Layers of Pop Tarts

"We don't want to go!" they said.  "Let's go back to our room!" they demanded.

I paid them no mind.  They owe me this.  They owe me this for every tea party I've sat down to.  They owe it to me for every stain that is on the carpet floor.  They owe it to me for every nutshot, every bloody nose and every scrapped knuckle for every toy they've broken and I've fixed.  They owe it to me because I gave them life, I breathed the seed of existence and damn it, they are going.  All of them.

They are all tired, Hossmom and the kids.  I know this.  I don't care. I've gone beyond caring.   They are a bit worn out.  I know this.  I don't care.  They are not overly found of cemeteries.  I don't care.  This is family fun so get in the car.  Just get in the car, turn on your movies, and give me this.  Hossmom can read a book.  This must be done, this is vacation.

Being a father is a complex work of art.  It's a series of intricate plans that are not readily understood by the outsider.  What looks like a simple vacation is usually much more than that.  None of them truly understand what I'm trying to do here but that is ok, they don't have to.  This is not just a vacation, it is a quest and they are all players riding along the stream of my plans.  And the more that I'm yelled at, that I'm told that they just want to go back to the hot tub, the more concrete those plans must become.  It is for their own good because a father knows best.

If we wanted just a nice vacation, we could have gone to the beach.  That pretty much teaches them nothing.  It's hot and sandy.  You get in the water, you poke dead jellyfish on the beach.  We will have a 30 minute conversation about undertow and jaws that will scar them so deeply that they will never venture into the water past their ankles.  This is what Hossmom currently does at the beach and I can only imagine it's because her father did something right.

I went to the dinosaur place with everyone because kids love dinosaurs.  I took pictures of everyone, everywhere.  Dad is not in most of the family vacations because he is the one taking the pictures.  Dad is ok with this because Dad knows that before we head home or back to the room, there is one place that we are going.  For him.  For us.  For the family.  I paid the 8 additional bucks per kid so that they could mimic gold mining in a tourist trap.

I have done this because this is our vacation that disguises our quest.  They will have fun and not realize the foundation of character that I am building.  That's what a father does, he build character and I'm building such a strong foundation that a castle could be built on it later.  Do not question my ways, just get in the car, close your mouths, and appreciate what I tell you to appreciate.

We saw a missile silo on the way to Mount Rushmore.  The kids just saw a big hole in the ground.  But I explained to them that this is what kept America's enemies at bay, this hole in the ground guaranteed their freedom.  The looked at me and didn't understand.  Hossmom rolled her eyes.  It does not matter, they will remember my words and the big hole in the ground when it matters, when they are older.

We saw Mount Rushmore.  I gave a history lesson of each president there.  From the father of our country to the man who carried a big stick.  I explained to them that each of the men depicted up there gave something to us, to our country, something that we should always be thankful for.  They wanted to go to the gift shop.  That's ok, my plans are many layered and we are still near the top.

I took them to Crazy Horse.  I showed them a mountain and explained who he was and why it was important to remember.  To what we did as a people, to what they did as a people and how we got to the place that we are now.  I explained that through shear force of will, a man could destroy a mountain, how a man could shape his future.  They wanted to go see the random cat sitting in the museum.  Layer upon layer of character, that's what I'm doing.

I showed them a cowboy show, complete with guns firing and comedy.  They liked the guns, they liked the loud noises.  They didn't care for the dialog but that's ok, one day they will.  One day they will know that this was the beginning of manifest destiny and what it took to take it.

And now there is one more stop to make, one more layer to add to their character.  The cemetery.  In this cemetery is buried Wild Bill Hickok.  Adventurer, scout, card player.  And yet, much more than that.  I explain this to everyone as we climb out of the car and head up Boot Hill.  I explain about the indomitable spirit, about the will to take on the world.  I explain about how a man can become a legend and in that legend how others can find inspiration.  They are tired of walking.  It is expected.

Next to Wild Bill is buried Calamity Jane.  It is important that my daughter sees who this is, realizes who this is.  An alcoholic, she had her flaws.  But she proved that a woman can be anything that she wants to be.  That with toughness and grit, she can become a cowboy and ride as hard as any of them.  That there is nothing holding my daughter back other than her own imagination and her strength of character, which by the end of this trip should start to grow.

I have traveled 750 miles and endured countless hours of the Barbie movie to reach this place.  Rushmore was my first big one, Crazy Horse next, but this one, this is the one that is supposed to be the capstone on the lessons that I am teaching.

I show them the graves.  I explain.  I put my hand on their shoulders.  I get down on my knee and tell Russ and Audry who they are, why this is important.  I tell them why Aces and 8's should be folded.

They start throwing rocks.

I tell them that these two people also invented Poptarts.

"Really?!" they ask.

"Yup" I say.  Then I spit because it felt like a good spit was required.

Now there is awe, as there should be.

My lessons are complete, character building is installed, my multi layered Poptart strategy.  In time they will peel away the pastry and come to the truth of this vacation.  In time.  In time.  

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