'Why Can't We Own A Roller Coaster?' And Other Queries, Answered By A Dad

May 5, 2017
Originally published on May 5, 2017 10:02 am

Sometimes the toughest interview questions come from the most surprising places. Nine-year-old Isaiah Fredericks and his 7-year-old brother, Josiah, put their dad, Kevin, in the interview hot seat during a visit to StoryCorps.

They started out with the basics: when and where Kevin was born.

"I was born in El Paso, Texas, in 1983 on my grandmother Ruthie's bed," Kevin said.

Isaiah didn't know this but admitted it was an interesting piece of information.

But then his brother, Josiah, asked their dad, "How do you describe yourself as a child? Were you happy?"

"I was a very happy, curious child," Kevin told them. "There was a lot of playing outside in the hot sun and drinking water from hoses."

Isaiah paused.

"You drank water out of hoses?" he asked. "Man, I am learning so much new stuff about you."

Now that the ice was broken Josiah moved on to tougher questions: "What's the hardest thing about being a dad?"

"The hardest thing about being a dad is having a drink that you want to drink, and small people put their nasty mouth all over it," Kevin explained. "And then whatever they were eating is now in the drink, and then you don't want it anymore. Or buying them food and they don't want their food, but they want your food. You're just never satisfied."

At this point you might think the boys were pondering the heavy burden adults bear, but Josiah asked, "Why can't I be in charge?"

His brother jumped in before Kevin could respond.

"Because then everything would be a nightmare," Isaiah said.

Kevin cited a different reason and added some requirements for being "in charge."

"[You can't be in charge] because you are missing four teeth and no one's going to listen to somebody who doesn't have teeth in their mouth," Kevin said.

After that the two boys pelted their dad with rapid-fire questions.

Josiah: Why can't I be an animal?

Kevin: You have to take that up with your creator.

Josiah: Why can't we own a roller coaster?

Kevin: We can own a roller coaster, we just don't.

Josiah: OK, then let's do.

Josiah: Why do things rhyme?

Isaiah: How's he supposed to know that?

Josiah: Why can't we have a van?

Kevin: Why can't we have a van? Why are you asking these questions? Why do you want a van?

Josiah: Why can't I be more like you?

Kevin: What do you mean?

Josiah: I know I look like you, but more like you.

Kevin: Because you've got to be yourself, man. Follow your own path and enjoy being a kid. Being an adult is not as fun as it looks. Enjoy having nothing in your pockets, and no keys, and somebody else being responsible for buying all your food. Because one day you're going to look up and say, 'Man, I had it so easy.' Who cut the peanut butter sandwiches in your life? I did! I cut hundreds and hundreds of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

But, Josiah had one more important question: "Are you proud of me?"

"I am very proud of you," Kevin said. "You're both fantastic children and I am happy and proud to be your dad."

Audio produced for Morning Edition by Jasmyn Belcher Morris.

StoryCorps is a national nonprofit that gives people the chance to interview friends and loved ones about their lives. These conversations are archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, allowing participants to leave a legacy for future generations. Learn more, including how to interview someone in your life, at StoryCorps.org.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And it is time now for StoryCorps, giving friends and family the chance to ask each other the questions they have always wanted to ask. Today, we hear from two brothers.

ISAIAH FREDERICKS: I am Isaiah D'Angelo (ph) Fredericks. I am 9 years old.

JOSIAH FREDERICKS: Hello. My name is Josiah. My age is 7 years old.

GREENE: Isaiah D'Angelo and Josiah came to StoryCorps in Los Angeles to interview their dad, Kevin Fredericks. And they came prepared with a big list of questions.

ISAIAH: When and where were you born?

KEVIN FREDERICKS: I was born in El Paso, Texas, in 1983 on my grandmother Ruthie's bed.

ISAIAH: Interesting to know. I did not know that.

JOSIAH: How do you describe yourself as a child? Were you happy?

FREDERICKS: I was a very happy, curious child. There was a lot of playing outside in the hot sun and drinking water from hoses.

ISAIAH: You drank water out of hoses? Man, I'm learning so much new stuff about you.

JOSIAH: What's the hardest thing about being a dad?

FREDERICKS: The hardest thing about being a dad is having a drink that you want to drink, and small people put their nasty mouth all over it. And then, whatever they were eating is now in the drink, and then you don't want it any more. Or buying them food, and they don't want their food, but they want your food. You're just never satisfied.

JOSIAH: Why can't I be in charge?

ISAIAH: Because then everything would be a nightmare.

FREDERICKS: Because you are missing four teeth, and no one is going to listen to somebody who doesn't have teeth in their mouth.

JOSIAH: (Laughter) Why can't I be an animal?

FREDERICKS: You have to take that up with your Creator.

JOSIAH: Why can't we own a rollercoaster?

FREDERICKS: (Laughter) We can own a rollercoaster. We just don't.

JOSIAH: OK, then let's do. (Laughter) Why do things rhyme?

ISAIAH: How's he supposed to know that?

JOSIAH: Why can't we have a van?

FREDERICKS: Why can't we have a van? (Laughter) Why are you asking these questions? Why do you want a van?

JOSIAH: (Laughter) Why can't I be more like you?

FREDERICKS: What do you mean?

JOSIAH: I know I look like you but more like you.

FREDERICKS: Because you've got to be yourself, man. Follow your own path. And enjoy being a kid. Being an adult is not as fun as it looks. Enjoy having nothing in your pockets and no keys and somebody else being responsible for buying all your food because one day, you're going to look up and say, man, I had it so easy. Who cut the peanut butter sandwiches in your life? I did. I cut hundreds and hundreds of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Any more questions?

JOSIAH: Are you proud of me? Me, not him.

FREDERICKS: I'm very proud of you. You're both fantastic children. And I am happy and proud to be your dad.

(SOUNDBITE OF BROKE FOR FREE'S "ONLY KNOWS")

GREENE: Oh, my God. That was amazing. That was Kevin Fredericks with his sons, Isaiah D'Angelo and Josiah, at StoryCorps in Los Angeles. And that interview will be archived at the Library of Congress.

(SOUNDBITE OF BROKE FOR FREE'S "ONLY KNOWS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.