Ivan Natividad: Love and loathing in Las Vegas
March 9, 2018
We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the caffeine began to take hold.
I was wired on a serious binger of Funyuns, coffee, gas station brewed iced frappuccinos and Coke … Cherry Coke.
Of all the road trips I had taken to Las Vegas, I knew this one would be different.
First and foremost I was the only one in the car old enough to drive the nine-hour trek to Sin City.
So when I look back on their childhood, I can tell them that we were together, and we made memories that are irreplaceable.Moments in time that I will cherish as a father, forever.
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Napping was a luxury I did not have.
"I need to go pee!" my 5-year-old son hollered from the back seat.
"Can you hold it?" I responded.
"I'm hungry!" my younger daughter chimed in before her brother could respond.
"No papa, I need to go pee now," he proclaimed.
Of all the mad and irrevocable things I did not want to happen, pee in the car seat was at the top of the list.
Two hours out from Vegas, I signaled right to drift into the slow lane. This would be our fifth stop in four hours.
In my younger years, I remember making this drive in one fell swoop with my college roommate at least once a year, the 500 miles or so feeling like a measly introductory hour into what would be an eventful night of fearless and fiendish youthful shenanigans.
Not this time.
The already arduous trip to the City of Lights turned into a 24-hour journey, which included an overnight stay in L.A., giving the adorable little monsters time to wind down their wild and sleep through the night.
Frantically searching for a viable exit, I urgently devoured the remaining bite of a batter-dipped shrimp burrito from Del Taco.
As I pulled into the gas station a sense of relief fell over me like a wave of accomplishment. I made it to the promised land.
The car seat was dry. It was a win.
"Let's go to the bathroom, Dillinger," I said earnestly.
"Calliope, you want some food?" I called back to his sister.
They were asleep, and there was nothing I could do about it. They were too far gone into dreamland.
Irritated, I sat there in that Chevron parking lot looking up at the sky through the windshield thinking about the half hour or so we will have wasted on this unexpected detour.
And so it goes.
"Buy the ticket, take the ride," right?
Time is a pretty crazy concept. Your entire life, and all of its content is wrapped up in it, and measured by it. Our perception of it is also constantly changing, and dependent on many variables.
As the saying goes "Time flies when you're having fun."
According to a Pew Research study, dads are spending more time with their children than they were 50 years ago.
In 2015, fathers reported spending, on average, seven hours a week caring for their children — almost three times the time dads provided in 1965. The study also showed that fathers put in about nine hours a week on household chores, up from four hours in 1965.
By comparison, mothers spent an average of about 15 hours a week on child care and 18 hours a week on housework in 2015.
While the study overwhelmingly showed a dramatic increase in fathers spending time with their kids, respondents also still felt they were not doing enough, with roughly 48 percent of dads saying they spend too little time with their kids.
Since becoming a father, time has felt more fleeting than it used to. Not because I feel like time is passing by faster, but because the time and the moments have become more significant to me as I get older.
They often say "youth is wasted on the young."
While everyone's experiences are different, personally I think I can agree with that to a certain extent.
More so I think time is wasted.
In my 20s a trip to Vegas was no big deal. As a single young man, Vegas meant opportunity.
Opportunity to win money, opportunity to meet new people, opportunity to drink, have a good time and enjoy the fruits of my labor.
But with so much time to myself, those trips, though often spontaneous and eventful, came a dime a dozen, and were filled with memories just as plastic as the city they were made in.
Fast forward 10 years, and a four-day excursion alone with two of my kids in Las Vegas feels like some kind of paternal odyssey.
This is most likely because of the to-do list we made together a week prior to the trip, which included 20 things they wanted to see and experience.
From visiting the usual sites and performances of the strip, to playing with dolphins, and also going full board till midnight at a 5-acre indoor amusement park, the kids had a blast.
So did I.
We ventured into different local parks and mom and pop restaurants that I never knew existed in downtown Las Vegas.
And from afar we saw the Seven Magic Mountains art installation; seven towers of colorful, stacked boulders standing more than 30 feet high situated within the Ivanpah Valley off of Interstate 15.
More so, the privilege of being able to spend time with them for days in a row is what really meant the most to me.
To see their faces light up and experience things for the first time was priceless.
Toward the end of our trip each of us wanted to have a souvenir to bring home to remember everything. Something their aunt would often do is pick up a rock wherever she was to cherish places she had traveled to.
My son and daughter each came back with a cup full of rocks of all different shapes and sizes.
"Now we can remember everything, papa," my son said on the drive back home.
It felt like a manifestation of the love we shared as a family during the trip. Driving back to Grass Valley that last night, as they slept, I felt a loathing that as a father I would miss these opportunities to create these kind of moments for us to share.
But then I realized, time was not flying by for me.
I still remember every moment, significant and the latter, of their lives.
When you're younger I feel like the trek is all about the destination … making that nine-hour drive seem like just one.
But sitting there, I found myself holding on to the time we were spending together for as long as I could.
Allowing myself to find an appreciation for times when that nine-hour drive turns into 12, because all of those unnecessary exits and detours turn into memories.
Like the image of Dillinger posing by an alien billboard near Area 51.
Or the time I chased Calliope through a garden maze at Town Square Park, and then hopped into a photo booth with hot dogs in our mouths pretending to pose like dinosaurs.
Even the picture I took of them as they slept while parked at that Chevron gas station after I had frantically tried to get them to food and a bathroom.
These are the moments that matter most. The ones I will never forget.
So when I look back on their childhood, I can tell them that we were together, and we made memories that are irreplaceable.
Moments in time that I will cherish as a father, forever.
Ivan Natividad is Digital Editor at The Union. To contact him call 530-477-4242 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.