15/04/2012 12:36 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 10:12 BST

Terrible Twos: May I Have Your Attention, Please

Mother and child cuddles Alamy

I have written a little about Ruby's evolving language skills here before, but I realised yesterday that she's not only learning new words all the time, she is also learning how using them a certain way can get her exactly what she wants.

To start with, I'll explain that Ru's most overused word, bar none, is: "Cuddle?"

Cute, right?

Crafty more like. Because "cuddle?" can mean one of many things. For example, it can mean "Please pick me up because I really want to see if there is – as I suspect – a fairy cake on that worktop"

It can also mean "you're not going to work if I have anything to do with it" and sometimes (when she says it to her big sister Ava) it means "if we are 'cuddling' you might not notice me gently remove that toy we've been fighting over for the last 10 minutes from your hand". Ava, of course, always notices.

Anyway, last night, having served the girls their dinner, I sat down (for the first time in what seemed like many hours) with them at the table. About a minute later, and not even half a fish finger in: "Cuddle?"

In this context, what Ruby meant was, "I will eat considerably more dinner if I am allowed to do it sitting on your lap. What do you say?"

But I really needed a break, just to be allowed to sit still for a short while, so I said: "Darling, can you just stay there on your own chair for a few minutes...?" And then I said: "Please?"

So Ruby said: "Pease."

Oh no. She thought all that guff was just a long-winded way of me telling her to say please, and as such, she was pulling one of her trump cards (a queen with a speech bubble saying "YOU taught me I can get what I want if I am polite"). "Pease." she said again.

And so I let her climb on for a minute or two. See? Crafty. Fair enough though, I guess.

Ruby doesn't always get it right however. Her latest couple of attempts at getting her way (or rather, gaining my undivided attention) with a little creative speech have made me laugh out loud. For example, she's taken to coming into the kitchen when I'm pottering and, in the cutest voice she can muster, saying: "Mummmmmy? I'm scaaaaared." She knows it always gets a rise out of me.

But the best one was out in the garden at the weekend when, having said 'cuddle?' about 15 times to no avail, she finally decided upon: "MUMMY! I'm, I'm, I'm, I'm. I'm... cold."

If it hadn't been something like 19°C outside, if I hadn't been putting out barbecue paraphernalia and plopping ice cubes into drinks, if Ruby hadn't actually been looking a bit flushed because she had been bouncing on the trampoline for 20 minutes, it would – naturally – have worked.

Better luck next time, Ru!