Q: Can we get ice cream? (Age 2)
A: Sure, honey! But the word “cream” incorrectly suggests that this is a dairy product. In reality, it’s a congealed mass of artificial gums and pastes that are almost certainly not permitted for human consumption in any other major democracy. Enjoy!

Q: What happened to Mufasa? (Age 3)
A: He’s sleeping.

Q: Can we get a puppy? (Age 4)
A: Maybe in a few years, when Daddy’s ability to say no—along with his overall sense of self—has been sufficiently worn down.

Q: Where does rain come from? (Age 5)
A: Good question. First, water on the ground evaporates up into the sky. There, it collects in clouds until it falls to the ground as rain, and the whole pattern starts over again. It’s called the water cycle, the only thing I learned as a child that I still remember. Seriously. I don’t know the different types of triangles or how to write in cursive or what hopscotch even is, but the water cycle? I could write a dissertation on it, baby.

Q: What’s money? (Age 6)
A: Money is green paper that we use to buy food, clothes, and Daddy’s stress-relief soap that is going to start working any day now.

Q: Why is green paper valuable? (Age 6)
A: It’s not; that would be silly. The paper is a stand-in for shiny yellow metal.

Q: Why is shiny yellow metal valuable? (Age 6)
A: Because the human brain is not done evolving.

Q: What happened to Bambi’s mom? (Age 7)
A: She’s clearly dead, honey.

Q: Want to play catch? (Age 8)
A: Ask Mom. You just joined Little League, and I don’t want you learning the wrong way to do everything.

Q: Can we get a puppy? (Age 9)
A: Whatever.

Q: Is it true that the stars we see at night are actually suns? (Age 10)
A: Sort of. It’d be more accurate to say that they were suns. See, the stars in the night sky are very far away, and light takes a long time to travel that distance. That means that the stars we see have probably already died—either in enormous, violent explosions or sad little displays of fizzling out into nothingness. Either way, what matters is that stars, like all else in existence, inevitably succumb to the natural law of decay and are doomed to be forgotten. G’night!

Q: Can I have my own phone? (Age 11)
A: I’m not sure that’s a good idea, honey. Phones expose us to cyberbullying, political misinformation, conspiracy theories, and a pervading sense of isolation that makes us feel alone even when surrounded by those we love.

Q: Can I have my own phone? (Age 13)
A: Yes.

Q: Will you help me with my algebra homework? (Age 14)
A: Sure. Let me just finish up this quantum mechanics paper so I can send it to the astrophysics department at MIT. It’s going to revolutionize their understanding of black holes! Ha ha ha! Algebra homework! Sorry, but that’s a good one. Wow.

Q: Why don’t you and Mom sleep in the same bed anymore? (Age 15)
A: Don’t worry—it’s not that our marriage is in trouble.

Q: Then what is it? (Age 15)
A: I’d rather not say, sweetheart.

Q: Dad. (Age 15)
A: Two words: back hair.

Q: Nikki’s having a party when her parents are out of town. Can I go? (Age 17)
A: Nikki? The girl who rides a motorcycle and got kicked off the volleyball team for coming to practice drunk? I guess, but next time, just lie to me and say you’re going somewhere to study. Where the hell is my stress-relief soap?

Q: Should I major in English or philosophy? (Age 20)
A: Whichever one makes you happy. Although, since you’re my daughter, you’ll probably never be fully happy. Obsessive-compulsive disorder, generalized anxiety, depression, acute fear of cat-sized dogs—it’s only a matter of time before you get diagnosed with something. I’d blame genetics. Hey, maybe they teach that in biology! Is it too late to major in that? Might clear some things up.

Q: Can you and Mom babysit tonight? (Age 35)
A: Of course! We can’t get enough of the grandkids. I’ll tell them stories of what life was like when I was young, coming back from the ol’ swimmin’ hole to fire up my dial-up internet. You know, it would make the craziest noises. Ka-chrrgh-ehhh-eeeeeihhhnnnng, and so forth, until finally you could join a chatroom. Chatrooms were rooms where you’d go to chat, naturally, but don’t let the name fool you. These weren’t physical rooms! They were more like virtual bingo halls, only instead of playing bingo, you’d be trying to think of something sexy to type—

Q: The children have asked that you not tell them stories. (Age 35)
A: Understood.

Q: Can we get ice cream? (Age 41)
A: Honey, I’m seventy-two. It’s all I’m physically able to eat.