Having two very young children, it has always been a bit tricky (read 'hair-raising') taking them out to large open spaces by myself.
Back in the days when Ruby would spend park visits snoozing in the buggy, I'd have to make a choice when her big sister Ava decided to bomb off in the opposite direction: either put the buggy brakes on, and run like the clappers to catch her before she was more than 15ft/four seconds away; or run after her with the buggy, meaning the chase was always somewhat longer.
Now I rarely have a buggy on park visits; but I do have two children who almost always want to go in opposite directions. And despite the fact there is a year between them they are both incredibly quick.
Well, a few weeks ago, I had taken the girls to a lovely local park. It was a sunny day (believe it or not) and I felt just about in control of things with Ava about 20 feet behind me and Ru about 30 feet ahead. But then Ruby just started sprinting. I wasn't sure what she had seen, or indeed if there was any reason other than the vast expanse of grass ahead that inspired such blurry-legged speed, but she was going (somewhere) fast.
"Ru!" I shouted. "Slow down now!"
I looked backwards where Ava had her nose almost on the ground, probably inspecting a worm or something. Ruby didn't slow down.
"RUBY! Slow down, please! Ru, stay close to mummy!!" She seemed to pick up speed.
I shouted back to Ava to follow me. I had no choice but to go after Ruby – I figured pretty soon she'd be too far away to hear (or possibly even see) me. So I started jogging after Ru, who continued to ignore my calls. And then I realised what she was running towards.
Now, I have always felt it's quite important to save the very, VERY loud shouts of "NOOOOO!" for instances when my children might be in mortal danger. Given that Ruby often pretends she can't hear me when I say "No!" to less important things, she needs to understand that at least one kind of "NOOOOO!" really means business. There has to be a particular kind of "NOOOOO!" which will always, always stop her in her tracks. I am reluctant to trivialise that kind of "NOOOOO!" but I realised I was about to use it.
Ruby wasn't running towards a road. She was running towards a group of men who were playing football. It was quite a rough game, and most of these blokes looked like they were upwards of 6ft; I'd guess the lightest of them might have weighed about 12 stone.
To any other two-and-a-half-ft, two-and-a-half-stone being, this might have seemed like a dangerous situation to hurl oneself into.
But Ruby wanted their ball.
All at once and (in my head) in slow motion, I yelled: "NOOOOOO!"
The chap who was about to hoof the ball down the makeshift pitch managed to halt his leg mid air (I'm not sure if he'd actually noticed Ruby an inch away, or if he thought I was shouting at him). And Ruby did stop. She stopped, looked at me, and then sat on the ball.
I was there a couple of seconds later (in time to hear the man ask if he could have his ball back, and for Ruby to reply "No"). And thankfully, Ava – who must have decided we were doing something very exciting – was as well.
Embarrassed, I apologised. And then I watched, rather red-faced, as seven well-built men had a kick around with two little girls, before I lured my Terrible Two off the pitch with the promise of an ice lolly.
Heading towards the cafe, with all three of us walking together for once, I found myself wondering, did "NOOOOOO!" really mean no?
Or did the timing of that "NOOOOO!" just coincide with Ruby getting her hands on the ball?
You can catch up on previous Terrible Twos columns here.