Excepted, with permission, from Stumpers: When Your Kids Ask the Tough Questions
Gotham’s a tough place to raise a family. You bust your ass all day trying to take down a killer with a haunting inner madness who licks his lips in this wonderfully creepy way and then, at the end of the day, your kid yammers on about some manner of stilted crap like, “Dad, why are the police chasing after Batman? He didn’t do anything!”
So you could give the boy a long answer about the complexities of good and evil, how difficult it can be to parse out anyone’s motives and how common it is for “good guys” to oppose each other. Or, if you just want the kid to shut his blond, precocious trap, you could say something like this:
“Because he’s the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now… and so we’ll hunt him because he can take it. Because he’s not a hero. He’s a silent guardian, a watchful protector… a dark knight.”
This response is called a shut him up speech. Take a look at how the shut him up speech can be adapted to all sorts of stumpers:
“Dad, why do you drink so much Guinness?”
Because coffee is the beverage I deserve but not the one I need right now… and so beer hurts my liver because it can take it. Because Guinness takes the edge off. It’s a silent relaxer, a watchful enabler… a dark brew.
“Dad, I’ve been having these… feelings?”
Son, that’s not a question but I see where you’re going with this. Sex is a pleasure you deserve but not the one you need right now because you’re only 12… and so one day you will stick it to a girl because she wants to take it. Because you turn her on. After all, the men in this family are silent lovers, watchful of a woman’s needs… in the dark of the night.
Starting to pick up on a formula? That means you’re on your way!
Now if you haven’t guessed it already, the delivery is everything. When giving a shut him up speech, it’s crucial that you speak in a dramatic, scenery-chewing tone of voice in which no man would ever naturally talk to his son. This is technique, called the epic voice, is a great way to speak with authority on a subject, yet discourage follow-up questions.
On the next couple of examples, read the text out loud in your own best epic voice (and remember to treat each ellipsis like a dramatic pause):
“Dad, why’d you and mom split up?”
Because I’m the husband your mother deserves but not the one she needs right now… and so she hurts me because I can take it. Because she’s a bad person. She’s a silent judge, a watchful sulk… a dark bitch. Also because I faked my death and didn’t tell her about it.
“Dad, is there a form of matter that doesn’t interact with electromagnetic force?”
Yes. Visible matter is the form the universe deserves but not the one it needs right now… and so we’ll believe in this other substance because its presence can be inferred from gravitational effects on visible matter. Because it accounts for 22% of universal substance. It’s a silent force, a watchful rotator of galaxies… a dark matter.
The most important thing is that after you deliver a shut him up speech in your epic voice, give the kid a quick but meaningful hug and then leave the room. If you let enough time pass between speech and exit, your kid is going to realize how confused he still is, what a bad parent you are, etc. Then he’ll ask another question and all your work will have been for nothing.
If you like Stumpers: When Your Kids Ask the Tough Questions, order Commissioner Gordon’s new manual, Gray Area: The Pros and Cons of Informing Your Wife About Plans to Fake Your Death While in Pursuit of Chilling, Oscar-Worthy Criminals.