Because I said so, that’s why.

Because nobody likes taking piano lessons, but it’s important that you do it. And that’s the end of it.

Because I’m the grown-up and it’s my house–-except for your room, which is nominally yours, but not really, I could go in there any time I want–-and my house means my rules.

Well, I’m sorry to hear that. But it’s not my job to be liked.

Because saying “my rules” is easier than laboring over a long, drawn-out explanation about why my life experience makes me a better judge of your choices.

Okay, because my brain is more emotionally developed than yours. I’m not boasting, it’s just science. Aha. See? The fact that you’re getting angry proves it. No, I am not shouting. And no, my anger is in response to your anger. It’s not the originating anger. That’s the difference.

Because when I was your age I gave up on the piano, and now every day I regret not being able to play like Billy Joel. Early Billy Joel. Anything before The Nylon Curtain album. Not his best, that one.

Well, I don’t care if your friend Brad doesn’t have to learn the piano. He isn’t actually your friend at all. He’s a person you think you should like because he’s part of the popular crowd, but if you try to glom on to that group, the end result will be tears and humiliation, and you’ll question your self-worth while lying in bed at night, creating imaginary torture devices you’d like to use on him. How do I know? Because I’ve met people like Barry. What? I said “Brad.” Well, I meant Brad.

Do you still not like me? I honestly don’t care, but I’m asking.

Because if you don’t practice, you can’t have any ice cream.

Because if you do practice, I’ll give you some ice cream.

Because someday when you grow up and nothing’s worked out the way you thought, you might find yourself at a party, with people who all seem to know each other better than you know anyone, and they’re laughing at memories of previous parties you weren’t invited to, and they seem to have made fashion choices that you vaguely sense are clever and interesting. And then you notice you’re in the den, where a lonely upright piano stands in a corner, ignored by the world since some other children long ago gave up on their piano lessons, and as you stroll past you nonchalantly play a little riff, and somebody asks, “Oh, do you play?” And then you answer, “Not really. Just a little tinkering.” And then someone else responds, “Oh, I’ll bet you’re just being modest.” And suddenly you’re sitting at the piano, which is crowded by family photos and dusty Christmas carol songbooks, and you’re playing “Piano Man.” Or “New York State of Mind.” The selection isn’t really important. It doesn’t even have to be a Billy Joel song, but why not? His early stuff just has something… ineffable about it. And suddenly you’re surrounded by people holding glasses of chardonnay, and they’re singing along, at first ironically, laughing self-consciously and pretending they don’t remember the words, but by the end they’re all belting out “The microphone smells like a beer” as if they really mean it, because they do mean it, and little kids are poking their heads into the room to see why their parents are being so loud and embarrassing, and then finally you play those last chords, after which you incline your head modestly, and wait for the applause—and by god there will be applause—and then you say you’re going to go “grab a beer,” but instead you slip out and go home, without saying goodbye to anyone, and in your absence people will wonder whether they had it all wrong about the person they thought you were, and they’ll begin to suspect that you might even have other secrets or metaphysical insights which decorum has prevented you from revealing. And then—and this is very important—you never go back there. Why? Because our mission will be accomplished.

I said “your” mission. Yes I did. Now go practice.

Because I said so, that’s why.