Ruby seems to have realised, just recently, that within her lies the potential to alter people's behaviour towards her. She has discovered play acting.
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.