N is for Nothing

I cannot comprehend how my mother managed to inflict the “Mother’s Curse” upon me without possessing a magic lamp inhabited by a genie or being a descendant of Romanian gypsies, but she did. My children are just like me. The boy is creative, disorganized and easily frustrated. The girl is friendly, caring and absurdly stubborn. And they both love the word “nothing.”

That is their standard response for a myriad of questions: What did you do in school today? What would you like for dinner? What can I do to help you? What was that noise? They also love all the derivatives of “nothing” such as “no one,” “I don’t know,” “neither,” and “no.” And Heaven help me, they’re not even teenagers yet.

Here’s a common conversation in my house (or rather, what passes for conversation):

Me: “What would you like to do today?” Them: “Nothing.” Me: “Would you like to (insert any number of suitably fun activities here)?” Them: “No.” Me: “Why is your sister upset?” The boy: “I don’t know” Me: “Who spilled chocolate milk on the new rug?” Them: “No one.” Me: “Would you like to wear a windbreaker or a sweater outside?” Them: “Neither.”

However, incredibly annoying as their continuous and unrelenting use of the word “nothing” can be, there are times that I relish hearing that word with every ounce of my being. For instance, at 3 a.m. after forcing my husband out of bed, arming him with a cellphone and his unusually caustic sarcasm, and sending him downstairs to find out what made the noise that woke me up. Or when asking the salesperson flashing me an enormous toothy and blindingly white smile, “How much extra is that going to cost me?” Or when assessing the damage 3 Fun Size Snickers, 2 Almond Joys, one chocolate cupcake with pink frosting made to look like a brain and 2 Sam Adams Harvest Pumpkin Ales have done to my ever fluctuating waistline according to my bathroom scale.

I guess it’s safe to say that I want everything, and that includes “nothing.” And I think we all deserve “nothing” sometimes, despite whatever my children may consider standard entitlements due them simply for being cute. So please accept my heartfelt wish for you to receive a whole lot of “nothing” today and don’t tell my mother her curse was successful. No telling what else she might have stashed up her sleeve, and I want nothing to do with it.

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