We have a little family tradition. When we grocery shopping the weekend before your birthday, you can choose one box of any cereal you want-no restrictions. In the weeks and months leading up to the grand event, much time is spent in the cereal aisle weighing the advantages of the various sugar-laden options.
The week before turning five, Tabitha nearly dropped the ball. She just grabbed the first box of anything at hand. I don’t remember what it was, but it seemed out of character for her. I reminded her of the cereals she had been coveting as recently as the previous week.
She went for the generic Cocoa Puffs.
I steered her towards the real deal. If you’re only gonna eat ’em once a year, you might as well have the sugar-addled bird bouncing off the box in front of you, right?
One morning shortly afterwards, we had this conversation:
Tabitha: Do I have Cocoa Puffs or Cocoa Puff in my hand?
Me: Well, you have four Cocoa Puffs.
T: [with only one in her hand now] Do I have Cocoa Puffs or Cocoa Puff?
Me: You have Cocoa Puff.
T: [huge smile] Right!
Me: [with empty hand displayed] Do I have Cocoa Puffs or Cocoa Puff in my hand?
T: [silent but smirking]
Me: Well…Is it Cocoa Puff or Cocoa Puffs?
T: [continued silence]
Me: I have zero…
T: [bigger smile]
Me: Yeah. Isn’t that weird? If you have one, it’s Puff; if you have none it’s Puffs.
T: I knew that.
Me: Of course you did.
T: No! I knew that; I was showing you that [you had zero] by not saying anything-zero words!