightly to the left. Ru didn't want her cup there, so she put it back. Ava moved it again. Ruby put it back again with a "NOOOO, Ava!"
I don't know, about 14 cup moves later, Ava had resorted to just putting her finger on the cup and locking eyes with Ruby, while moving the cup such a minuscule distance, it was barely discernible. In the end, it took only the creeping of Ava's hand towards the cup that made Ruby scream (while Ava laughed her face off).
Of course, there are points when I intervene. I always tell them it's not nice to tease and I'll most certainly step in if annoyance turns into a scuffle.
But a part of me also wants them to work it out themselves. Lord knows they'll probably meet some annoying people in their lives – they might as well practice turning the other cheek, and just walking away.
Sometimes, I'm quite impressed by the way they do work it out in the end – and a couple of weeks ago was my favourite example yet.
We were in the car. We'd been in the car for a while, so the girls (who had taken their shoes and socks off), were getting a bit fractious.
It was Ava who started the winding up. Ruby was holding her toy cat, and Ava wanted to stroke it. Ruby didn't agree with that idea and moved her cat out of Ava's reach.
So, while I was concentrating on driving, Ava started beeping.
"Beep beep. Beep Beep. BEEP BEEP. Beep beeeeep beep beeeeeep..."
""Stop it, Ava!"
Quieter initially: "beep... beeep... BEEEEEEEEEEEEEP!"
"NOOOOO, AVA, STOOOOOP ITTTT!"
I could feel the heat rising. Ruby continued with her tirade: "You are making me SAAAAD, Ava. You NAUGHTY."
"Beep. Beep. Beep."
'AVA, STOOOOP, YOU WINDING ME UPPP!"
Then, perhaps sensing Ruby was about to explode, Ava stopped beeping, and simply said: "Hey Ru, would you like to feel my toe?"
Ruby grinned, dropped her cat and replied: "Oh! Yes PLEASE! Thanks."
As a friend commented, if only this sort of thing could be employed to achieve world peace.