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Was I like this when I was a teenager?

My daughter Collette is graduating from high school this year and will be attending the other USC, the University of South Carolina. We are very proud of her and all she has accomplished, so as any parent would want to do, we all went on a nice family vacation.

Given the fact she’s 18 years old now, and we are told she is an adult and can make all her own decisions, my wife Betsy and I just rolled with it when Collette said she would organize the vacation with some of her friends.

They ended up picking an all-inclusive resort in the Dominican Republic. After doing our research, it seemed like a good choice with, many amenities, good reviews, and a reasonable price. We also learned the drinking age was 18. Turned out 7 of Collette’s friends were coming along, too.

Since we know most of her friends, we were not too concerned about them being somewhat responsible. What caught our attention, however, was that we were the only parents who decided to tag along. I’m not a paranoid kind of person, but I did start having visions of tracking down lost, hurt or drunk friends for my weeklong vacation. Oh, boy.

Upon arriving at the resort, it was nice to see we chose such a clean, large and “picture perfect” place right along the beach. Our parent antenna shot straight up when, during our tour of the facility, our guide showed us 2 huge pools. The one with the white umbrellas was the “quiet side” and the pool with the yellow umbrellas was the “active side.” It was easy to see this was where the hundreds of 18-year-olds would hang out at the poolside bar and entertainment area.

And it really seemed like they were all seniors in high school, who were 18 years old and ready to have fun. Here are a few observations from our fun-filled week.

– Okay, I have a teenaged daughter. The swimsuits were way too small. But the most objectionable suits were worn by European men over 60.

– Good news: We had a room with a nice view of the pool and the courtyard. Bad news: We suffered through several MTV-style afternoons as we looked over the pool with yellow umbrellas. Definitely an “active” area.

– The beach side cabanas (with beds) were quite comfortable, making us feel like kings and queens. But you had to get up at 5 a.m. to pay off the security guard to get one.

– Many vendors had makeshift stores on the beach, right next to the water. During a full moon, the waves crashed on their sandbagged businesses, wiping out storefronts. The next morning, they would be shoveling sand, and rebuilding tables to be ready for business. I was told they do this year-round. It was amazing to watch.

–Some parents weren’t much smarter than their kids. As I watched 3 young ladies attempt to swim several hundred yards out in the ocean to a floating dock, I started to get worried for their safety. People yelled at them to come back. Two locals finally took their motorboat out to the rescue. Upon returning, the girls ran up to their moms and told them about the adventure. The chatty moms were right in front of me, oblivious to what just happened.

– Because of teen drinking, it was best to: 1) Stay away from the lobby bar at night. 2) Run the other way upon seeing a group of 6 or more with drinks in their hands. Or one drink in each hand. 3) Look the other way when you see a group of teens driving a resort golf cart on the beach.

– I asked my daughter what was the worst thing she did during the week. She said she stuck her face in a cake after a bunch of people dared her to do it. I think I can live with that.

So I’m sure by now you may think I did not have any fun and was a grouch most of the trip. That clearly was not the case. With so many young adults part of the landscape, I was reminded about how exciting being on your own, meeting new people and seeing new places can be. I enjoyed hanging out with Collette’s friends. If anything, it reminds me how quickly our kids grow up.

I’m already getting prepared for my next spring break vacation…when my grandkids are teenagers.

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