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Tribune Media Services
updated 4/19/2011 9:48:33 AM ET 2011-04-19T13:48:33

I struggled to keep my cool, though I wanted to pull my hair out.

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There's nothing worse than traveling with a petulant adolescent, especially when the trip isn't all about her.

It was autumn 2004. We were in Colorado Springs for my older daughter Reggie's freshman parents' weekend at Colorado College and to enhance the experience for Mel — or so I'd thought — we'd checked into the historic Broadmoor at the base of Cheyenne Mountain, complete with hundreds of rooms in iconic pink buildings, biking, tennis, swimming pools, hot tubs, horseback riding, golf and tennis and more spread out over 3,000 acres, all of it accompanied by jaw-dropping views of the nearby mountains.

Too bad Melanie, then 13, wasn't the least bit interested. She was in a snit because her older sister cared more about her new college friends and showing off her campus to us than spending time with her.

Reggie, in hopes of getting Mel out of her funk, suggested a family hike. Mel didn't want to go. We insisted and set off determined to have a good time on the sunny day — there were several hikes the concierge recommended right from the hotel. Of course, we hadn't even gone a quarter-mile when Mel declared she wanted to go back.

"Go ahead," we said, tired of her antics. All she had to do was go back down the road. We made sure she had a room key and knew the room number. I wish I'd thought to give her a cell phone (this was back when tweens didn't have one attached to their fingers). The Broadmoor, with its sprawling buildings, is so distinctive we thought she couldn't possibly get lost.

We didn't bargain for the winding mountain road to be confusing to a 13 year old. We'd forgotten about the fork in the road. We fully expected to find Mel back in our room when we returned from our hike two hours later. She wasn't. She also wasn't getting a snack or taking a swim in the pool or watching the ducks on the pond.

Every bad thing that could possibly have happened ran through my head. Had she been kidnapped? Had she fallen and broken an ankle? (She actually had done that before. Twice.) I felt terribly guilty, of course.

My husband and Reggie got in the car and retraced our route. I stayed behind in case she returned, a bundle of worry. I called hotel security. I called the Colorado Springs Police Department.

Hours later, I was about to start contacting local hospitals when hotel security called to say they'd found her.

Funny story — in hindsight
Mel had somehow ended up at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo — about a mile and a half from the hotel — and ultimately figured out her way back. She was contrite. So was I.

Six years later, we told that story to Mel's housemates at Colorado College. (Yes, she followed her sister to the first-rate liberal arts college.) Recently, we took a detour during a 10-day ski trip to visit Mel, now living in the college's Synergy House with eight other students, all of them living as greenly as possible. Everyone laughed at the telling, especially because it is so difficult to imagine our self-assured Mel as that difficult young teen.

We cooked dinner for Mel and her housemates (fajitas) and then returned to our hotel — The Broadmoor. It is the first time since that nearly disastrous trip that we've opted to stay here, though we've been to Colorado Springs many times.

I'm glad we did. Not only is the hotel even more beautiful (terrific new cottages ideal for family reunions) but also it serves as a benchmark to how much our baby has grown. I looked forward to Mel joining me for a massage at the resort's gargantuan (43,000-square-foot) spa, as well as for a decidedly grown-up dinner to which she'd invited a few of her college friends.

Family vacations, of course, are a lot about memories. But there's something to be said for returning to places where things might not have gone as planned and let's face it, they often don't on family vacations. Returning gives you an opportunity to measure how much you and your kids have grown and to create new memories.

The Broadmoor has been attracting families ever since Spencer and Julie Penrose opened it in 1918. Parents return to a place they were taken as children; grandparents bring their families back to where they were married or spent their honeymoon. Today during summers and holidays, there's the Bee Bunch Children's Program (look for special Easter festivities) tennis camp, water slides and hot tubs, even a movie theater. Kids were happily splashing in the indoor spa pool when we were there.

After our massages (which my hard-skiing daughter really appreciated, as did I) we reconvened for dinner at The Summit, a hip American Bistro that was just opened here a few years ago. The kids had dressed up for the occasion.

We told the "lost no more," story again, which prompted similar family vacation tales from her friends. (It was our fault, of course, that she got lost in the first place, Mel insisted.)

But even that horrible day had its upside. Mel and her older brother and sister tell me that all of our travels — especially our misadventures along the way — have contributed to their confidence. They're not only capable outside their comfort zone but seek challenges that put them there, whether in the wilderness or in countries far from home. They know they can manage whether it rains when it's supposed to be sunny, or if they get sick or lost. That's an important lesson for life, as well as travel.

Thanks, Broadmoor!

For more Taking the Kids, visit www.takingthekids.com and also follow "taking the kids" on www.twitter.com, where Eileen Ogintz welcomes your questions and comments.

© 2011 Eileen Ogintz ... Distributed by Tribune Media Services, Inc.

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