My daughter turned sixteen a few weeks ago. She didn’t want a big party or grandiose plans. She told me this several times.
I said “okay, well do you want me to make a reservation at a nice restaurant and take you out or something?”
She replied “I mean, I’m not trying to be rude or anything but going out with my parents isn’t, like, fun for me.”
Have I mentioned the never ending delights of raising a teenager?
The key is not to take things personally.
She also made it abundantly clear that I shouldn’t surprise her with plans like I had done the previous year.
Last year she didn’t want a party either, but as the date approached she got a little sad that nothing would be happening. She made off hand comments on the way to school about it. I took this as as sign that she would appreciate the day feeling special somehow but wasn’t motivated to plan anything. So, if she wasn’t going to do something, I would make sure she had something special going on even though she asked me not to “throw her a party.” So, I set up one friend to met her for a surprise lunch at her favorite place, and then another two to meet her afterward, grab Starbucks and accompany her to get manicures and pedicures. Then I made a cake and invited the family over to the house for dinner. I made white chicken chili, one of Isabella’s favorites. She also planned a sleepover that night with her friend so eventually they retreated downstairs to watch tv and we finished out the family affair.
This sounds nice in theory. It sounds like I saved her from self sabotage—something I was the actual queen of once. But in actuality, I “ruined” her birthday and she was forced to pretend to like everything I had set up, or some such thing like that.
I didn’t take it personally. She didn’t take it personally. We are all just trying to DO THE RIGHT THING—Bless our hearts.
Anyhow, determined to not make the mistakes of last year, I wondered how I might celebrate and make her feel special this year, but on the down low. How does one passively celebrate someone’s birthday?
One thing was clear. I could not just do nothing even though I was asked to do nothing. Can you imagine waking up on your 16th birthday to find your parents acting like it was any other normal day? What she was asking is not normal. I’m fairly certain of it.
WHY CAN’T YOU JUST BE CHILL, ISABELLA, AND ACCEPT WHATEVER HAPPENS AND ROLL WITH IT GRATEFULLY, WITHOUT CONTROL ISSUES?
Oh. Because you’re my daughter and the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree?
Carry on, then.
Figuring out how to celebrate a birthday without celebrating the birthday is the weirdest thing I have ever tried to figure out.
But I thought and I thought, and eventually came up with a plan. Here is what I did: I made her current favorite, a lemon pound cake, BUT I just nonchalantly did it. I didn’t draw attention to it nor did I invite anyone over to enjoy it. I didn’t even bake it in a pretty pan or anything. I bought candles just in case, but I hid them in the event it became obvious singing happy birthday wasn’t welcome. Then, I set out a display of treats and presents with balloons at her breakfast spot so that when she came down in the morning she had something special right off the bat.
Then, I posted a picture of her with a happy birthday tribute to my Insta and Facebook, for the win!
Then I just waited for her to wake up.
Finally, she came downstairs.
What we did do: shouted “happy birthday!”
What we did not do: point out that there were balloons and presents on the table…because it was obvious.
One “parenting of teenagers” tip I’ve picked up is don’t EVER point out obvious things unless you want to be told “okay” in a tone and with a look that communicates “yeah obviously, I have eyes. I can see. Has that escaped your mind temporarily, you psycho, why on earth would you point that out?!”
Write that down. Parenting tip GOLD, I tell you.
So. We did not point out the obvious. I just sat on the couch and worked on my computer all la dee dah, nothing to see here!
The birthday girl did not go over to her gifts immediately. Instead she chose to sit next to me and look through the notifications on her phone…and that’s when it happened.
“Mom!…why would you post that? That is the worst picture of me!”
She said this about my “happy birthday social media post” EVEN THOUGH she has always told me that all the kids post the worst picture they have of a person to Instagram for that person’s birthday. I don’t know why, but this is what they do.
Here’s how it works: you post “the worst picture ever” of someone with a “happy birthday” message and somehow, it means they love you.
Apparently though, the same rule does not apply to me since here she was telling me I posted the worst picture ever of her and yet, she seemed disappointed.
Maybe because it was actually a good picture but she didn’t happen to like it?
I don’t know. The teenage mysteries abound!
So I shouldn’t have posted the picture, maybe. However if I didn’t post anything she would have probably pointed that out as well. She is always confronting me for seeing her posts but not “liking” them on social media. And she would for sure notice if I didn’t post a public social media post when I normally do that for her brother and sisters.
Good Lord. You can’t win. This is why I say you cannot take things personally.
You gotta just do you, boo. And pay no mind about the outcome.
However, I know it sounds like I’m not taking my own advice. I know it probably sounds like I’m jumping through a lot of irrational hoops trying to make all the things “right” for my birthday girl so as not to upset her. But I assure you, all that is going on here is I’m trying not to do something that goes directly against her wishes. I mean, it’s her 16th birthday. Sue me.
All things considered, my plan to execute “the very merry WARY birthday” was not a total bomb. It went over rather well.
She made plans with a friend, asked to have her curfew extended that night and had no idea the amount of thought and careful preparation that went into this uneventful day.
Until I told her. And then explained how weird she was.
Don’t worry though, she didn’t take it personally.