Stepped Up Party Planning For Stepdaughter

by admin on March 7, 2016

I’m not sure if I committed some sort of etiquette blunder myself in this scenario or how to proceed from here, so kindly point me in the right direction, if possible.

My husband and I are both on our second marriages and while we don’t have children together, we respectively each entered this union with our own from our first. We have been together for 6 years, married 1.  My children are boys and adults, and are on their own and maintain themselves no assistance needed from me aside from the occasional unforeseen circumstance. My husband has 2, a son in college and a daughter in her last year of high school that up until 6 months ago moved freely between our home and her mother’s house on whim. She now lives with her mother full time.  My stepdaughter was always stand-offish to me and always seemed jealous of having to share her father with another woman after being the only female in his life for about 8 years. She was never vocal about her feelings but being perceptive, I picked up on those undertones right away and went out of my way to try to be a friend to her. Despite my best efforts, she never did warm up and I chalked it up to being an angsty adolescent who might someday appreciate my efforts or not.

Here in my part of the US, it’s customary within our social circle to host a Sweet 16 party for the birthday girl transitioning into a young woman. A rite of passage. These parties normally can be very elaborate events that take months of meticulous planning and can financially get out of hand if a budget is not adhered to. When my (soon to be at the time) stepdaughter was 15, she started attending these events herself as a guest and after the Christmas holiday, began actively soliciting about having one of her own when she turned 16 in April. First she dropped hints, then hurled them but her parents were clearly not picking up on those hints so I mentioned this to my future husband and he asked me if I was willing to help him put one together for her as his ex wife would never give her a party. I agreed, partly because I have sons and completely missed the opportunity to host such an event, partly because I had a Sweet 16 myself and it remains one of my most cherished memories and partly for wanting his daughter to have the opportunity to experience it as well. I thought that she might come around and we could actually be friends.

My then fiance told her of our plans and the girl child was all for it. My then fiance also told me that since he had never personally thrown a party in his life and had no clue where to begin and I have hosted many large gatherings, he would just give me money so I can start booking a venue and DJ, and he would get a guest list from the girl child so we would know how many we could expect and how much food I would need to prepare. We figured roughly 50-60 people, half family, the rest her friends but were waiting on an exact number before buying invitations.

I have a few good friends who stepped up to offer their professional services at discounted rates as they knew I was planning this event that would include their areas of expertise… My friend belongs to a firehouse and offered their hall at member’s price, which was 1/6 the price of a commercial venue and there was a kitchen so food would not have to be catered out. My other friend is a DJ and offered his musical entertainment skills at 1/3 the price someone else would have, which left room in my budget for my other friend, the photographer to take photos of the guests at $1.00/ picture. Another friend does florals and I would have only had to buy the supplies.Sounded awesome but this is where things start getting bad…

My partner calls me one evening ( as we were not yet married and lived in different towns) to tell me that he mentioned the party to his ex wife and suddenly she wanted to be involved, so he told her that for their daughter, that she could.  In one conversation that I was not privy to between my intended and his former, I suddenly got demoted from party planner/hostess to unpaid help.  I was completely speechless for a few moments, composed myself and agreed to do it for the ‘best interests of the child’ even though my gut feeling was telling me that things like this just never end well. Taking one for this team that I was joining, I guess.

The very next day, I receive an email from his ex wife, thanking me for my nice gesture of ‘offering to help’ with the girl child’s Sweet 16 party. She let me know that although she really didn’t have much money to contribute, that she was full of ideas of how it should be done. Off the bat, she decided she should be the one to get her dress, shoes, hair and nails, of which I was frankly relieved because that part had not even occurred to me until she mentioned it. Have at it. She also let me know that the girl child would be designing her invitations online, again, at her expense, like the ex did when she married the one she has now. Again, completely ok as it wasn’t anything I was willing to throw my own money away on as store bought invitations were what I had in mind anyway. I let her know that we were working with a set budget and we were only going to spend what we had allotted so we had to make it count.. I mentioned that with careful planning, we could have some of the extras without compromising the basics.

A new day, another email from his ex. She’s gaining momentum. Today, she decides that we should plan for about 100 guests, half of them family. Hers and her new husband’s apparently, as ours were all accounted for. She did not offer to help pay for what amounted to doubling the party. I was told that her daughter from her previous relationship was going to help and that her new sister-in-law is going to make the cake. She went and bought plastic ware, plastic table covers and paper goods when I had linen and tableware included in the hall rental. She felt that we should have a table devoted to cupcakes sculpted in the form of a high heel shoe. I let her know if she wanted to spend hours arranging cupcakes when there would be many other more important details that needed attending to, then she should feel free it but I personally preferred the space saving organized aesthetics of cupcake tiers. She also wanted a chocolate fountain and again, if she was willing to supply the machine and what she planned to serve with it as keep up with it all evening, I was all for it but again, I would have other things to do like cooking and setting up the buffet. She advised there would be plenty of extra hands that day to help out.

I let my Sweet Thing know that I was very unhappy with this situation that he created and that as much as I adored him, I refused to do the work and foot the bill for your ex’s unrealized childhood dream. He apologized and asked me to please continue as it would mean a lot to him…

It was, by now, mid February, 2 months away and we still had no guest list with names and addresses. I let it be known that this list was necessary, not only for a head count but also to figure quantities and 20 guests either was can change a budget drastically. I booked the hall with a deposit and had the DJ’s contract in my possession when I received yet another email from my beloved’s ex wife. She let me know that her and the girl child were scouting out other venues so she would be able to make a ‘dramatic entrance with her girls’.  She had one more to look at before they decided. Her daughter required round tables for this event, couldn’t we rent one just for her and her girls? I let her know that tables were included in the place that we HAD ALREADY PAID A DEPOSIT ON and we would not be renting more. She also mentioned that there was this really good DJ that played at her office holiday party a few years ago and she was going to contact him to see what he charged…

That was the straw that broke the camel’s back and I responded to her email as eloquently as I could:

After some thought, I decided that it would be best that I remove myself from this situation as you’re clearly struggling with the concept of allowing me to assist in making any sort of decisions or arrangements independently that would benefit this common goal.

I was willing to not only contribute my time, but my own resources and personal connections as well to ensure that this event would be both memorable as well as economically feasible, but because we’re not on the same page as far as expectations go, I am no longer open to this concept and it’s yours to plan and execute alone as you see fit. My offer to assist XXXX in whatever he needs from me still stands. I will assist him in whatever tasks he specifically asks of me but will not go beyond that. Please bear in mind that neither party planning or cooking for large groups are his forte’ and that he’s working with a limited budget now that he’s retired and on a fixed income, so that will all have to be taken into consideration, so plan accordingly! Because there is still no set date, I can no longer guarantee that the DJ will be available or if the discount would still apply. I’m sure that you have other choices in mind anyway.

Best of luck!

smile emoticon

I never heard back from her and the party never happened as the ex was never interested in hosting her own party, only hijacking ours and leaving her to bask in the glory as mother of the birthday girl without actually doing any of the actual work that goes on behind the scenes. The girl child hates me and blames me for the loss of 100 gifts ( I found this written on a folded piece of paper stuffed between the couch cushions a year later) and has not really said 2 words to me since.

Fast forward 2 years. We are now married, and the girl child no longer lives here as she was unable to repeatedly resist her temptations of pilfering or vandalizing my possessions and lying about it until I had to treat a few specific articles with unwashable theft detection powder which left her with purple hands and in permanent residence with her mother until she graduates in a few months.

Hubby is now hinting that WE should have a graduation party for the above mentioned girl child (who hates me) because we had hosted a very nice luau for his son when he had graduated high school 4 years earlier and it won’t be fair.

Out of the question, I told him.  Her mother can have one for her if she wants one and now I’m the bad guy because I’m selfish for not wanting to get into another situation that I’m pretty sure nothing good will come of.    Am I? 0306-16

You and your husband should host a graduation party if for no other reason than to not give ammunition to a young and angsty girl that will be used against you for decades to come or used to confirm her suspicions.   Her Dad, your husband, clearly wants to do this and you should not be the obstacle in this situation.  Go into it with clear communication that you and you alone are the planner and you will promptly resign if the ex-wife interjects herself into the planning or your husband usurps your responsibility.    Your husband will be the more obvious host while you are the quiet, behind the scenes planner.   Plan a simple, yet generous party and invite the family.   I wouldn’t worry about inviting her friends because your party is for family.   Whomever comes, comes.   Her mother can host another celebration with her side of the family and friends.     If daughter-in-law refuses to come to her own party,  that reflects poorly on her, not you.

Also, consider that 16-year-old girls who resent their parents’ divorce and remarriages do, quite often, grow up and mature in their perspectives.

{ 74 comments… read them below or add one }

Rosie B. March 8, 2016 at 12:44 am

I agree that the mother was being unreasonable, and OP had a right to be upset. However, I can’t help but wonder what role the daughter played in this situation. Why were all the decisions about her party made by her mom and step-mom? She should have been told right off the bat, “Your budget is $X. You can use the discounted services and have more money left over for ‘extras,’ or you can go for the pricier options but not have have as much left over–and if you want to go over-budget you can pay for it yourself.” Fifteen-going-on-sixteen is old enough to make that kind of decision, and shouldn’t the birthday girl herself have at least some say in how her party is planned? I just find it strange that the feud seemed to mainly take place between the mother and the stepmother, without much involvement from the daughter herself. (And I do feel a little bad for the daughter–having to cancel your birthday party because your mom and stepmom couldn’t get along seems like it would be hard.)

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Michelle March 8, 2016 at 9:57 am

Since the party was Dad’s idea, HE should have been in on the planning. I can’t believe so many people are ready to jump all over the OP and expect her to be contrite and bow down to step daughter and ex. Dad deserved a big chunk of blame for not participating in a party HE wanted thrown for HIS daughter.

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Rosie B. March 8, 2016 at 10:36 pm

I agree that the dad should have stepped up as well (although it does sound like he paid for at least a good portion of it), but it really wasn’t his party either–it was his daughter’s. Asking her to help plan her own birthday party isn’t bowing down to her, it’s teaching her to be an adult and make decisions for herself.

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Twik March 10, 2016 at 2:42 pm

Actually, good etiquette says undone host your own party.

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Anonymous March 10, 2016 at 4:15 pm

That’s true, but good etiquette also says that, when you’re planning a party for someone, you take into account what kind of a party they’d like, and, unless it’s a surprise party (for someone who you know likes surprise parties), it’s a good idea to ask the guest of honour what his or her preferences are. I mean, that doesn’t mean you have to give them everything they want, but within reason–family, friends, or both, who their friends are, favourite foods, favourite music, favourite colours, ideas for themes if they want a theme, et cetera. I think this is especially important for a young person (and especially for a girl), because otherwise, you get the “stereotypical, generic teenage girl party that adults planned around what sixteen-year-old girls like in general,” which might not be enjoyable for the birthday girl. Yes, it’s important to be gracious, but for all the time, money, and effort that’s being put into this party (or, really, any party), I think it’s best to find out what the honouree wants.

ErinAnn March 8, 2016 at 11:02 am

Amen. This reads like a battlefield from the beginning.

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Becca March 8, 2016 at 12:53 pm

I agree with you mostly because I planned all my parties for the most part. I understand needing an adult for a big one like the Sweet 16 was supposed to be, in the case of “I will book the venue, this is what comes with the venue, let’s sit down and see what you like for everything else?”

By cutting her out, you took away control that she seems to be starved for, since that’s typically what divorce and remarriage hurts the most. The sense of control in the child’s life, they need to be included whenever possible to keep them balanced!

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Rosie B. March 8, 2016 at 10:28 pm

Oh yes, there absolutely still should have been an adult involved in the planning! Perhaps the mom or stepmom should have come up with a list of options for the venue, DJ, etc. and then let the daughter choose off the list. (And of course the options should be presented in an unbiased way–i.e., not something like “This is what your mom wants, but this is what I’d prefer you to choose.”)

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o_gal March 8, 2016 at 7:24 am

Could we please stop bashing the OP over the phrase “girl child”? You may not agree with her use of it, but everyone is now dogpiling on her.

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admin March 8, 2016 at 2:13 pm

I don’t think referring to her husband’s children as a “spawn army” wins her any points either. It’s a disrespectful phrase that denigrates her husband’s role as father and displays the OP’s contempt not just for one child but all of them.

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edy March 8, 2016 at 3:13 pm

Not to speak for OP, but it seems clear to me that “spawn army” is meant to be tongue in cheek. The “army” of spawn includes her 4 boys and her husband’s 2.

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Bast March 8, 2016 at 7:44 pm

Except that “spawn army” is also referring to OP’s biological children.

I use that phrase for my family. My children, my pets…they’re all part of my personal spawn army. I recently had a dog pass away, and since I enjoy doing things outside with a dog, I’ve been visiting the shelters and rescue groups. New-dog-to-be is already being referred to as “Link’s re-spawn.” It’s a very gamer-oriented term, used in a very geeky household.

And I most certainly don’t hate my kids or my pets.

Although yes, in other areas “spawn” has all the negative connotations that people are ascribing to it here.

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JD March 9, 2016 at 12:13 pm

I’m friendly with a local newspaper columnist who always refers to her family as the girl child, the boy child, and the husband in her columns. The youngest “child” is in his 20’s. The family doesn’t want to be named in the paper, so she uses those names to refer to them. No one is offended within her family (her daughter is friends with my daughter) and I’ve never heard anyone speak negatively about it in this small town.
My daughter is divorced. When an event is being planned, my grandchild’s step-mother always consults with my daughter from the beginning, and vice-versa. I think this would have been the best plan at the start, for OP to get with the ex and the fiancé to work out plans together. Budget and ideas could all be decided up-front. I also agree that fiancé pretty much stepped out of his responsibilities for the Sweet 16, and he needs to step back up for the grad party, not just tell OP to do it.

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Margo March 8, 2016 at 8:04 am

I feel somewhat sorry for the step-daughter here, who sems to have got caught in the middle of a group of adults who can’t work things out.

OP, I think that you should help your husband to give the party he wants to providee for his daughter’s graduation.
I think you should talk to your husband and ensure that you have a clear agreement about how you are going to manage any input from his daughter’s mother, and then stick to it.

I would suggest he start by talking to his daighter about what she would like, including who she want on the guest list and whether she wants her mom and maternal family to be invited or whether she would prefer to have a separate event with her mom. Once he knows what she would like, he can then speak to her mom, either to say “daughter has asked me to hold a graduation party for her, I’m not sure whether you are planning anything, are there any dates we need to avoid?” or “daughter has asked me to hold a graduation party for her, of course you will be invited, daughter is chosing who to invite but if there is anyone specifc from your side of her family who you feel needs to be invited please let me have their name and address no later than [date] so we can include them. Can you also let me know no later than [date] of any dates you would like me to avoid, and whether you are planningto hold a separate event, as if you are, I’ll suggest to daugther that she speak to youi about who she wants to invite to each event so people don’t get 2 invites”

That way, he gives Mom the option to arrange her own event, but alos sets some boundaries. If Mom doesn’t want to hold her own event but does want to get involved in the onbe he is hosting, then encourage him to set boundaries. so if Mom wants to pick a caterer, his response would be “No problem. My max. budget is $xxx and we that needs to cover food for *** people. I know that it gets busy arounbd graducation so we need to make a firm booking and put down a deposit by [date]. Can you let me know who you suggest we use no later than [date] and I can made the booking.
Alternatively, if you are offering to pay for the catering as a contribution to the party, that’s very kind. Can you let me have a copy of the booking details once you have made the booking, so I know what it includes and whether I need to provideanythinbg in addition. If you are proposing we share the cost, what’s your budget? If ou can let me know your propsoed budget and caterers we can then look to agree and make a booking once we are both happoy wioth the sugestions”

In all those options, it would be your hsuband, not you, dealing with his ex. If he wants to delagate to you to actually do the work, that is fine, but any dealings with his ex should be the two of them, not you. And he should be careful to own his decisions, so that he doesn’t use the excuse “oh [your name] is doing x, or [your name] decided that..”

Simialrly with any dealings with your step-daughter, make sure that you are clear with her about what you’re offering or suggesting and who gets to decide. So if you are offering to (say) provide a cake, then say to her “I ‘m happy to make / buy a cake for you, if you’d like. I’d need to know by [date] whather you’d like that .” if you would be oferingto pay for it, then add “I’ve talked to your dad about this, our budget for a cake would be $xxx. When would be a good time for you to meet me so the two of us (or to meet me and your dad so the three of us) cabn visti a couple of bakeries and get an idea of what you’d like?”

If her Mom gets in contact wnating to be inviolved then speak to your hsuband to decide how to proceed and then *he* needs to respond to her.
Depending on what you and he decide, that response could either be “thank you for the offer, but we have this covered. Daughter will be chosing the cake and I’m sure she’ll discuss with you what she decides” OR
“thank you for offering to provide the cake. Can you ensure that the bakery knows it will need to be delivered to [address] by [time and date]. ”
OR
“Thank you for offering to provide a cake. It’s very kind of you. Daughter has already picked out what she wants. However, if you would like to pay for the cake, the cost is $xxx, perhaps you can let me have a chequefor that amount”

If her Mom offers to do somethign and your huisband taks up that offer, then ensure that Daughter knows. So you, or her dad, can say “We haven’t ordered a cake, as your Mom has told us she is arranging that. I don’t know how big a cake she has orderd, do you think we will need to get some cupcakes as well?” That way, your step-daughter knows what her mom has told you, but neither you or her dad is pulling her into any dispute.

If you think her Mom will offer to help out and not deliver then encouraging your husband to respond to her with “Thanks, but we’ve got it covered, you don’t ned to do anything ut show up” is fine. If he agrees to let Mom do somethign and you think she is likely to flake at the last minute, then plan for that. Have a sheet cake in the freezer, or a smaller cake which is planned to be for a private family dessert but which you can plan to pull out and use if Mom doesn’t show etc.

in other words, be nice but firm. Don’t compete woth Mom. Your step-daughter will feel loyalty toher mother either way, and if your actuons show that you are supportivre of *her* rahtert han tussling with her mother, you are more likely to get to a point where you can have a decent relationship.

BBut step one is getting your husband on board so he and you agree so whatyou’ll do and he then sticks to that.

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Leigh March 8, 2016 at 9:13 am

I think people may be reading too much into the “girl child” business. I know people who refer to their own children as “girl child” and “boy child.” It’s not meant to be a put down or deny that they are sons or daughters, but only specifying which child without actually naming the child. A lot of people don’t want to reveal the names of their children, and refer to them as “little,” “spawn,” or “girl” or “boy.” Let’s be a little more charitable, and take the OP at her word in a later comment that she couldn’t think of a good pseudo name, maybe, instead of trying to vilify her for trying to do something nice that blew up in her face. It’s hard enough being step-parent without an entire board piling on just to question a nickname others are reading too much into. Some have pointed out that she’s in a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” spot, and from the comments on here, I’d say they are spot on.

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Twik March 8, 2016 at 10:55 am

This is really so sad, but the LW has allowed herself to be put into the “wicked stepmother” position. She admits that her own Sweet 16 party is “one of her most cherished memories,” and yet can’t understand why her step-daughter (the, ahem, “girl child”) is upset with her because she cancelled. Yes, the exwife was a pain to work with, but she could have dug in her heels and refused to be bullied. Instead, she’s allowed the ex to make her the baddie in the situation. No wonder the relationship between her and her stepdaughter has gotten to the point of theft/setting traps to prove theft.

Her husband is right – if they had a “lovely luau” for her stepson’s graduation, but do nothing similar for her stepdaughter, that isn’t fair. It’s practically a declaration of war between her and the daughter. While she may not want to do anything about organizing it this time, telling her husband that it’s out of the question for *him* to help arrange a party for his own daughter (as he should be doing) is downright cruel.

One thing intrigues me – apparently the luau for her stepson when well, even though he has the same mother. The LW only expects the ex to create problems when dealing with her stepdaughter. Very curious.

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Michelle March 8, 2016 at 2:44 pm

Biomom probably thought stepmom was trying to “outdo” her by planning the party and biomom was jealous. And maybe a little afraid that stepmom was trying to take her place.

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Agania March 8, 2016 at 7:04 pm

I would suggest that the luau for step son went well because he was firm with what he wanted and didn’t try to manipulate the parents. Girl child sounds like a princess (“make a grand entrance with her girls” Really??) and a brat, where generally speaking, boys don’t act like that with their parties. In my experience (with my older brothers) a box of fried chicken and a keg is the best type of party! Also, since OP has sons of her own, she is more experienced in dealing with boys while it appears she doesn’t have much experience dealing with teenaged girls.

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Barbarian March 8, 2016 at 11:21 am

Hi, Op,

I am curious to know where you bought the unwashable theft detection powder.

It must be a real disappointment to plan a nice party for your stepdaughter once and have your efforts go unappreciated.

I would go about organizing this graduation party with this objective in mind-your love for your husband and strengthening your relationship. Just do the best you can as admin has advised and this event will be endurable. I have had to entertain less than likeable relatives from my husband’s family whom I would not have hosted otherwise. That is what has seen me through and made the event go as smoothly as it can for everyone.

Your stepdaughter has not yet received an education from the school of hard knocks. After a few years, she may truly appreciate you. If you are as civil as you can be today, that opens the possibility to a better relationship in the future.

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Becca March 8, 2016 at 4:19 pm

The powder is either found in joke shops or places that specialize in detective/PI kind of supplies. Google just that, theft detection powder, it’ll pop up for you 🙂

/not the OP, just know how to get a hold of these kind of things, lol.

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Herring March 8, 2016 at 9:41 pm

If you were serious about getting some of that powder, try looking up “theft detection powder purple” on Amazon (without “purple,” you get primarily ones that require UV light to be visible). It looks like OP got one of the two products that come up in the results.

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Wendy B March 8, 2016 at 12:34 pm

I think the very first mistake was taking on the role of assistant.

The first night, before email No. 1 arrived, I would have sat down, made lists of what was done, what was in process and what wiggle room there was. Then I would have emailed ex wife and told her all of these things and said, “everything already arranged is non-negotiable.” After that, anything she proposed would either be met with “that has already been taken care of, but thank you” or “That’s not really in our budget, but what about this?”

The second mistake was throwing in the towel because you already knew what would happen. How? Because mom hadn’t bothered to start planning a party, so she wasn’t going to finish it. At that point you tell mom “This is what has already been arranged within our budget. If you ALSO want to host a party with all that your daughter wants, and hasn’t communicated to her father or I, that’s fine, but this is what we’re doing going forward.” Mom would have dropped the ball, but a party still would have been held.

I know, hindsight is 20/20 and this all looks obvious now. But I am also part of a blended family where mom may or may not step up to the plate (her youngest’s 18th birthday was a good example…she didn’t plan anything until she found out he was at a party at my house!)

So, do the graduation party, but under NO circumstances tell the ex or even the daughter about it until it is too late. Maybe dad can tell his daughter to save the day because he’s going to take her out to supper or something, then surprise her. Because in the end, YOU have to be the better person. Daughter has been badly hurt by both parents and you’re the scapegoat, whether you like it or not. So step up, be the adult, and know that what you do comes back to you.

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Mizz Etiquette March 8, 2016 at 6:58 pm

The first mistake was that her husband doesn’t stand up to the ex.

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Michelle March 9, 2016 at 3:41 pm

I agree. The mom was not going to give the young woman a party at all but wanted to take over the party OP was trying to plan. He should never have agreed to let ex “help” until he talked to OP.

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Michelleprieur March 8, 2016 at 1:01 pm

I stand by my comment that some of you are being way too hard on the OP and the father and too nice to the girl and mother. When I was 16 I had been through 3 stepmothers and would never dream of stealing from them. As far as calling the dad a “deadbeat\useless” that is a huge assumption. I have the best dad ever and he would be clueless planning a party for a teenage girl. He would have also tried to be neutral with the power struggle between the OP and his ex. Everyone in this could have handled it better, but my sympathy is with the OP.

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Airelenaren March 8, 2016 at 5:46 pm

Well, we can all just assume (you also make assumptions about the stepdaughter, after all, and she’s not here to defend herself). With my background (because let’s face it: Most of us are likely to read things with our own experience in mind), I’m much more inclined to sympathize with the stepdaughter.

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Lerah99 March 8, 2016 at 1:02 pm

I wonder if some of the issues with the Sweet 16 had to do with poor communication.

Several years ago I belonged to a club that had a big charity dinner once a year.
Maria, organized it every year.

One year Maria was starting a new job, had a toddler at home, and her husband was in a car accident. She told our group that she needed help.
I volunteered to help.

But communication was really bad.
So I would scout locations and find one I thought was in budget.
At the next meeting I’d bring it up and Maria would say “Oh, I already booked it at other place.”

So I would ask her what she wanted me to do next, caterers? ask people for raffle donations? decorations? entertainment?
She would say “I’m just so busy! I don’t have time to do any of it! Pick something and run with it.”

So I’d price caters. Find one that was in budget.
I’d bring the info to the next meeting and Maria would say “I’ve already booked the caters. We’re going with other caterer.”

So basically Maria still organized the whole party.
Plus she got to complain about how I promised to help but she still had to organize EVERYTHING!
It was infuriating.

She even told me to show up 2 hours before the party to help set up.
When I got there, everything was already done. Maria and her sister had been there since noon (6 hours before the event). She then acted like I should have been there the whole time, but since I’d FINALLY decided to show up, she and her sister could go home to shower and change.

I wonder if there is the same sort of lack of communication here.

The OP’s husband tells ex-wife “Op would LOVE to have you involved with the planning.” never mentioning that the location, dj, caterer, and flowers were already taken care of.

So ex-wife tries to be helpful by telling the OP “Hey, I looked at some cool locations and my work party had a decent DJ last year. I’ll find out his prices.”
Only to have the OP send an email basically saying “I’m out, and I’m taking my money and resources with me. Good luck.”

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Michelle March 8, 2016 at 4:05 pm

Wow, Maria sounds like so much fun! 🙁

The thing that gets me is that the ex had no intentions to throw the party but once she found out dad was going to pay and OP had started planning, she was game. Then OP is getting emails with snide little remarks like “offering to help”. No, she didn’t offer to help, she was already taking care of things. Then mom starts making demands like a cupcake tower shaped like a shoe, a chocolate fountain, a DJ from her office party, round tables and a venue so daughter could make a grand entrance.

It was obviously a bad situation all around but I think OP took the brunt of the blame because once she let Mom in, Mom dropped the ball.

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Ernie March 8, 2016 at 5:47 pm

This was my thought in reading about this party as well. I’ve had similar experiences as you have with people who claim to want help, but who wont actually say “here is the thing I need help with”.

People don’t know what other people are planning/arranging unless they are TOLD that the other person is handling that part.

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Cat March 8, 2016 at 6:16 pm

I doubt you had a failure to communicate. Maria was communicating that, while she claimed to want help, she was still set on running the entire show her way. She just set you up time after time to make you appear incompetent.
Her grand finale was to tell you exactly when you were to come help set up and then made it clear to her sister and to you that you had not bothered to come help until the last minute. She had you running in circles, getting nowhere.
These people are everywhere. My department head demanded that we all write course descriptions. Then he went through each one and rewrote them as he wanted them to read. It would have saved a great deal of time if he had just written them to start with.

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Mizz Etiquette March 8, 2016 at 6:55 pm

There is no lack of communication here.

The bio mom was not trying to be nice. She feels threatened by OP. The husband needs to stand up to the bio mom and set boundaries. He put the OP in a horrible position by letting her desk with this.

This is a very common, yet dysfunctional, dynamic in step families. Unfortunately this seems to be more if a relationship issue and goes deeper than aparty issue.

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Semperviren March 9, 2016 at 10:21 am

That was my thought as well…communication between the parties here seems poor.

Why was bio-mom not told about the party to begin with? A daughter’s 16th birthday is a pretty big deal, did it not occur to them that she might like some role in it? Was the Stepdaughter consulted about the plans as they were being made and deposits paid? Did the dad convey to his ex that some of the planning was done by the OP already? Did the OP convey to bio-mom that the location, DJ and table linens were already in place? From the OP, it doesn’t sound like any of this was well-communicated. If it was not made clear to the bio-mom from the start that the OP had already put in considerable effort and that X,Y, and Z were already done, I can’t blame her for being excited about party planning and exploring options on her own. The e-mail to the bio-mom had a very huffy, I’m taking-my-toys-and-going-home tone that I’m sure wasn’t helpful to the overall situation no matter how many smiley emoticons it included. It’s not fair to blow up at someone for not being able to read your mind.

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Michelle March 9, 2016 at 3:44 pm

According to the Dad, the ex wasn’t going to give her a party at all and but was all ready to plan once she found out someone else was paying the bills.

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Semperviren March 9, 2016 at 9:30 pm

The Dad’s opinion is that the mom wouldn’t have followed through on the party. We know zero about the bio-mom’s side of the story, or motives, or thoughts. We only know what Stepmom says about those things (take into account that clearly there is no love lost there).

There are an awful lot of assumptions going on in these comments, as well as a fair amount of my-assumptions-are-more-correct-than-your-assumptions.

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mark2 March 8, 2016 at 5:19 pm

I think the first mistake was giving your fiance’s daughter a party. At the time he was not your husband, and no one should usurp the actual mother and give a child a party with her input. Actually now that I think about it, the ex sounded pretty cool about it –I mean here’s your ex’s girlfriend throwing your daughter a party without asking first —I’d be livid! ! But instead of throwing a fit, she’s just trying to change or add some things. And golly, if the birthday girl wanted a round table,—well gorsh, get her one, I mean you didn’t let her choose or have input here. And finally, why don’t people understand the dynamics of divorce and how that affects kids? Get a book, get into a group, see a counselor —divorce is crap for kids!

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Michelle March 9, 2016 at 8:42 am

OP was ASKED to give the party, she didn’t try to usurp the mother. The mother wasn’t even going to give her daughter a party but decided to jump in AFTER plans were being made.

As far as “get a book, get into a group, see a counselor” the MOTHER and FATHER need to be doing that as well.

I think it was pretty dang nice OP TRIED to do something for a person who had been stealing from her. OP didn’t cause the divorce and she shouldn’t be made to shoulder the burden for that relationship failing. That’s on the MOM and DAD.

I don’t get all the crap people are trying to dump on OP for trying to do something nice for her stepdaughter. My parents split up and my father was as nasty as nasty can get but it didn’t affect my relationship with my mother or my stepfather because they refused to feed the drama. OP was smart to step off from party planning because I can see the mom making a scene about something.

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AIP March 8, 2016 at 5:51 pm

I agree with Admin to a point: your husband should have the graduation party, but hire a party planner to do it for him. Yes it’ll be more expensive, but think of the stress saved!

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Ernie March 8, 2016 at 6:49 pm

I don’t really understand the Dad’s part in all of this.

What does “no clue where to begin” mean? That, to me, sounds like a weak excuse for not doing something that he really should have taken the reigns on. Especially since it was for his daughter, and his new wife and his ex wife clearly don’t see eye to eye. Planning a party of this size can be a lot of work, but it doesn’t really strike me as a “know-how” type of thing.

I dont have a clue how, and wouldn’t attempt to build a nuclear reactor or dance the lead part in a ballet or cut a diamond. Those are “know-how” things. Planning a party is a lot of work, but doesn’t necessarily involve anything other than a good work ethic, diligence, and internet/phone book access.

Yes, his new wife, the OP may be better at that sort of thing, but to me, the party not happening in the end falls on him.

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Michelle March 9, 2016 at 8:46 am

Exactly!! He didn’t want to put in the effort so he dumped it on his then-fiancee to do it and then he invited the mom join in. The end result was a big mess, no party and more ammunition for a teenager to hate her stepmom.

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Anonymous March 9, 2016 at 11:41 am

I think part of the problem is that people watch reality TV shows, and think that the crazy, big-ticket parties on shows like Party Mamas and My Super Sweet Sixteen are the new standard for entertaining, so it doesn’t occur to them to just throw a simple party at home. If the OP and her husband had promised Step-Daughter that kind of party (or a fancy dinner out, or a day trip to an amusement park with a few friends, or whatever they had the money and ability to arrange), then they would have been able to do it. But, as it was, they promised a gala event, allowed Bio-Mom to undermine and change things that had already been planned, conversely didn’t really ask Step-Daughter what she wanted, and so, they ended up with a logistical mess that resulted in the party being cancelled. Step-Daughter got angry, because she’d been promised a party that had never happened, which is natural. I don’t think that that makes her a brat. As for wanting a grand entrance, girls generally put more thought into dressing up for these events than boys do, so I don’t think that that makes her a brat either. For all we know, her intention was to make her entrance, model her party dress for a moment, then join the festivities as a gracious guest of honour. If she’d been offered a smaller, simpler party, and given input into its planning, and that party had happened as promised, I think a lot of this anger and resentment could have been avoided. OP meant well, her husband meant well, and Bio-Mom, well, maybe she also meant well, but meaning well isn’t enough when communication and follow-through don’t happen. I think there’s an opportunity here to put this right with some kind of graduation festivities for Step-Daughter, but it shouldn’t be a huge party–it should be something simple that doesn’t have as much potential to turn into a disaster.

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Herring March 8, 2016 at 11:10 pm

I feel really bad for StepDaughter. In the end, you chose to marry her father; she has no choice as to the appearance in her life of you or her stepfather.

– You and your husband kicked her out of the house. Based on your earlier replies, she wasn’t pawning your jewelry for drugs, but borrowing a “hygiene item.” Yes, that’s gross, but really? REALLY? She loses a home for this?! The only reason I could see to not get her one of her own is if it is an “adult toy” and one of her parents wouldn’t approve. If it is something more expensive such as your Mason Pearson boar bristle brush, then make the one for her an early birthday/Christmas/graduation present.

– “My stepdaughter was always stand-offish to me and always seemed jealous of having to share her father with another woman after being the only female in his life for about 8 years.”
I wonder how much you are projecting with this. Your children are all sons. Husband’s other child is a son. Are you jealous that your husband comes “encumbered” with this female competition?

– Your email to Ex-Wife was very abrasive. A smiley face at the end does not change this but actually seems to indicate schadenfreude on your part.
“you’re clearly struggling with the concept”
“but will not go beyond that.”

– “The girl child hates me and blames me for the loss of 100 gifts ( I found this written on a folded piece of paper stuffed between the couch cushions a year later) and has not really said 2 words to me since.”
100 gifts – this sounds a little gimme pig, but it may have been part of a list of “reasons why it stinks that my party was ruined”
If she hasn’t said two words to you, that sounds like someone actually following “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”
You tell us that these Sweet 16 parties are a really big deal (and they sound like a debutante ball-type event). You tell us that your own is still a wonderful memory. You mention they are prevalent in your social circle. Now you seem surprised that StepDaughter is really bitter that her party fell through. This is something that she can’t get back. You three adults are at fault, but StepDaughter is only putting the blame on you. She’s hurting about this, and of the three, you are the one who is not a parent. This might not be fair, but this way she gets to keep some esteem for her parents.

– Are these Sweet 16 parties also common in Ex-Wife’s social circle? In the different plans that were made (your table linens versus her plastic tablecloths), it indicates that you two have entirely different ideas of how this party would go. If you are planning for a debutante ball, while Ex is thinking “like any other birthday party, but bigger,” I can see why this fell apart.

– To have thrown a great graduation party for her brother and then to do nothing for her graduation would be like spitting in StepDaughter’s face.

– You sound like you really hate her. I have heard “girl child” used with great affection by other people, but I do not see it here. I don’t see any affection in terms like “spawn” that you use in your follow-up comments. There are better terms you could have used. “SD” for StepDaughter, “HD” for Husband’s Daughter, or even pick a random girl name such as “Amy” or “Cindy.” You stress that she is not your daughter, but you could at least speak of her with the respect or affection that you would show to a niece or the daughter of a close friend. If you are letting this vitriol through to EHell, I wonder what you said that StepDaughter either heard or overheard that let her know how little you care for her.

– This all makes me wonder how hard you really tried to be friendly with her and how much of the Sweet 16 idea was just to throw a big party as a feather in your cap, as it seems like something you are accustomed to doing (you had a connection for every part of the initial planning).

What should happen now:
– Tell her that you’re sorry about the Sweet 16 fiasco and that you want to try again at the relationship.
– Your husband should consult with his daughter and plan a graduation party. It should not be less than her brother’s party! He should be able to call on you for help. It probably would not be a good idea for Ex-Wife to help, but Husband should tell her that nicely and say it is just too hard to have two sets of party planners. StepDaughter should be able to have both family sides there, along with friends. This does not need to be as fancy as Sweet 16, but it would not be nice for her to have to pick and choose among family and friends. Friends are usually bouncing from one party to another anyway. If she wants more people, choose cheaper food. A ziti bake can feed many cheaply.
– You should encourage Husband to go out with his daughter and do nice things. A bike ride, a movie, something to show that you are not trying to remove her from his life.
– StepDaughter should be welcome in her father’s home. Put your hygienic things in a locking safe if need be, or put a lock on the door of the master bedroom. If it is not too late, SD’s room should NOT be turned into your crafts/exercise/TV room or anything else that says “finally we are rid of her.”

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Anonymous March 9, 2016 at 2:09 pm

Oh, when I said that Step-Daughter’s graduation party shouldn’t be huge and fancy, I didn’t mean it like, “Step-Daughter is inferior to OP’s son, so she gets a lesser party,” but more like, “Too many things went wrong with the Sweet 16 party, so let’s do something with fewer variables, in order to make sure that there really IS a graduation party.” Also, I agree that Step-Daughter should be welcome in her father’s house, and her bedroom should remain her bedroom, at least for now. Even when she goes off to college or university (if she’s not going to a local school), residence halls close at Christmas time and during the summer, so she’s going to need a home to come home to. Yes, she has that with her mom, but she should have it with her dad too, because they’re both her parents, and they (presumably) both love her.

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Michelle March 9, 2016 at 3:38 pm

I read through your post and it seems like you think all of this is the stepmom’s fault and she should bow down and beg forgiveness. I might be mistaken but that is the way it’s coming across to me.

I don’t think all of this is the stepmom’s fault. She says the daughter hinted about a party and neither parent got the hint- she had to straight up tell her husband. Husband thinks it’s great but wait, can you plan it because I don’t know how and her mom won’t give her a party. So OP graciously starts to plan and get good deals. After husband mentions the party to the ex, suddenly she’s all about a party, but she doesn’t have much money to contribute but she’s full of expensive ideals.

When you have to lock you personal hygiene items up in a safe because someone is taking them, then no, that person does not need to keep coming in the home and stealing. She is 16- she knows better and she’s doing it on purpose. Her own mother caused the party to be cancelled but stepmom is getting all the blame. If her Dad wants to get give her a graduation party, great. Hire a party planner and let her work with the young woman. OP/stepmom can be a charming and gracious host and not get all the flak.

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Herring March 10, 2016 at 12:22 am

Anonymous – I was replying to the original letter, not to your answer to Ernie above. I agree with you. I just don’t want OP thinking “Well, StepSon got to invite both sides of the family plus his entire graduating class of 50 kids, but I’m ticked at StepDaughter, so she can only have my husband’s side of the family come.”

Michelle – It’s not all OP’s fault; all the adults have been messing things up pretty badly. The StepDaughter has been very poorly behaved as well (but she still is suffering the most). However, OP cannot change the other players, just her own actions. OP also needs to see that, if she comes across as being a bad guy in a story told from her point of view, how much worse can this look from StepDaughter’s POV?

OP also begins the letter with “I’m not sure if I committed some sort of etiquette blunder myself in this scenario or how to proceed from here, so kindly point me in the right direction, if possible.”

I still think a child would have to do MUCH worse than that for a parent to be justified in kicking that child out of THE CHILD’S HOME. She’s being a brat, not torching the house!

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Anonymous March 10, 2016 at 8:15 am

Oh, no, I think Step-Daughter should be allowed to invite both sides of her family, and her friends, if she wants to, and she should still be given a nice party like Son was. When I said “a simple party,” I meant, if there’s going to be a party, think of the things that could go wrong/be argued over, and simplify them–so, if there was a fight over the venue for the Sweet 16 party that got cancelled, maybe the graduation party would be better held at home. If there was a fight over caterers, maybe the OP and her husband could cook instead. Since graduation season usually coincides with early summer, the party could take place in the house and in the yard, and it’d be easy to make it a barbecue, with maybe mortarboard cupcakes for dessert, and if there was a fight over the band, well, why not make a playlist of Step-Daughter’s favourite music, and play it on a laptop or iPod with speakers? It’d still be possible to make this party a bit fancier–hold it in the evening, and string up some white Christmas lights in the garden, and as for “barbecue,” there are many things you can barbecue besides hot dogs and hamburgers. My point is, when people outsource these kinds of parties, if one thing goes wrong, it can have a domino effect and ruin everything. For example, if there’s a problem with the venue, there’s no place to have a party. If the venue is fine, but the tables and chairs don’t arrive on time, there’s no place to put the food, or for the guests to sit. So, by that logic, it might make sense for OP and her husband to start with what they already have, so this party can’t get messed up as easily as the Sweet 16 (non)-party did.

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Michelle March 11, 2016 at 10:32 am

Herring- according to the submission, the daughter was moving freely between homes, so she wasn’t living full-time with Dad. She wasn’t thrown out on the street or sent to stay with a distant relative, she just lives full-time with her mom now. I get that this party of the submission upsets people and I agree that it is extreme, but sometimes you have to use extreme measures to get your point across. This is OP’s home, too, and she should be able to leave her things out in the open in her home and not have to lock them up because stepdaughter is pissed off about a party getting cancelled so she steals from the OP.

I’m not following the statement “but she is still suffering the most”. Do you mean she is suffering because she didn’t get a party or that she is suffering because her parents are divorced? OP didn’t cause the divorce of her parents and OP should not be punished for something she has nothing to do with. Maybe Dad & Mom should go to counseling with their daughter. OP should not have to be punished for the Dad & Mom’s marriage failing.

I wonder if the Mom is remarried and if so, how is the daughter’s relationship with stepdad? Does she steal things from him, too?

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Library Diva March 11, 2016 at 2:12 pm

I think the stepdaughter is suffering because she’s caught between two sets of adults that can’t along when she’s still at the age of relying on them. She’s the youngest child between the OP and her new husband. It sounds to me, reading between the lines, that OP and NH are just worn out with child-rearing. They’re ready to be empty-nesters, and they’re not in the mood for the drama and challenges that go along with raising a teenager. OP has stated that she walked away twice when the going got rough: once when BioMom got involved in the party planning, and once when StepDaughter was using her things without asking. NH doesn’t seem to have stepped in to try to advocate for his daughter at all. No trying to broker a peace and a party; no trying to get to the bottom of StepDaughter’s pilfering behavior.

The mom in this story is a little harder to get a read on, but she has shown at least once instance of having her ideas grow far beyond her ability or willingness to execute them. If she’s like this all the time, StepDaughter isn’t having many of her emotional needs met by either half of her family. She says: “I’m graduating from high school. That’s kind of a big deal and worthy of celebration, right?” OP and Dad say “Not really. I mean, good on you and all, but we don’t want to take on the work of recognizing this.” Mom says “Of course it is, honey! And we’re going to have the biggest bestest celebration for you EVER! We’ll take you to Disneyland –no, to TOKYO Disneyland! On unicorns! And everyone you know, too! And everyone they know!”

Despite her bad behavior, I do feel for StepDaughter in all of this. Between these two, she probably knows deep down that she’s not getting any party.

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InTheEther March 9, 2016 at 1:24 am

I think recent events have more weight on whether or not you should try to do this new party. You mentioned vandalizing and stealing your things, how egregious are we talking here? Within the realm that stepD could delude herself into thinking “I’m not stealing, I’m just borrowing it. I borrow X from (insert friend or family member) all the time and they don’t care. It’s no big deal, she’s just being paranoid.” Or, as suggested by a previous post where you mentioned regularly hiding a certain item to keep it away from her and her still getting a hold of it, is there no other explanation other than her thinking “Yeah, this’ll p*$$ of that b*76#.” Was her moving out prompted by you and her father making the decision that if she can’t respect your things she can’t be near them, or was it on the other end of the scale and she was furious that you had the audacity to take steps to catch her in her lieing and she stomped off to her mom’s with the threat that she wouldn’t be coming back until you agreed she was in the right?

If things are bad enough that she is going to resent anything you try to do for her, then don’t try throwing her a party. Maybe offer the biomom money with the explanation that you would like to do something for her since ya’ll did for her brother, but it’s probably for the best that the two of you not get thrown together.
If there’s hope of you two being fine so long as interactions are kept very light, then make the offer. By which I mean, you or more likely Dad call her up and say that ya’ll are willing to host a party, and would she want that. This is a good option if you’re not sure of the landscape. That way it’s in her court, and if she’s going to just throw it back in ya’ll’s faces then she’ll most likely take this first opportunity to do so and you can save yourself a lot of work. And completely stonewall mom if she tries to “help”. Repeat “Wow, that sounds like it’ll be cool at you’re party. StepD will be so excited about having two celebrations.” like you are the thickest person in the world.

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InTheEther March 9, 2016 at 1:54 am

Now that my actual advice post is sent…

I will say that the e-mail bowing out was kinda snarky. Completely true but snarky. I actually endorse the decision to just back off saying, “you want this, it’s yours”, but the e-mail can be paraphrased with “You know, I was going to be awesome and plan an awesome party but you just screwed that up! You suck, and I’m out. Oh, you can try to get the ex’s help *cackle*, but don’t hold your breath. Sucks to be you. Out ;)”, and the tone isn’t far off from the original. On the other hand, OP was set for failure, with mom wanting her to somehow pull off all these utterly pointless and yet costly and time intensive details. And mom only putting forth actual effort on things that were already squared away. Actually, sounds like she just wanted to do the fun planning stuff (going around and looking at pretty places with the stepD), and having nothing to do with the effort part. Exemplified by her bailing when work was actually required by her.

I don’t care about the girlchild pseudonym. Seemed a bit odd in the original story, but OP’s already explained that in the whole menagerie of steps between the exes and new spouses, StepD is the only girl out of 6+ children. So referring to her as the only one without a Y chromosome makes sense when trying to specify without naming names.

And I can understand using dye powder to catch StepD. Based on Dad’s actions in the story presented, I can completely see him not wanting to do anything with StepD so long as it’s a case of ‘wife says she did while daughter says she hasn’t’ so far as the theft goes. It is maddening and you feel like you’re in bizarro world when you know that reality is X but other people are acting like and insisting that it’s Y. Since the fallout from that was that StepD isn’t staying with Dad anymore, I’m assuming her reaction was anger that you didn’t let her get away with it as opposed to any amount of contriteness.

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Just4Kicks March 9, 2016 at 3:49 am

Maybe “girl child” was to avoid using her real name…..?

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Twik March 9, 2016 at 10:14 am

I hate to use the term “dysfunctional” but that seems to be what this family is. The daughter may be a princess, or difficult, but she is a teen caught between adults who apparently cannot work together.

Her mother will not provide her with either a Sweet 16 or graduation party on her own.
Her father will not provide her with either a Sweet 16 or graduation party on his own.
Her stepmother was willing to put together a Sweet 16, but got offended by doing all the work and having it picked over by the mother, and pulled the offer. Neither of her biological parents felt it their job to then step up and do *something* for their own daughter.

This leaves the girl with no Sweet 16 and, her stepmother refusing to put together a graduation party. And heavens knows a mere *man* can’t organize a party on his own (oops, there go my eyes, rolled out of my head and tumbling across the floor). It sounds likely that her mother won’t step up any more than she did with the Sweet 16. So, this girl will not be given two major social events that all her friends will be having around her.

She may be a nasty piece of work, or she may be suffering from being stuck between two stubborn women and an apathetic father. But in any case, I feel quite sorry for her.

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EO March 10, 2016 at 1:42 pm

I want to marry this post. Especially the last paragraph.

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Elisabeth March 9, 2016 at 10:59 am

I think you handled the situation with the Sweet 16 very poorly. Your email came across as extremely passive-aggressive, down to the “smiley face”. If the teen lives with her mom, wouldn’t she maybe communicate more to her mom what she wants for the party? Her mom was no prize when it came to communicating, but she probably had a better idea of what her daughter wanted for her party. I think it was less the “ex’s unrealized childhood dream” and more of the daughter’s dream that she wasn’t comfortable sharing with you. Maybe YOU started to take over the party – after all, didn’t you say that one reason you wanted to plan it was because you remembered how much you loved your party?
The business of using forensic powder to see if she is borrowing your items is unforgivably controlling. You couldn’t sit down with her and discuss why she is borrowing it, and if she wants one of her own? You had to resort to trickery?
Re-iterating over and over again that “girl child hates [you]” sounds petty and childish. If you have it in your head that the girl hates you, you’re going to treat her in a hostile way and any hope of salvaging the relationship will be dashed. I suggest that you give her the graduation party, without involving the ex-wife, and making sure you consult the girl on what she wants for her party. Let her help you plan. Be friendly to her, and do not let what happened in the past ruin your future relationship with your stepdaughter (who, by the way, is NOT A CHILD at graduation age!).

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Ashley March 9, 2016 at 11:28 am

This whole story bothers me.

The father should have stood up to his ex since he’s the one who thought of throwing this party in the first place.

The OP should have said to the ex “Look, this is the budget we have, and these are the services I am able to get at a discount. If you want anything over that, you need to make up the cost”

And most importantly, I don’t see anywhere in this that the daughter was asked for any kind of opinions, it seems like it was all moderated by the OP and he EX. What did the DAUGHTER want? How much of her decisions were swayed by whom?

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PWH March 9, 2016 at 11:50 am

OP, I would definitely go ahead with a party for your SD for her graduation. I would discuss your plans with her beforehand (involve your husband too) and ask her if she has any specific requests – food, decor, guest list etc. I would recommend against trying to make it a joint party with your husband’s X and X’s family (unless Husband maintains a good relationship with them). It will only make it too complicated and will risk repeat issues arising. It is unfortunate SD’s Sweet 16 didn’t go forward. It sounds like a combination of things that led to the failure – Husband offering to involve X in the party and dumping it on OP, X seeing it as a bonding experience with daughter and taking over, OP not using her polite spine up until the point where she backed out (I’m sorry things are already booked, deposits paid) and OP not involving SD in the planning process from the get go. Although I can sympathize with OP about the issues she was facing, I think that removing herself completely from the party was a big mistake. In the end it only hurt SD and made OP look like the evil step-mother in her eyes. I’m sure her Mom blamed the cancellation of the party solely on OP and SD soured even more because she’d probably told all her friends about the impending party, only to have to explain that it wasn’t happening.

OP, As your SD is approaching adulthood, hopefully you can take this opportunity to try to mend/strengthen your relationship. Let past issues be in the past and hopefully she will do the same (It will likely take some time). I think the vibe you are getting from her may be her reaction to a vibe she is getting from you. Understand that she is probably having a hard time adapting to the new family structure and missing any original relationship she had with her Father. Find common interests with SD and try spending more time with her one-on-one. Having a good relationship with your husband’s children will only strengthen your relationship with him as well.

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Marozia March 9, 2016 at 3:42 pm

Why not plan the grad party with all of you involved (DH, OP, Ex and her DH and girl child), Between the 5 of you, you should come up with some ideas.
That way no one will be forgotten and will all have a say.
Keep to a budget, though.

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Denise March 9, 2016 at 9:34 pm

I understand that the entire situation was frustrating, but look at the end results. Because you couldn’t have it your way, a 16 year old girl was left without a party. And now you are thinking of not celebrating her graduation over it. These things can leave lasting scars that make a kid doubt their self worth. I know it was frustrating, I know it was impossible, but you should have dealt with that. You were the adult and you took away a young woman’s party.

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Michelle March 10, 2016 at 10:07 am

I disagree. When Mom took over the planning and then quit, because it’s not as much fun when you have to spend your own money, Mom took away the young woman’s party.

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Livvy17 March 10, 2016 at 4:06 pm

Sounds like mom threw out suggestions / feedback / dreams from the honoree, and the OP got huffy that her (perhaps uncommunicated) plans were being questioned, and decided to drop out. I’m sympathetic that the OP was the one that originally wanted to do something nice for step-daughter and then her plans got totally messed up by weak fiancee, but regardless of it turning out to be more than she bargained for, she should have followed through.
Granted, the BioDAD or BioMom should have picked up the ball at this point, or at least called to talk things out and get them back on track, but regardless, from the step daughter’s point of view, the OP bowed out, and therefore sent a very very clear message to the step daughter: YOU’RE NOT WORTH THE HASSLE.

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remi March 10, 2016 at 11:47 pm

The end result is still “a child was left without a birthday party.” Pointing fingers is not the important part of that catastrophe. Both OP and Mom should have been responsible adults and toughed it out for the kid’s sake in this situation, and if one person can’t handle being a responsible adult, that’s not only no reason for the other person to let a child down, it’s very specifically a reason for the other person to stick it out so something gets done. Being sixteen is hard enough as it is without feeling abandoned by every adult in your life to boot.

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abby March 11, 2016 at 9:22 am

What was the OP supposed to do that would have constituted “sticking it out”? She wasn’t a parent in this scenario, she wasn’t contributing her own money, and all the plans she made for the birthday girl were changed by the mom. There wasn’t anything left for her to do. And since it wasn’t her money, or her child, she really had no horse in this race. She was only organizing the party as a favor to the dad. If you offer your party planning services, and the mom says, we’re going to go with ABC instead of the XYZ that you picked, what exactly was the OP supposed to do?

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Ken March 10, 2016 at 12:44 am

It might just be my OCD, but does anyone else find a problem that a folded up piece of paper resided in the OP’s sofa for a year before it was found?

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Jenn50 March 10, 2016 at 6:27 pm

I assumed that it had been written more recently, and is evidence that the stepdaughter is still stewing over it.

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NicoleK March 10, 2016 at 4:32 am

Ok so you make a grand promise you can’t keep to a child, when things get tough you flake out, and you are the victim because she is mad about it?

Then she starts acting out and you don’t, oh, talk it put or go to therapy, you kick her out?

No you should not plan a party for her. Dad and Mom should.

And what’s with the suggestions they get a party planner? Order some pizzas and a salad and unvite all her friends to your backyard. Not hard.

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abby March 10, 2016 at 1:22 pm

That isn’t what happened at all. First off, it was the girl’s father who offered to throw her a party. Having no experience planning a party, he asked his girlfriend at the time to plan it since she had a lot of connections and could get steep discounts, important because Dad had a very strict budget.

OP then gets all her friends to offer their services at a discount (again, this is less about being controlling and more about the fact that if Dad has to pay full market rates, Daughter isn’t getting a party, at least not at the level she wants. OP then offers to cook food for 50-60 guests, entirely of Daughter’s choosing (since she was asked to provide the guest list).

Mom then steps in and announces SHE is hosting (albeit with it Dad’s money and Girlfriend still doing the cooking). Mom then doubles the guest list (providing no financial or labor assistance), unbooks the hall that OP picked (specifically chosen for being 1/6 the price and also allowing OP to do all the cooking instead of bringing in outside catering), and starts making noises about picking a new DJ other than the one that OP was just about to book.

Mom has essentially “undone” all the work that OP has been doing and still wanted her to pay for and cook for 100 people, when invitations had not even gone out.

The responsibility of the party was on the Mom and Dad, not the OP. She offered to help, most of her offers were declined-by Mom-, and the one offer that she made that was accepted (to cook for 50 people) ballooned into her being told she was going to actually be cooking for 100 people. I don’t blame her for stepping back.

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Goldie March 10, 2016 at 5:34 pm

“OP’s husband’s ex hijacked the party OP was organizing, undermining OP every step of the way” is not the same as “things got tough”. You talk about the ex like she’s a rain, a snowstorm, an act of God that just happened and couldn’t be prevented, and so OP should’ve been prepared for that. Nope, she’s a grown woman who knew damn well what she was doing – manipulating OP and setting her up for failure, while simultaneously pretending to “help organize” because she suddenly cares.

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Just4Kicks March 10, 2016 at 7:24 am

I hate when I think I have money in my wallet, and then get to the register somewhere and find out the cash I had is gone.
“Well….I needed lunch money/it’s picture day etc.”
I will GIVE you money for lunch etc, do NOT take it out of my purse without at least telling me “Hey, Mom, you were sleeping/in the shower, I took some cash for lunch.”

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Becca March 10, 2016 at 4:18 pm

Woah, I can’t believe that is a boundary kids cross. Okay yes I do believe it, since I just witnessed a teenager rack up a huge Amazon bill on his mom’s account and they didn’t notice until the stuff started arriving. Little turkey didn’t realize that they’d notice when things started arriving they didn’t order AND just because you hide the transactions on Amazon, they still see the charges on their account when they look at their statements, aaaaargh.

I still don’t touch my mom’s purse unless she tells me I can. She carries a lot of stuff in there too, it’s not just the money. “Do you have an aspirin, mom?” “Yeah, in my purse.” “May I get it?” It’s really quite quick and at this stage in life, she doesn’t care one way or another but it’s all about respecting other people’s privacy. My mom didn’t touch my things without asking either, that’s why I never had to hide my diary or anything like that. Argh.

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Just4Kicks March 13, 2016 at 4:57 am

@Becca: Oh, trust me, that doesn’t happen anymore! 🙂
I know there are times when my husband has already left for work, and my kids forgot to ask him for money.
I don’t mind them taking some cash out of my wallet….what I DO mind is when I think I’ve got twenty dollars in my purse, and pop into a store to pay for something and find my wallet empty.
It makes me look like an idiot….thank the good Lord for debit cards.
After a few times, I turned the tables and one of my son’s got into a LOT of trouble when I found a note in his backpack from a girl we forbid him from having any contact with a few months prior, with that same days date on it.
“Hey…..(son), interesting note I found in your backpack today! Didn’t we tell you we don’t want you seeing/talking to “Susie” ?!?
“What were you doing going into MY backpack?!?”
“Dad and I paid for it….It’s OUR backpack….we let you use it…..And besides, I needed a pen….didn’t think you’d mind, you know, since you help yourself to the cash in MY bag…..” 🙂

And, you are very lucky to have a mom who didn’t snoop!
My mom did….all the time…which is how my parents found out I was still dating the seven year older than me guy they forbid me to see…..Oops.

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Vrinda March 16, 2016 at 10:36 am

So every time you bought school supplies for your children, you still considered them your supplies? My mom bought me a backpack when I was 13, and I used it through graduate school. I was under the impression the whole time that it was my backpack. Going by your logic, it was actually hers.

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K March 10, 2016 at 9:25 am

Your husband sounds utterly ghastly. He has done nothing for his daughter, he dumped you in the situation, he did nothing to resolve it or to support you, and now he is hinting for you to tackle this again.

What a weak, pathetic excuse for a man.

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AFS March 10, 2016 at 9:56 am

Question: where in the country are Sweet 16s such an elaborate production? I only thought that was a thing on an erstwhile MTV reality program.

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Cat March 10, 2016 at 7:43 pm

It may be in a region where Hispanic Quinceaneras are given for fifteen year old girls and this is a form of that at sixteen in the Anglo community.
If you have never seen a “Qunice”, they rival weddings. As a celebration of a girl’s transitioning from girlhood into young womanhood, she has a fabulous gown, a personal portrait and a huge party with all of her friends and family. The cost runs into thousands of dollars and is sponsored by the family and by their close friends.

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Anonymous March 10, 2016 at 9:59 pm

Theoretically, yes, but people have a tendency to want to copy the big, fancy parties they see on these shows. It’s basically like Pinterest with a (weak) plot line.

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