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Stepped Up Party Planning For Stepdaughter

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.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Dippy March 7, 2016, 9:39 am

    I’ll tell you, it would be VERY difficult for me to suck it up and put on a happy face and plan a party for a spoiled thieving brat. In fact, I would not do it. But, that’s just me.

    • lakey March 8, 2016, 12:26 pm

      Just a suggestion, it might be a good idea to not marry a divorced man who has children. Raising step children is incredibly difficult. They carry all kinds of emotional baggage. Teenagers, by their nature, can be difficult. Add to that issues with a broken family and one or both parents remarrying and bringing others into the family, and you can have “a spoiled thieving brat”. It’s not uncommon for children whose lives have been turned into emotional turmoil to act out.

      By the way, OP didn’t give many details of the girl’s “thieving”. Was the girl stealing cash out of step mom’s purse, or borrowing clothes without permission? A girl has no right to take her step mother’s clothes without permission. But in the teenagers mind, there is a difference between stealing and borrowing without permission. As an adult, I’d be much more concerned with stealing cash from a purse.

      There are people who are not emotionally equipped to be step parents to difficult step children. It’s best to understand this, and not marry someone with kids. I have had friends and relatives who married someone with kids, and the difficulties with the step children made their marriages nightmares.

      • Michelle March 8, 2016, 2:30 pm

        Yes, there is a difference between stealing and borrowing, but she should still ASK, not just take.You wouldn’t borrow your neighbor’s weed eater without asking. At 15/16, she should know to ask before borrowing.

      • Billia March 9, 2016, 1:09 am

        I couldn’t agree with you more, it drives me nuts when there is a drama between a teenager/child and an adult like this and the teenager/child is spoken about so negatively and essentially just written off as a terrible person. If you can’t be willing to endure the difficulty of a teenager/child acting out then you need to not get involved with someone with children.

  • Jennifer March 7, 2016, 9:47 am

    If you choose language such as “girl child” to describe your step-daughter, I’m not sure what to think about how you were perceived to her. It’s possible that negativity is coming from your anger and frustration over the failed party planning. It sounds like your now DH (BF at the time of the party planning, which is a big difference) was not willing to set the boundaries you wanted and that led to a lot of the conflict.

    I was a teen when my father remarried. Her aloofness wasn’t necessarily jealousy. It’s hard as a young person to have a new family with new rules and ways of operating thrust on you. That doesn’t excuse her stealing, however would you have used a staining powder to catch your children in the act?

    • OP March 7, 2016, 8:46 pm

      Theft detection powder stains one’s hands purple for several days upon contact with perspiration . It doesn’t wash off. Knowing this, I applied a fine layer to the object with an old cosmetic brush, an item of mine that she would seek out no matter where it was hidden, no matter how many times she was told not to use it. I’m a firm believer that it’s never ok to share personal hygiene items and because she would deny this every time, I had to call her out on it.

      • edy March 8, 2016, 10:41 am

        OK, this has me even more curious. Personal hygiene item? Is this a hairbrush? Straightening iron?
        Or something even more hygienic, like makeup, toothbrush, or deodorant?

        In my house, I would sneak into my sister’s room and borrow things like her curling iron, makeup, etc. because she had better stuff than me. I would not define this as pilfering or vandalizing.

        But nothing I can think of that would be defined as a personal hygiene item is super expensive and if she liked the one item so much, why not get her one for herself?

      • Lisa March 8, 2016, 11:11 am

        Whoa. Using personal hygiene items is way different than, say, stealing your jewelry.

        I think using the detection powder is a huge overreaction in that case.

      • Twik March 8, 2016, 11:28 am

        It sounds like it was less stealing than “unauthorized borrowing”. I wouldn’t like to share personal hygiene items myself, but there is a difference.

      • Kelly March 8, 2016, 12:44 pm

        You sound very intense and kind of crazy talking about applying this “fine layer” of theft detection powder. Just saying. Where does one even buy such a thing?

        • Michelleprieur March 8, 2016, 6:15 pm

          Can you explain your statement that the OP “sounds very intense and kind of crazy”? I have no idea what you’re talking about.

          I can’t believe the posters here defending the daughter stealing. 16 years old is old enough to know better. The OP clearly stated that she’s been told repeatedly not to take whatever it was.

          • Kelly March 9, 2016, 8:22 am

            It doesn’t sound like the teenager was “stealing,” it sounded like she was using something like a straightening iron and then putting it back. Is that totally ok? No. But the OP sounds like she fancies herself to be Agatha Christie or Miss Marple with the dramatic rendering of “Knowing this, I applied a fine layer to the object with an old cosmetic brush, an item of mine that she would seek out no matter where it was hidden…” It just seems like a disproportionate response to an item being borrowed.

          • Michelle M. March 9, 2016, 10:07 am


          • Library Diva March 9, 2016, 12:11 pm

            I agree with the statement about OP. When she initially said that the step-daughter was stealing, I was sympathetic. I imagined this girl rifling through OP’s jewelry box or purse and taking whatever she wanted, or deliberately ruining OP’s clothes. When she specified that the girl kept taking and using a mere personal hygiene item, though, I lost a little sympathy.

            I have no more idea what the item was than anybody else here, but I kept picturing a hair brush or a flat iron, and I felt that OP’s deep-seated desire to keep her from using this item was a little intense. Yes, OP had clearly stated her preference, but would it really be that big of a deal to let the girl use these things? If she truly didn’t want the girl to use it, wouldn’t locking it up or even removing it from the house have been a better solution?

            Covering it with theft-detection powder is where it crosses the line into “insane” to me. I can’t imagine a personal hygiene item that should be guarded to the extent of humiliating the step-daughter this way. Think about it: she had to go to school with the purple hands, to her after-school activities, to the mall, to a part-time job she may have, possibly even on dates with this mark of shame on her hands. All for using some makeup or cosmetic tool.

            OP doesn’t say that she tried to actually have a conversation with the girl about her use of the item. It could have actually been a positive thing that she was expressing the wrong way. Maybe she wanted her hair to look like OP’s, for example. I’m not saying that what the step-daughter did was OK. But it’s not a crime, and that’s how OP treated it. Between this and the party debacle, it’s not surprising that OP has a bad relationship with her step-daughter.

          • Michelle M. March 9, 2016, 3:36 pm

            @Michelleprieur–Could not agree more!~

      • Herring March 8, 2016, 6:50 pm

        Okay, you won’t specify beyond “hygiene item.” This makes me think that it is some sort of adult toy, the sort of thing that would be very embarrassing for a teen girl to admit she wants, especially embarrassing if her mother is against her having one. That would also explain why you or your now-husband didn’t just purchase her one of her own.

      • Angela S March 8, 2016, 7:14 pm

        While I would not prefer to share personal hygiene items, I would not consider that as stealing. In fact I would be happy to purchase my child or step child their own personal hygiene items to use. I feel that is my responsibility as a parent. I would go ahead with the graduation party. I like other commenters idea of telling the biological mom she can throw her own party if she tries to take over. I feel like the dad should communicate that to his ex if needed rather than OP having to deal with it.

  • Ames March 7, 2016, 9:51 am

    What’s with calling her ‘the girl child’? That just seems so odd!

    • OP March 7, 2016, 8:48 pm

      I couldn’t come up with a better psuedo name.
      I admit, I could have tried harder .

    • MamaToreen March 9, 2016, 9:12 am

      Actually, my MIL, who only had a son, called me “Girl Child” or “Girl-Girl” as a term of affection until she died. She also referred to me as her daughter as opposed to Daughter in Law

  • Cat March 7, 2016, 9:53 am

    This turned into a power struggle between mom and step-mom-to be.
    To avoid this, I believe I would have said, ” Your Dad wants you to have a Sweet Sixteen Party and I would like to help, but it is YOUR party and will be the way YOU want it. He is retired and does have a budget you’ll have to follow. If I use my contacts to get the following, you will have X dollars to spend on your dress, cake, invitations and so forth. Do YOU want me to make these arrangements, knowing that we have to put down a deposit and changing them later will result in the loss of that money?”
    If she’s a normal teenager, the minute her mother started to tell her what she wanted and to make changes, the girl would have had a hissy fit, stamped her foot and yelled, “It’s MY party and it’s going to be the way I want it! It’s not YOUR party!”
    You could smile and read a magazine. If mommy said anything to you about changes, you could say, “It’s so important to allow children to make their own choices, isn’t it?”

  • AS March 7, 2016, 9:57 am

    WOW! That is a lot of preparation for a Birthday party!

    I agree with admin – you and your husband should throw the girl a graduation party. It is the party that the girl’s father is throwing, and hence the mother doesn’t have to be involved. She can throw her own party if she wishes to, but make it clear that your husband and you are the hosts for this party. I don’t know how graduation party invitations go out (we didn’t have the custom where I was brought up), but if there are names for the hosts, only the father’s name and your name should be there on the invites.

    Teen-aged and adolescent girls are often difficult, and I’d assume that they might be more difficult if they resent new partners of parents in broken marriages. I remember a couple of times when I hated my own mother – and my parents were together – though I was very close to her until she passed away. As you said, the girl may or may not warm up to you. But that doesn’t mean that you should punish her for having a mother who wants to live her adolescent dreams through her daughter.

  • Barb March 7, 2016, 10:09 am

    “Girl child”? I think the word the OP is looking for is “daughter”.

    • girl_with_all_the_yarn March 7, 2016, 8:15 pm

      Stepdaughter. Not daughter.

      Heads up: sometimes to those of us with difficult relationships with step-parents, it’s super not okay to refer to them as a son or daughter because we feel it diminishes our relationship with our biological parents. If you’d referred to me as my stepmother’s “daughter,” I’d have lost it since she and I do not have a good relationship.

      Whether you agree or not, err on the side of respect until corrected.

      • AnaMaria March 8, 2016, 10:03 am

        As an adoptee who met my birth parents when I was in college, I find it very offensive when someone refers to me as their daughter- the only people in the world who are allowed to call me that are my mom and dad. They have always introduced me and referred to me as their “biological daughter”, which is correct.

        If this had been a case of me being unjustly removed from their home and bounced around in the foster system all my life, or if they had died and I had been adopted afterwards, it might be a different story, but, as girl_with_all_the_yarn stated, err on the side of respect!

      • Amanda H. March 9, 2016, 2:29 pm

        It really depends on the family, I think. My sister’s MIL has a daughter from a previous relationship, who was later adopted by her second husband (my BIL’s father). My husband referred to this older daughter as “stepdaughter” in a family newsletter once, and apparently horribly upset my sister’s MIL on behalf of my sister’s FIL because apparently both consider said older daughter as his daughter, not stepdaughter. Things have been smoothed out now (several of us explaining to the MIL that my husband didn’t mean anything by it and wasn’t aware of how they see the relationship), but it’s certainly an instance of the opposite of what you said being true.

    • OP March 7, 2016, 9:01 pm

      She is my husband’s daughter. She has a mother. I cannot correct her or guide her and who she is as a person is of no reflection of me. She’s the only female in a spawn army of 6, so no. Still the girl child.

      • Shoegal March 8, 2016, 8:15 am

        Really??? “Spawn Army of 6”? The “girl child” – all of this just reeks of contempt. I understand you have some issues but you haven’t even spoken to this girl in years – this isn’t her dream scenario. Have a heart for what she’s been through.

        • Cannibal Queen March 8, 2016, 9:50 pm

          Umm, she and her husband both have children. She’s referring to all of them – her husband’s children and her own – as the “Spawn Army”. It’s a collective nickname, not a term of abuse reserved only for her stepchildren.

      • Twik March 8, 2016, 11:23 am

        You refer to your husband’s children as the “spawn army”? Perhaps you should, indeed, avoid having anything further to do with these young people, because you do seem to resent their existence. That doesn’t mean, though, you can tell your husband that he can’t do things for them. Any man who’d accept that ultimatum doesn’t have enough spine to be married in the first place.

        • Amanda H. March 8, 2016, 5:00 pm

          Well, to be fair to OP, she said in the story that her husband only had two (the stepdaughter, plus stepdaughter’s older brother). The other four would be OP’s own adult sons. So the majority of this “spawn army” that OP refers to is her own.

          I’m not condoning the term itself. I think “spawn army” is just as off-putting as “the girl child” for constant reference to her future stepdaughter. But at least she’s not using “spawn army” solely for her husband’s children.

          I wonder if OP and her husband live in the South. A lot of things here (lavish Sweet 16 parties, certain terms) strike me as indicative of that region as opposed to other parts of the country. (I could also be wrong, but they at least don’t sound like the Northeast where I grew up, nor do they sound like the Rockies where my dad hails from.)

      • Dee March 8, 2016, 11:31 am

        OP – Now you’re referring to your other stepchildren as a “spawn army of 6”?! ? You don’t really like any of them, do you? Why would you marry into a family you don’t like? You’re making me feel more and more sympathy for your stepchildren.

      • Cora March 8, 2016, 11:54 am

        “Spawn army”? You don’t see the wall of resentment behind that choice of words? Holy Lord, woman. Get yourself into therapy, pronto; or all of that repressed anger is going to turn into Hiroshima.

      • Mizz Etiquette March 8, 2016, 12:23 pm

        Yes, she is her husband’s daughter – stepdaughter.

      • lakey March 8, 2016, 12:54 pm

        “The girl child” and “spawn army” could be viewed as disrespectful, especially in an already difficult relationship, such as stepmother. It matters because it’s an indication of how you feel about her. I do understand your being resentful or annoyed. As I’ve said, step children can be difficult. But the adult needs to take the high road. “Husband’s daughter”, “or stepdaughter” would be preferable. Just curious, did she refer to you with a disrespectful name, such as “that woman”?

      • ally March 8, 2016, 1:09 pm

        Spawn army??

        My goodness, OP, I really appreciate your sticking around the comments, but your words make your sound very anti-child, and I’m not sure if that’s your intent. You might want to reevaluate that if you hope for any rel@tionship with any of the kids going forward.

      • SweetPea March 8, 2016, 1:21 pm

        “Girl Child” is awkward, not because it wasn’t a name, but because it implies a level of coldness and, quite frankly, b****yness that you wouldn’t expect from someone who claims to want to throw this giant party for their step-daughter/husbands child.

        And by the way, when you married your husband, you got his kids too. You don’t eager to decide what’s what.

        And did you REALLY just refer to her as part of a “spawn army”?!? On an etiquette website!?! While asking for friendly advice??

        True, it doesn’t sound like any of the players in this terrible little scenario are peaches, but you are not coming off well yourself, and your responses to comments on here make you seem bitter, snobbish, and prude-like.

        In terms of suggestions, I would get with your husband and throw her a party at your house. A small, easy shindig. Invite the mother and their family (they are, after all, family to your step-daughter), but let them have their own separate party if they want to plan it.

        You only come off as nice and caring if that’s how you actually behave…

        • SweetPea March 8, 2016, 1:23 pm

          **You dont get to decide…

          Not sure about that autocorrect – sorry!

      • edy March 8, 2016, 2:32 pm

        I think people are misreading “spawn army” as disrespectful when I believe it is meant to be tongue in cheek. The “army” of spawn includes her 4 boys and her husband’s 2.

        • TKD March 9, 2016, 8:05 am

          Whatever her intent, it’s still telling that her response to an etiquette board objecting to “girl child” is to double down with “spawn army”. OP claims to be particularly perceptive, such that she could pick up on her stepdaughter’s “hidden” resentment. Yet she’s not perceptive enough to realize that her phrasing would further solidify posters’ negative impression of her.

          Maybe that’s part of the reason she’s having so much trouble interacting with the stepdaughter and mother–she *thinks* she’s perceptive of the situation and being the magnanimous stepmother while she’s really saying and doing things that are fueling their dislike.

          • Library Diva March 9, 2016, 4:31 pm

            Very good read on this, TKD. It’s also quite possible that comments that OP has meant to just be silly or harmless have hurt her step-daughter’s feelings.

      • Mags March 8, 2016, 3:37 pm

        I believe OP said husband had 2 children (boy and girl) and OP has grown up sons, presumably 4 of them. I take it that spawn army refers to all 6 of them, her own included. Therefore, I don’t believe it is an insult leveled at the step children.

      • Denise March 9, 2016, 9:38 pm

        I had two children when I met my husband. He wouldn’t discipline them. I told him that if he was my husband he would by default be a father figure to them. As such he would need to act the part if he didn’t want to make my life miserable. You are a mother figure and absolutely could have guided her. It appears that you wasted the opportunity.

  • ValB March 7, 2016, 10:16 am

    Although i don’t disagree with the OP’s actions in this story, and completely understand why she would chose to remove herself from the situation, every single time she calls her stepdaughter “the girl child” it makes me dislike the OP just a little more.

    • Leah March 8, 2016, 10:45 am

      A good friend of mine refers to her daughter on social media as “the girl” for a bevy or reasons: she doesn’t post much about her daughter online out of respect for the young teen’s privacy, many parents don’t like to advertise their children online, and most importantly it’s just her sense of humor. She has a dry wit. That’s how I read the OP’s use of “the girl child.”

      • Michelle M. March 8, 2016, 3:29 pm

        @Leah–That is exactly how I took it, as well.

  • stacey March 7, 2016, 10:43 am

    What Admin said! The original party should not have been canceled, the child’s later bad behavior notwithstanding. Now you propose to tell your husband that his child cannot have a graduation party and that isn’t a good idea. In the same way, I cannot help but note that you “told” the child’s mother how to plan by listing the conditions that she should have taken into consideration. All of this is regrettable because your own behavior was almost (but not QUITE) above reproach. Had you been able to resist the temptation to get a little of your own back in your email or in your subsequent communication with your spouse, you could have successfully stonewalled any obligation to engage and would not now be in a position where YOU (in all likelihood) are the “bad guy”. If you can muster an apology for any missteps born of frustration and avoid blaming the young adult for her immaturity and angst born of her poor family of origin, you can then say “I’m afraid that I cannot plan this event, but I will happily support it…”. And offer “X” dollars or the venue fee or the dress/ hair/ nails or whatever you prefer. OR you can offer the young lady an alternative gift. And say, straight-faced, that parties don’t always seem to come off as well as intended but you DO want her to feel special at this time. So… down payment on a car? Ski trip? Special piece of jewelry? Father-daughter road-trip? Tickets to her favorite band? Whatever seems reasonable… You’re not trying to bribe her outright, but to keep things somewhat equal and possibly forestall being stuck with the ill-fated and thankless role of party planner….

  • AMC March 7, 2016, 10:49 am

    I would advise Letter Writer to be very careful that she’s not unintentionally slipping into the Evil Step-Mother role. It was nice of her to try to plan a sweet 16 party for her step-daughter. And I’m sure it was frustrating to have Fiance put the burden of planning on LW’s shoulders, only to have Ex-Wife usurp control. But LW seems to be taking all this very personally and holding it against the Step-Daughter. A 16-year-old is not responsible for her parents’ actions. Sure, teenagers can act bratty and entitled and butt heads with their step-parents, but most of them outgrow this behavior.
    If LW is ever going to have a good relationship with her step-daughter, she’s going to have to let go of this grudge she seems to be holding. And if Husband wants to throw her a graduation party, let him! Just make it clear that HE is the host, and you (LW) will be contributing only a few specific items/services and nothing else.

  • abby March 7, 2016, 10:52 am

    “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.”

    Wait, what? Sorry, I got stuck on that.

    So, if I understand this, OP wants to know both if she erred in sending the email a few years ago, and how she can get out of throwing another party now. I would say she did nothing wrong in sending the email, although I would have sent it sooner. As soon as Mom jumped in that she wanted to host it, I would have handed over the reigns immediately instead of trying to collaborate. As OP points out, Mom wanted to merely toss out ideas that spotlighted her while someone else arranged and paid for it.

    As far as now, I get OP’s frustration, but agree with Dad that if son got a grad party, Daughter should get one too. Mom should be welcome to attend as a guest, but she is not hosting, and that should be made clear. The budget should be firmly communicated as well. Good luck OP!

  • DGS March 7, 2016, 10:54 am

    You are the adult. Behave like one, regardless of how the angry, resentful teenager and her manipulative mother behave.

    I do think that the way the OP handled the original party was pretty passive-aggressive, although the blame is to share between all the adults in the equation, including OP, OP’s Husband and Ex-Wife. Rather than bailing out on the party last minute, the thing to do would have been for Husband, OP and Ex-Wife to sit down together, set the budget together and divvy up the responsibilities together before the planning began, or for the Husband and the OP to manage the planning entirely, only inviting the Ex-Wife as a guest and not giving her any part of the planning as this was their money used for planning, and as their friends were offering their services. The Husband comes across as a coward who won’t stand up to his daughter, bends to his Ex-Wife’s will and asks OP to placate them to the expense of his own involvement. There were multiple opportunities there for him to stand up. He chose to stick his head in the sand and contribute to the deterioration of the already strained relationship between his daughter and his new wife.

    Host the luau, plan the luau, make it a family party, allow a few of her friends to come (she’s a teenager – her entire social life is her friends, so I’d cut her some slack and make room for some of her friends on the guest list) and let her mother and her mother’s new husband plan or not plan their own party, as they see fit.

    • Michelle March 8, 2016, 8:33 am

      OP’s husband wanted the party to happen and told OP that the mother “wouldn’t throw her daughter a party” and “he didn’t know how to plan a party or know where to begin”, so I think OP starting the planning to help out her husband/fiancee. Then husband told ex about the party and when ex suddenly wanted to help, he was like, yeah, sure.

      I put this squarely on the husband/fiancee. He drafted OP for help and when his ex decided this was the opportunity to plan the Sweet 16 party of *her* dreams, she ran with it. Not once in all the “suggestions” she offered did say that was what the daughter wanted, it was what the mom wanted.

      Husband could have facilitated a better relationship between his daughter and his new wife (OP). But, no. He placated his ex. She would not give her own daughter a party but had no trouble trying to take over when OP had already started the process and the husband/finacee let it happen. OP backs off and suddenly she’s the bad person? And the daughter is stealing from OP! Why is the husband and ex not trying to discipline her? They are ok with their daughter being a thief??

      • Michelle M. March 8, 2016, 5:48 pm


  • Shoegal March 7, 2016, 11:02 am

    Why can’t you throw a graduation party that is hosted solely by you and your husband? You and presumably your husband take care of all arrangements without the ex wife’s involvement. Put together something and tell your husband that you will do this if he refuses any offers of involvement by the ex wife. Tell him to just say no – something along the lines of “No thank you – we are throwing this party ourselves and will be inviting you, of course, but don’t require anything in the way of help. Feel free to throw a party for her yourself. It might be a nice thing it she were to have two parties to celebrate her accomplishment.” Or call the ex wife yourself or send an email that tells her this is your party. In this way you will nip the ex wife’s involvement right in the bud immediately and can still do something nice for your step daughter.

  • Betsy March 7, 2016, 11:04 am

    Small correction – I think you mean step daughter in the last paragraph.

  • LadyV March 7, 2016, 11:11 am

    I give the OP credit for taking the high road and not informing her stepdaughter that it was her mother’s fault the party never happened. However, I’m a bit disturbed that she refers to her stepdaughter throughout as “the girl child”. While I understand that she can’t use the young lady’s real name, she could at least have used a pseudonym! Calling her “the girl child” makes it sound like she barely considers the young woman to be a real person.

    • Lori March 7, 2016, 12:55 pm

      I had the same thought. That sounds like a term you’d use in a fairy tale about…well, wicked stepmothers.

      • Mizz Etiquette March 8, 2016, 12:24 pm

        You’re not a stepmother, are you?

    • JWH March 7, 2016, 1:56 pm

      At least she didn’t say “the female spawn.”

      • Calliope March 8, 2016, 8:03 am

        I have a very strong urge to use the term “femme spawn” now.

      • Gaius March 8, 2016, 8:28 am

        She did, in a reply to an earlier comment.

        • JWH March 14, 2016, 10:44 am

          …. And I was joking when I wrote that.

  • Anna March 7, 2016, 11:29 am

    Yikes. This poor child. The party she was told she would have was cancelled because her mother and her step mother couldn’t find a way to work together. I think that as a 16 year old I’d be pretty angry too.

    I also find it strange that you would go ahead and book things seemingly without any input from the guest of honor. I didn’t have a sweet 16 party, but I can’t imagine any event being planned for a 16 year old, except maybe a surprise party, in which she didn’t have a significant say. Yes, she would need to be told no for some things that weren’t in the budget, but it doesn’t sound like you included her at all. This sounds like failure of communication more than anything.

    If the now 18 year old wants a graduation party at her Dad’s (and yours) home, I think it would be a nice gesture to host one. However, I can’t imagine that she would even want such a party now. Does Dad just feel like something that *should* happen, or does he know she actually wants it? It might be better for him to do something else special for his daughter, like a weekend trip or something.

    • padua March 7, 2016, 1:12 pm

      i agree with this completely. it’s great that the OP got all these things for a great deal, but if i was 16, i would at least want to be consulted. and to be *punished* for my mother not being able to get along with my step-mother by having my party canceled? that would be very difficult to let go.

    • Dee March 7, 2016, 1:46 pm

      Anna – Between the mother and the stepmother the poor kid must have been pulled into a hundred pieces. OP had no relationship, really, with her fiancé’s daughter at that point but decided not to solicit anyone else’s opinions and organized the party exactly as she wanted. How could she figure no one else would want to have input? Sounds so very controlling to me.

      A grad party? When none of the people involved can be reasonable and work together? That is a sure recipe for the girl to get shafted again. Here’s a brainiac idea: Talk to the stepdaughter about what she wants for a party. Ask her to help. Get her approval for the things that are important to her, while keeping the budget. If she won’t talk to OP throughout the process, so be it. No party. Here’s the chance for the OP, hubby, ex and stepdaughter to act like adults. If any of them cares to, that is. I don’t see much hope, frankly, with the OP only wanting to be right, the ex wanting to have things her way without putting in the work, a useless father, and a kid who nobody consults and who was raised in this dysfunctional mess.

      • Michelleprieur March 7, 2016, 6:14 pm

        These are a bit melodramatic. The “poor kid”? She6sounds like a brat. I was 16 years old once, it wasn’t that long ago, and wouldn’t have dreamed of the behavior the OP described. The OP just”wanted to be right”? No. The OP got tired of being disrespected. A “useless father”? Way OTT.

        • Dee March 7, 2016, 7:31 pm

          Michelleprieur – Yes, the girl is a brat. How did she get there? Obviously, nobody will listen to her or ask for her input when she is behaving, so now she’s acting out. Stepmom did not care what the stepdaughter wanted for the party, obviously, otherwise the girl would have been consulted all along. This was clearly intended to be the stepmom’s big, shining moment. Why shouldn’t the girl be resentful and looking for revenge?

          The father has done absolutely nothing to give his daughter what she needs. He pawns all responsibility off on other parties, regardless of whether he thinks they will get the job done. Why? Because he doesn’t care. Oh, he’ll pitch in money but ask any rich kid if money is a satisfying substitute for a loving, involved parent. Some of the brattiest kids are the ones who’ve been given all the “best” in life but a loving, responsible parent. It’s no accident how they got that way.

          So, yes, the kid is being horrible. She is a kid, still, and given how the so-called adults in her life behave she has not had great role models for handling these kinds of disappointments and power-plays. Maybe she’ll learn from others or maybe she will just perpetuate what she’s grown up in for another generation. Time will tell. But I guarantee she will not “grow” out of her problems naturally if the adults in her life keep acting so selfishly.

          • Michelle March 8, 2016, 8:51 am

            I think you have that wrong. It’s not OP’s “big, shining moment”, it would have been ex’s “big, shining moment”. Not once in all of her “suggestions” did she say “my daughter would like to have X ” or “my daughter thinks Y would be nice if we cans squeeze it in”. It was all cupcakes in the shape of high-heels, chocolate fountains, round tables and “dramatic entrance with her girls”. I bet one of those “girls” would have been her mom all made-up and ready to party.

            I still say husband/fiance caused the trouble. When mom wanted to help, they should have all sat down together but he wanted to do as little as possible so he perfectly fine letting the women duke it out.

          • Michelleprieur March 8, 2016, 12:54 pm

            Those are pretty huge assumptions you are making.

          • Michelleprieur March 8, 2016, 6:23 pm

            My huge assumptions comment was to Dee. I stand by my earlier comment. I know plenty of good people who were great parents and their kids turned out awful and vice versa. The father has done “nothing for his daughter’s needs”?? Since when is a huge birthday party a need? Please explain your statement that the OP “clearly wanted this to be her big shining moment” because that wasn’t clear to me.

          • NicoleK March 10, 2016, 4:43 am

            This. Father’s answer to his daughter acting out is to abandon her (kicking her out is the ultimate abandonment). That is not responsible parenting. Throwing a party doesn’t make up for lack of parenting

    • Kate March 7, 2016, 6:12 pm

      The party wasn’t canceled because Mom and Step-mom couldn’t work together. It was canceled because Step-mom turned all the planning over to Mom, since it seemed she wanted to do everything herself. Evidently Mom didn’t want to plan a party for her daughter, she just wanted to take over Step-mom’s party, since the party never happened after that.

      • Michelle M. March 8, 2016, 5:50 pm


        • Maureen March 10, 2016, 8:48 pm

          Exactly. I’m sure there is a resentment between OP and Ex making the planning difficult. All OP had to say when things were going south was, ”sounds great but I can only afford $___ , can you make up the difference for the extras?”

          I am a stepmother. Hardest job in the world. You get blamed for everything and thanked for nothing. Takes YEARS for things to blend. However, it is better to do the right thing and OP should have sat down with the birthday girl and tried to get it to work. She would be old enough to understand that if things were getting expensive then the party was threatened. Kindness goes a long way and treating a girl of her age as an intelligent person would have likely been appreciated.

          And that ”theft of a personal item”? the old cosmetic brush? I seriously think you crossed the line, OP. If she was wearing your panties, stealing and selling your jewelry, tearing up your clothing without permission, fine. She must have been hurt beyond imagining.

          • Jessica March 17, 2016, 1:10 pm

            Take it from me, being a mother when your ex’s new partner (they have been together for a year, not married as I am still married to him by law) has decided she is the new mother and you are no longer required is the hardest job in the world. Being cut off from your kids and having to fight tooth and nail just to see them is horrifying. Especially when your ex is weak and just goes along with his partner to keep her happy.

  • NostalgicGal March 7, 2016, 11:46 am

    I would still be very careful as this will probably TRY to run on the same track as last time. If the biological mother did it once, she’ll definitely try again and probably harder, beware of her scheduling an event at the EXACT same time. Not sure it will happen but just like a bridzilla or two in a family going at it the same time; expect chaos.

    It’s too bad the girl is in the middle. Expect if you do try to do something, it will also be fodder for the future. No matter what you do, OP, this is more likely to end up not good. I wish you the best of luck.

  • clairedelune March 7, 2016, 11:49 am

    It sounds like the husband is putting LW in an impossible situation by insisting that she host parties and then refusing to actually get involved with them himself. I’m sure he wants to avoid the ex-wife drama, but that doesn’t make it LW’s responsibility to do so. But yes, I agree with Admin that there should be a graduation party if at all possible.
    Also LW needs to stop referring to her stepdaughter as “the girl child.” That’s not going to help matters at all.

    • Mizz Etiquette March 7, 2016, 12:51 pm

      This. The husband and OP need to be on the same page before any party planning takes place.

      If a party is planned, the husband will have to be the one to deal with the ex. Not the OP.

    • Yasuragi March 8, 2016, 4:05 am

      Behind every “Evil Step-Mother” is an inactive father.

      • Mizz Etiquette March 8, 2016, 12:24 pm

        Yes. This. ^^^^^ What Yasuragi said.

      • Lisa S. March 8, 2016, 12:49 pm

        Wow, Yasuragi, that is incredibly insightful. I’ve never thought about it quite like that.

        Looking back, yes, my dad just stood by while my mom was a total evil stepmonster to his daughter (from his first marriage). But, I can’t blame my mom for acting out, because Dad dumped his 15 year-old daughter on Mom and told her to just deal with her.

  • Ally March 7, 2016, 11:54 am

    I only partially agree with Admin here. If the husband wants to throw his daughter a party, then HE can throw HIS daughter a party. There’s no need for the wife to be a “behind the scenes planner.” She should be gracious to all at the party, but there’s no need for her to go out of her way for a step-daughter who hates her.

    That said, I think the OP needs to seriously reevaluate her own attitude towards her step-daughter. She says “She was never vocal about her feelings but being perceptive, I picked up on those undertones right away.” Well guess what, OP, it sounds like your step-daughter picked up on YOUR undertones as well.

    I was deeply disturbed by the references to “girl child” in this submission, and if that’s indicative of how you tried to “be friends” with the SD, then no wonder she never warmed up to you.

    I don’t blame the girl’s mother for wanting to be involved in a milestone birthday party, and I do applaud OP’s polite spine in bowing out. It’s a shame that no party actually ended up happening. It seems like an opportunity was wasted due to circumstances for the party to be a bonding experience between OP and SD. But I wonder just how much input the girl had into her own party? I would love to hear more about the planning process if OP comments here.

    • SC March 7, 2016, 1:06 pm

      Yeah, I’m with you there. What I’m hearing is “my stepdaughter was polite to me, but didn’t want to spend lots of time with me or really get to know me”, which is absolutely normal for a teenager to do to their parents, let alone step-parents who they’re just meeting and are now being forced to live with.

  • PJ March 7, 2016, 12:00 pm

    What a tough situation, OP. The mother dropped the ball, but you were doomed from the start to be the Cause Of All Bad Things.

    I suspect you are doomed again. Anything that goes wrong here will be your fault. Nonetheless, work with your husband on a nice graduation party on par with the one his son had 4 years ago. If his ex wants to ‘help’, he must let her know that she can throw her own party.

    I believe you have to do this to support the relationship between your husband and his daughter, and just quietly hope that she grows out of this phase sooner rather than later. As the saying goes: don’t do it because of the person she is. Do it because of the person you are.

  • Dyan March 7, 2016, 12:02 pm

    I think I would host a small family only party …then this girl can never say you never did anything for her…

    • Cat March 7, 2016, 7:48 pm

      And save a lot of drama by just giving her some money and telling her she can invite her friends over and do whatever she wants to do to celebrate: beach party, barbeque, pizza night, whatever won’t involve the cops.

  • Devin March 7, 2016, 12:07 pm

    Since most graduation parties are just backyard affairs, it wouldn’t take so much planning for you and your husband to throw a luau bbq for friends and family. Have your husband extend the invite to his daughter, if she accepts then plan it on your terms. If you are hosting on your property, it is easier to ensure that plans are not hijacked by the ex; but you will need to let her know not to plan a graduation party the same day (something I could see her trying to do). If the daughter declines, then you were kind enough to offer, but she chose teenage spite over a fun party.
    The teenage years can be tough even for children who aren’t dealing with divorce/remarriage. Hopefully one day she will learn to see you through her own eyes, and not through the opinions of her mother.

  • Becca March 7, 2016, 12:14 pm

    This entire story breaks my heart and I feel for you because my dad too has a daughter from his first marriage and she was poisoned by her mother towards daddy and his entire “new” family. We never wanted any of that, I wish I had an older sister, honestly enough. I have a brother, he’s my best friend but I wonder what life would have been like if I had an older woman to look up to back then. I probably would have found make-up and dresses much sooner, instead I was a total tomboy, trying to be just like my punk-rock brother and his friends.

    Please note that this is a girl who has a voice in her ear, the voice of her mother. Who sounds like she is possibly nastily selfish, since she’d hijack your party but not host her own. So her mom blamed you, she spun you into an evil stepmother. When she’s old enough and possibly further from her mom’s clutches, her adult brain may kick in and she’ll understand the circumstances were much different.

    Try to have some compassion, even though you’ve lost so much throughout the ordeal. Try to remember that she may look and try to pretend she’s an adult right now, she is still very young and still developing a lot.

    I’m personally very relieved your husband has not given up on her and wants to give her a graduation party. Please do this for him, do this to protect his relationship with his daughter. He needs this, don’t think of it as something you’re doing for a brat, think of it as what you’re doing for your beloved man who deserves to feel good about trying everything. He loves his daughter and most likely hurts that you and her cannot be close at this point. He has an obnoxious ex wife, that’s hard and why you need to give him extra care and take these steps to preserve your relationship with him. Take some of his burden on yourself in this case, it’ll be annoying and test your patience but you love him, he’s worth it.

    • Vermin8 March 7, 2016, 2:57 pm

      Don’t make the assumption that all that is not well is due to “poisoning” by your dad’s ex. There is a great deal of history before you were born and don’t make the assumption that you have all the facts or unbiased facts. In fact, the attitude toward’s your sister’s family on the part of your family may do more to put space between you and sister than anything the ex said or did. It’s sad that you believe your sister’s resistance to your family is a lack of adulthood – that’s insulting to her. And show some compassion yourself for your sister and her mother. You don’t know what they’ve been through.

      • Becca March 7, 2016, 7:38 pm

        Yeah, no. They’re all much older than I am, I don’t really have the energy to care about their “reasons”. They all seem petty to me more so than anything.

        I win, I have my dad and he’s outstanding. My brother knew them because he was closer to my sisters age. Nobody speaks ill of anyone else, it’s all conclusions I’ve drawn myself from very limited information picked up, we just know when we’re not welcome and bounce. Dad tried and it’s on everyone else for not thinking that was enough.

        • Vermin8 March 8, 2016, 11:27 am

          You don’t have energy to care about their reasons? And you “win” because you have your dad?
          If you don’t care about their reasons (and by extension, what they are feeling) then why should they care about what you are feeling?
          I now understand why you don’t have a relationship with your older sister – it’s YOUR attitude, not the ex.

          • Becca March 8, 2016, 3:45 pm

            At this stage in life, as a grown adult, yes it is my attitude. I could probably seek them out and try if I really wanted to but I don’t care any longer. She’s 12 years older than I am, she could have had a change of heart long ago, prior to any contempt growing.

            I have a family and yes, I win having my father who is an amazing attribute in my life. She gave that up all because he couldn’t afford to pamper her the way she thought she deserved. He paid child support religiously and made every visit happen, it boiled down to “I want braces ” “Well insurance won’t cover it, the dentist says it’s only cosmetic reasons, I cannot afford that.” that was what made her think he wasn’t a good enough father to keep in contact with.

          • monkeys mommy March 8, 2016, 11:25 pm

            Wow… I do not believe Becca asked you to analyze her statements and tell her why she is in the wrong… I think she was just sharing a story. You sound like a real bitter peach! (Not so much fun when people make generalizations about you, huh?)

  • Livvy17 March 7, 2016, 12:16 pm

    OP, I understand your feelings, but honestly, I think it would have been better for you to have shown your polite spine to the mother, and gone ahead with planning the party. Yes, the mother was a pain, but it was your plan, your idea, your money….she couldn’t have done anything if you didn’t allow it, especially if she wasn’t willing to pay for it. Instead, you gave a message that the girl wasn’t worth the hassle, and reinforced the idea that you were only interested in your DH and his needs. I understand that may feel unfair, but making the offer, and then rescinding that offer, you made it worse than doing nothing in the first place. You could have asked your DH to tell his Ex that her involvement was overstepping, and that HE made a mistake in telling her she could be involved., or you could have just shut her down yourself saying, “I’m sorry, XX is booked. If you want to have a separate party, ok, but XX service for this party is already planned.”
    As Ms. Jeanne says, put the responsibility into DH lap, and assist, but to flat out refuse – to put yourself as a wall between your DH and his daughter is a recipe for lifelong-disaster. Remember that her mother’s sins aren’t HER sins. I understand she has had sins of her own, but again, you’re supposed to be the adult, and you’re supposed to theoretically have a parental role in her life. Refusing to do for her what you already did for her brother just reinforces the idea that it’s you that hates her, and justifies (in her mind) her agressions toward you. Be the bigger person, and remember that this person will be in your life just as long as your DH, perhaps longer. Invest now for the future.

  • Lisa H. March 7, 2016, 12:19 pm

    Please understand, the kick back you got from the Sweet 16 party was from the ex; not necessarily the teen. And the ex could also be fueling the teen with unreasonable ideas. Please also consider, she is a TEEN! She’s not finished growing up and maturing. At that age, I wasn’t the most thoughtful and responsible person either. You will be points ahead for helping to plan a great graduation party as the admin suggested. Doing the right thing isn’t always easy, but can pay off in the long run.

  • utknat7 March 7, 2016, 12:21 pm

    Hindsights 20/20 but what if you had used statements along the lines of : “I’m so sorry that’s already been paid for and cannot be changed.”, “Oh Darn, If you’d only told me that yesterday”, “Oh Poo you just missed the cut off to change that”& “If i don’t have a guest list by Monday i will just just send invites to the 50 people i know of”

    Its not the kid’s fault her mother is a hot mess. In my experience, the person with the check book is in charge. Probably better to let her “think” she was planning, but with a little guidance. “You have a $100 budget for flowers, have them picked out by Friday or i will go do it” Etc…

  • SC March 7, 2016, 12:43 pm

    Your stepdaughter was a teenager, and after having a party she really wanted offered to her, it never happened because her parents couldn’t get along / work out their problems long enough to throw it for her. Yes, her mother was a big part of the problem there, but her father didn’t stand up to her mother and say “Here’s how I’m going to make this party my daughter wants really happen”.

    It’s normal for teenagers to push boundaries and not always respect other people’s possessions, and instead of punishing her for it in an age appropriate way (making her pay for whatever she took, grounding, revoking phone / internet / game privileges, or similar things), she got kicked out by her father (due to actions her stepmother took), and sent to live with her mother full time.

    Now, her father wants to throw her a graduation party and you’re trying to block his attempt to treat both of his children equally and reconcile with the daughter he hasn’t exactly been the best or most supportive father to.

    Part of the job of a parent is to be the mature adult in these situations, not hold grudges, and keep reaching out to support and love their child. You don’t have to be involved in the party, and you can even request that it not be thrown at your house, but he should definitely reach out to his daughter and offer to throw her a party if she’d like one. I’m going to disagree with our wonderful admin about throwing the daughter a party if she doesn’t want to attend; failing to respect his daughter’s wishes isn’t going to do anything helpful, good, or productive in this situation. It’ll also make your husband look pretty ridiculous if he tries to throw a party without the guest of honor.

    • Michelleprieur March 7, 2016, 6:18 pm

      Where did you get the idea that the father kicked her out? And are you justifying a teenager stealing?

      • SC March 8, 2016, 3:01 am

        I got the idea she was kicked out when OP said “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”. Sounds to me like the daughter is no longer allowed to live with her father.

        I’m not trying to justify a teenager stealing or damaging someone else’s possessions. I’m saying that it’s regrettably common as teenagers interact with the world around them, and they should be punished for it. Doing stupid, self centered things and learning that those actions are bad is part of how children and teenagers become mature adults. However, the answer is not to stop parenting and kick out a child / teenager, but instead to provide age appropriate punishments, and therapy if there might be some underlying issues (such as divorce and not-so-great biological parents).

        • LonelyHound March 8, 2016, 12:57 pm

          I gathered from the story that OP lived at DH’s house when SD was 16. If SD is like many high-schoolers she turned 16 just before, during or just after her sophomore year. Since, she is graduating in a few months, let’s say she was sent to live with mom in January, that means that for the past 18 months she has been stealing and vandalizing her step-mothers possessions. Given that length of time she was not immediately tossed out and sent to the mom. OP and her DH probably tried many things, including grounding, paying for damages, etc., until they reached that point. At 16, 17, and 18 SD is old enough to: 1. understand that stealing is wrong and she should not do it, and 2. understand that she has repeatedly been punished then given another chance only to violate her father’s trust time and time again. Her situation is unfortunate, but she is reaping the consequences of her actions. Remember, in the real world the consequence for stealing could be jail time. As far as we know OP has stopped short of pressing charges, which she is well within her right to do, especially after the theft powder incident.

      • Lady Catford March 8, 2016, 3:13 am

        It is possible that OP was reduced to the unwashable theft detection powder because the father refused to believe his daughter was a thief.

        • NostalgicGal March 8, 2016, 10:46 am

          This. I am an only but have a good friend who has two nieces and a nephew, and one niece made the rounds twice and ended up not even being wanted back by her parents for habitual lying and thievery (friend had to resort to that powder too to prove to the rest of the family that she did such things twice to her dementia suffering grandmother and her aunt (my friend) while living with them after being barred from her parents’ house and her older brother’s place). The height of it was she stole money from the friend then paid her ‘rent’ with the stolen money. The girl is now 23 and the saga continues…

        • Lisa March 8, 2016, 11:17 am

          OP clarified in the comments above that what the stepdaughter did was to use one of her personal hygiene items. To me that’s a far cry from being a “thief.” IMO. Reading the original submission I was thinking the girl was stealing her jewelry or something equally heinous.

        • Vermin8 March 8, 2016, 11:30 am

          That’s exactly what I was thinking. If OP complained about the pilfering and Dad did nothing until it got to the point it did, then that’s on Dad, not OP.

        • Mizz Etiquette March 8, 2016, 12:25 pm

          This. Exactly what Lady Catford said. ^^^^^

    • Michelle March 8, 2016, 9:04 am

      How is OP “blocking his attempt to treat bot of his children equally”? She didn’t say he couldn’t have the party, she is just saying after getting burned once, she’s not going to get burned again. The husband wants to throw a party and it seems that he wants OP to plan it. I would tell him after what happened last time I would support him if he wants to plan a party but I wouldn’t be involved in the actual planning. Or he could just tell his ex that they are going to plan it and he can let her take over, again.

  • rak March 7, 2016, 12:50 pm

    Does anybody else think that a Sweet 16 party that sounds more like a wedding than a teenager’s birthday party was the problem from the beginning?

    • Cat March 7, 2016, 7:32 pm

      It reminds me of the traditional Spanish quince that can out-shine weddings. It’s far more than a birthday party. It is a celebration of a girl’s maturing into young womanhood. She has an elaborate dress, a professional portrait and a huge party.

    • JJ March 7, 2016, 10:24 pm

      That was my thought as well. Granted it can be a cultural thing for some people but it seemed a tad over the top that you need a huge venue, DJ and rather large guest list for a party for a 16 year old. It sounds overly complicated why not just a few girlfriends over in the first place to have a sleepover, some cake and snacks and stay up watching movies and gossiping. Or a trip the mall for the day for the girl and some of her friends so she can spend her birthday money. I was on the same wave length as you it sounds more like they were booking a wedding party then a little party for a teenage girl. I feel like we were just waiting for the news of a brand new car being pulled up outside the venue for her with a big bow on it as her huge gift to top off her fancy party.

      • Michelle March 8, 2016, 9:05 am

        I bet that was what her mom was hoping for and when OP stopped participating and footing the bill, it all came crashing down.

      • NostalgicGal March 8, 2016, 10:56 am

        We have quinceanera around here. Usually it is the celebration of the girl turning 15 (hence ‘quince’) and they can indeed far outshine a wedding. It is a community thing and it’s amazing how similar to a wedding they are, and the cost can rival an elaborate wedding. Some places because of bookings at the church for the blessing, they mandate that girls have to share the day (three or four at a time) because of conflicts with weddings. We had one three years ago that topped $30k, and was one where the parents were FURIOUS that I refused to make up $4k in pew bows WITH fresh flowers and ‘give’ or ‘loan’ them (last of the argument was they asked me to be a ‘sponsor’ of the girl, who I didn’t even know until that morning’s introductions-it’s supposed to be a well thought out HONOR not a shakedown–I ended up having to go to the Padre and have him intercede on my behalf about a stream of people wanting the same, $2500-4000 in materials and labor DONATED especially when I did not know any of these people!)

    • Amanda H. March 8, 2016, 5:21 pm

      I’m inclined to agree. Big Sweet 16s weren’t a thing in the area I grew up in anyway, but also, my parents celebrated me turning 16 by letting me pick a restaurant–any restaurant I wanted no matter the price–and the two of them took me there as a 3-person date (they got a babysitter for my younger siblings). All of my siblings received this same celebration, and we all loved it. Our choice of restaurant, one-on-two time with our parents, being treated like a grown-up…we didn’t need a wedding-level party.

  • Mizz Etiquette March 7, 2016, 1:02 pm

    Aaaaah, have to love the responses saying the OP should have done the Sweet 16 and that the step-daughter is “only a teen”. Obviously, you’ve never been a step-mother. Yes, the girl is a teen but it is up to her FATHER to show her how to treat his new wife. Teen doesn’t have to like OP but there should always be mutual respect. And I would bet the OP is having a difficult time showing respect to anyone when her own husband doesn’t back her up. Sad.

    I could have written this. The SM (stepmom) tries so hard to fit in and make the SC (Stepchild) like them. Then the BM (Biomom) feels threatened and jumps in and all he** breaks loose. I think the response to the BM was spot-on. She wanted to hijack the party – get all of the glory and not have to pay for any of it.

    I would bet $20 your stepdaughter knows her mom dropped the ball on the 16 party but she is bound with loyalty towards mom so she can’t be mad at her, right? It’s easier to place blame on Stepmom.

    Regarding the grad party… I would have a small party with your and your husband’s side of the family. If your step daughter wants to have friends, fine. She can invite X# of them. If the BM wants to have a party, she can have one whenever she wants, on whatever date she wants. You do your thing, let her do hers. If she pulls that crap again, (wanting to hijack your party) YOUR HUSBAND CAN TELL HER NO. She can have her own party.

    Unless OP has the support of her husband in this – OP will always fight a losing battle.

    • Kate March 7, 2016, 6:21 pm

      I agree strongly! I can’t believe some of the responses on here blaming Step-mom for the party never happening, even though it clearly states that she turned over the planning to Mom because that is what she seemed to want.

      In addition some posters are blaming OP for daughter’s dislike of her. I have no idea why except that some of them have taken umbrage with the term “Girl child” as a pseudonym. Perhaps that is why? Where I am from “girl child” is not by any means an insult. In addition in relation to OP’s opening it makes perfect sense to me. OP is describing her family, her husband, her bio sons, her son, and her daughter, who is the only “girl child” in the family.

    • Kate March 8, 2016, 4:07 am

      Different Kate here – as a step mum I completely agree! My stepson is delightful, but I believe part of the reason he’s always treated me with respect is that my fiancé, his dad, has been clear from day one that our house = our rules and that we are to be listened to and respected in the same way he respects his mum and stepfather.
      If my fiancé and I disagree on something to do with his care, we never voice it in front of him and come to a decision together before we make any promises or statements to him. Same goes for any decisions we make together with his mum and stepdad. If a teenage child senses animosity between the two sets of parents, you’d better prepare yourself for them trying to exploit it sooner or later.

    • Michelle March 8, 2016, 9:09 am

      Completely agree. Dad dropped the ball here, not only on the party planning, but also on not teaching his daughter to respect his soon to be wife and her possessions.

    • Vermin8 March 8, 2016, 11:35 am

      Being a stepmom is tough. And having an angry or hurt daughter and a biomom with issues makes it really tough. Having a husband who doesn’t want to get involved with these issues makes it Hades. In fact, I suspect that’s a lot of the source of the issues. Dad left it to OP to work out with the other women without considering the fact that the other women don’t care for OP.

  • Elizabeth March 7, 2016, 1:06 pm

    I think your husband was wrong to let his X involve herself in the Sweet 16 planning (“We’re all set. Thanks! What will you be planning for Precious’s 16th?”) He opened the door and then stepped aside for your to deal with the mess; he owes you an apology. And none of this is the kid’s fault; it was poorly handled by her parents.

    And yes, you and your husband should host a graduation party. The kid’s mother can host her own event for her side of the family.

    • Mizz Etiquette March 8, 2016, 12:26 pm

      Yes, the father should have put his foot down in the beginning. “We’ve got it handled. Thanks!” Rinse and repeat. To put OP in this position and leave her to deal with the ex…Ugh. He needs a backbone. PRONTO.

  • Princess Buttercup March 7, 2016, 1:20 pm

    I really don’t get the tendency to keep secrets from teens. You raise a child, you guide a teen. Everything is telling a teen they will be an adult soon and have to suddenly do all adult stuff but parents want to keep lots of secrets from teens under the guise of they’re still kids.

    When dad decided he wanted to give her a party and have step mom plan it, then sm should have sat teen down and told her this is what dad asked for and you’re happy to do it, what would she like. Then when mom started hijacking then sm should have sat teen down, showed her the emails and said, due to this, I am bowing out and letting your mom run your party.
    That would have been a bonding experience, an eye opener, helped teen learn some adult lessons that just because they are in your court doesn’t mean they’re in your team helping you win. And would likely have avoided all animosity and theft.

    Since sm failed to be an open honest adult helping guide this teen, I’d suggest now being an open honest adult to dad. You want to throw your daughter a graduation party? Then _you_ throw her a party. Let me know when and where and I’ll be there.

    Also, at 15, she’s not a girl child, she’s a teen with adult responsibilities looming. Calling her “the girl child” makes you look very immature.

    • Rosie March 7, 2016, 8:57 pm

      I disagree about sharing the emails. Possibly you can mention that you’ve run into some planning conflicts and differing expectations, but the dad and stepmom should be the adults and not drag the stepdaughter through the nitty gritty details of their fight with bio-mom. Stepmom will only come out looking terrible in the stepdaughter’s eyes if she tries to blame the bio-mom.

      • Mizz Etiquette March 8, 2016, 6:44 pm

        Yes, this.
        Regardless, loyalty will stay with the bio mom.

    • Michelle March 8, 2016, 9:12 am

      Why does the Stepmom have to shoulder all the blame? The father is the one who created this mess. He could have sat daughter down and said I want to throw you a party and finace/stepmom is going to help plan since I don’t know how. Then when ex wife wanted in at the 11th hour, he should have said NO.

  • Huh March 7, 2016, 1:27 pm

    All I know is I found the use of “girl child” to be extremely cold and off-putting. Please remember that “girl child” is your “beloved” “Sweet Thing’s” DAUGHTER. He has loyalty to her too. Not just you. If he wants to throw her a graduation party, let HIM throw it (it never should be just left up to the woman to do the party planning based on…what? Being female?) and show up and smile.

  • lakey March 7, 2016, 1:44 pm

    A lot of this is due to a clear lack of communication, preferably in person with all parties involved present. For the Sweet Sixteen DH, you, EW, SD should all have had a sit down where boundaries were clearly set.
    Start out the sit down with a list so that you don’t forget anything. Include the financial limit. Include the guest list limit, setting aside part of it for the girl’s friends and mom’s side. Include the details of the venue, entertainment, food, decorations, etc. State clearly that you won’t pay any more than this, and any changes made will be paid for by mom. State clearly that you won’t add to your own work burden. State clearly that if girl and mom desire they can take care of the party on their own, with dad giving a set amount of money and doing any work he chooses.

    This is what should have been done for the Sweet Sixteen, but is now too late. I would go along with the graduation party, but handling it as described above.

    If your husband had stepped up to the plate, set limits, and taken a more hands on part in his own daughters Sweet Sixteen, maybe it would have taken place. In some blended families, expecting current wife and exwife to work together is dicey. Husband should have handled his ex wife, not left it up to OP.

    • lakey March 7, 2016, 1:46 pm

      Oops. “daughter’s”

    • Michelle March 8, 2016, 9:15 am

      Yes, this^^^. Dad should have been participating all along instead of expecting his ex-wife and future wife to plan a party for his daughter.

  • Just4Kicks March 7, 2016, 1:52 pm

    I sympathize completely with OP.
    I’ve been there, and stuck between a rock and a hard place doesn’t begin to cover these situations most of the time.
    I have a step daughter, who is now a beautiful young woman working on her master’s degree.
    I was put in the middle more times than I can count.
    Although we have a decent relationship now, my husband’s ex made it her main goal to keep me from being a happy part of her daughter’s life, then would criticize me to my husband when I didn’t “step up”.
    A few examples: my husband and I have four kids together, and when we took my step daughter out for a special lunch and shopping to tell her she would be having another sibling, on the way home, she burst into tears and we were stunned and pulled over to ask what was wrong?!?
    “Another kid?!? Another one?!? MY MOM said I am the ONLY KID it takes to makes HER HAPPY!!!”
    Thank you, ex wife, for bogarting our happy news AND putting that nonsense into an 8 year olds head!
    Another was my husband giving my step daughter special gifts from my parents that were meant for the new baby. You know…so she feels special too!
    Yes….I get it, but we can get her something else…..not a blue grandson bear my folks looked for months to buy for their first grandchild.
    I could go on and on, but the point is, I’ve been there, and sometimes it’s damned if you do, and damned of you don’t.
    Best of luck to you….And your family….hang in there! 🙂

    PS: Please tell us what happened with the purple dye when you caught your stepdaughter stealing from you!

  • Adereterial March 7, 2016, 2:41 pm

    I would not host anything in honour of a person who stole from me or deliberately damaged my possessions. Regardless of their age or the reason for the party.

  • Annon March 7, 2016, 2:41 pm

    The situation is bad all around, but I can understand how the OP said “I’m done.” Divorce can be awful and nasty, and I see it happening with friends. The mother is in the daughter’s ear spewing hateful things about the step-mother…… If the father gave a budget, Step-Mother was trying to be realistic and stay within that – these parties can cost more than a wedding, so when the mother chimed in about all the things “She” wanted, I don’t blame OP for backing out. If the mother really wanted to throw the party, she could have asked the (ex)husband for the money he was going to contribute and add to what she could afford for a party. The mother’s too many times poison the kids against their other parent and whoever they may be with after the divorce.
    As for the graduation party – the OP should do the party for the husband and the daughter but BEFORE any plans are made – talk to said daughter, get a date and time, and plan from there. Keep it to only father/stepmother’s side of the family and any close relatives or friends the girl wants. If the mother wants to do a party for the girl, she can do one at another time as well. At this point, they should not mingle families until the daughter can learn some respect for the step-mother and father.
    Did anyone else miss the part about stealing from the step-mother and then lying about it only to be caught when theft detection powder was applied? The girl clearly has issues with the step-mother and I’m sure the mother is fueling them as well. It is probably better for some space between them, but the father should step forward as well and try to mend any fences……if he needs to – say they were willing to throw the sweet 16 but her mother took over and then never came through with anything she offered to do and so nothing was done b/c of her. Throw the mother under the bus, because she is clearly doing that to the father and step-mother.

  • Vermin8 March 7, 2016, 2:51 pm

    Just out of curiosity, where are Sweet 16 parties an expected thing? They did not have them where/when I grew up (and reading OP’s post, I’m glad they didn’t).

    OP, I would advise trying something with the grad party but way scaled down.

    • ally March 8, 2016, 1:21 pm

      I’m in NJ, and even 10 years ago when I was a kid they were a big deal. The minimum was what OP planned: fire hall, dj, food reheated or cooked on site.

      They’re even bigger now. When I toured my wedding venue, it was set up for a Sweet 16. With plated dinner, head table, favors, DJ with light show, centerpieces, gift table, and photobooth.

    • Devin March 8, 2016, 3:11 pm

      Bar/Bat Mitzvahs are big in the North East and can be huge extravagant affairs for 100s of guests. My college roommate was from Long Island and had a dozen pairs of monogrammed pajamas from these parties (the kids would all have a slumber party in the hotel afterwards and the celebrant would have custom PJs made with their party info). Here in Texas and the Southwest its all about the Quinceaneras for young Hispanic girls. Custom dresses for the birthday girl and her court of honor, elaborate cakes, professional photographers, like a mini wedding.
      I grew up in the Mid-West and never attended any of these parties (my small town wasn’t diverse enough to have Jewish or Hispanic families nor did anyone have thousands of dollars to spend on an elaborate kids party). My ‘Sweet 16’ was a small group of friend and a slumber party. If you want to be sickened by how insane these parties can get, MTV had a series call “My Super Sweet 16”.

    • Becca March 8, 2016, 3:55 pm

      If you want to cry, go google some episodes of “My Super Sweet Sixteen” episodes from a series MTV used to run years ago 🙁

      • Just4Kicks March 10, 2016, 7:41 pm

        @Becca: I used to enjoy that show very much when it was just random kids they picked.
        When they came out with the Sweet 16 that featured kids of famous musicians, it irritated the crap out of me.
        The entitlement of some of those kids were literally jaw dropping.
        One girl ran off crying because she got a Ferrari instead of the Lamborghini she asked for screaming at her parents “you’ve ruined my whole damn party!!!”

  • Airelenaren March 7, 2016, 3:38 pm

    I’m sorry, but there are a few points in the story that sound off to me.

    First of all, the repeated instances of calling the stepdaughter “the girl child”. What’s wrong with calling her “stepdaughter”, or even just “the girl” (if it has to be unpersonal for emphasis)? Calling her “girl child” just makes it sound like op is both trying to distance herself from the stepdaughter, and trying to make a point of ridiculing her age at thesame time. No teenager I know feels respected when they’re being called a child, and I suspect that the stepdaughter’s dislike of op may be more mutual than op admits (or, at the very least, have a lot to do with op’s attitude toward her).

    Second – am I understanding this correctly? The stepdaughter’s maternal family wasn’t even included in op’s original plans for her birthday party? That seems cold. Surely if the girl lived with her mom, the rest of the family had some kind of relationship to her as well?

    Also, as a side note: Even in a good relationship between stepparent and stepchild, in my personal opinion, it would be preferable for the actual parents to be involved in the birthday plans (and organizing). Your mileage may vary, though.
    (As another side note, I find it kind of unfortunate to throw a big party for your stepdaughter’s 16th birthday, when you didn’t do the same for your sons. It sounds a bit unfair to me, cultural trend or not.)

    All in all, it seems like a lot went wrong in this story, and there’s no single person to blame for it.

    • Michelle March 8, 2016, 9:27 am

      Mom wasn’t planning on giving the young lady a party at all. When she found out dad and stepmom were going to throw a party, she wanted to be involved. She said she didn’t much money to contribute but was full of ideas. It is not ex-husband and stepmom’s responsibility to finance ex’s vision for the party. Honestly, it sounds like once mom got involved, it was more of a party for the mom, not the daughter.

      It would have been nice if mom, dad and stepmom had all sat down and talked about how to handle and divide up the costs. Dad wanted it, asked stepmom to plan it and mom/ex-wife tried to hijack it. The man in the story needs to develop a polite spine.

      • Airelenaren March 8, 2016, 5:38 pm

        That’s why I said there was no single person to blame here (but rather, several people at once).
        However, two (or three) wrongs don’t make a right.

  • Kat March 7, 2016, 3:59 pm

    “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.”

    No way. Graciously tell hubby that he is welcome to plan and execute the party, and you look forward to seeing what he puts together. Then step back and let him do whatever he wants to do with it.

    If my free labor (and connections, and money!) is unappreciated, I’m sure as heck not going to go for a repeat. I wouldn’t stand in the way, but neither would I get involved. I wouldn’t touch involvement with a ten-foot pole.

  • Lindsay March 7, 2016, 4:30 pm

    Man, I was this little girl growing up. It was awful.

    My graduation party my dad’s girlfriend tried to throw me, with dad’s money. I didn’t really know her. My mom wanted to be involved because it was my graduation. They all really got into it, and none of it was pleasant. The party ended up being cancelled, then at the last minute put back on, because my parents somehow managed to stop making it about them. I was really, super proud of them in that moment.

    I spent a lot of time in my formative years being the go between between my parents, their significant others, etc. It was really hard. None of these people liked each other much, and none of them were shy about vocalizing it to me. It was very much my mom’s team v my dads team. And, you know, the input from their partners? It came off as petty. If my dad bashes my mom, his girlfriend has no right to chime in. Same for my mom’s partner. It was so childish, and upsetting, and honestly, I ended up in the middle of all of their nonsense, a lot of which I still resent them for. I have a very hard time liking any of their partners, because they have said such horrible things about my other parent. They were the adults. They should have been better than that.

    OP, I don’t think anyone is coming off particularly well in this story. The daughter is learning she can’t trust adults, the mother is falsely trying to take the high road, and you seem to be punishing the daughter for the sins of her mother. The father is being clueless, but at least his heart sounds like it’s in the right place.

    Maybe just step back and remember: This girl is graduating. She did it. This is a big deal. And make it about her. Do it with a whole heart, family, and lots of love. It really sounds like she could use it.

    • Serryce March 7, 2016, 9:21 pm

      Frankly, Dad sounds like a psychological deadbeat to me. A lot of wanting to do the happy-clappy and no spine to carry through and do the hard yards – dump it all on the lil’ wifey!

      I’d throw the grad party, but a small thing and organised *with* the daughter not *for* the daughter. Ah, the difference that ownership makes!

      • Mizz Etiquette March 8, 2016, 12:28 pm

        Yes, dad just wants to make everyone happy so he’s not setting any boundaries. HUGE NO NO.

        He’s showing the OP that the ex can do what she wants. The Stepdaughter sees this and is playing the parents.

  • Billia March 7, 2016, 4:31 pm

    The teenager is a teenager and can be expected to not be perfect, especially if she has negative influences from her mother. It sounds like there are a lot of raw emotions and she has some issues. OP should be the adult in the situation but to be honest she sounds quite petty. Nothing gets my back up more than when step-parents whinge and gossip about their stepchildren. If you are going to be a step parent you need to be mature and above all forgiving. This will always be your husbands child and you should be going above and beyond to try and nurture their relationship even if she isn’t always behaving well or it doesn’t always seem fair.

  • Michelle March 7, 2016, 4:53 pm

    Don’t do it OP. Tell husband to hire a professional party planner if he doesn’t know how to plan a party. The ex already ruined her daughter’s Sweet 16 party and I’m sure you got blamed for it, even though her own mother wouldn’t give her a party, according to your fiance, but had no trouble taking over the one you were trying to plan. The ex could have given some input, but I think the person who is paying and has already done most of the legwork should have final say.

    I think you are damned if you, damned if you don’t.

  • girl_with_all_the_yarn March 7, 2016, 5:19 pm

    Here’s what I’ll tell you as someone who has had a beast of a stepmother: Reach out and apologize for her lack of a sweet 16, and then plan the graduation party. Do not try and make any of it out to be her mother’s fault. Fall on your sword, and be contrite *even if you feel you have nothing to be contrite for!*

    Then, ask if there’s anything you can do to repair the relationship, and ask her input on a graduation party.

    My stepmother ruined my graduation party by picking fights with me, and then being openly and obviously cold towards my mother. She wouldn’t interact with anyone other than my dad, my sister and me, and when I left to circulate and talk to other guests she followed me around and interrupted as I was catching up with family I hadn’t seen in awhile. She then literally had a tantrum and demanded that she and my father leave early. She did the same thing to my sister, except there she called my mom a few choice names. (She’s just a rude boor in general.)

    It’s been 10 years, and recently she tried to “repair” our relationship by putting all the blame on my mother. It didn’t end well.

    • stacey March 7, 2016, 10:57 pm

      I think your stepmom wins the Worst Step-parent award for sure! That said- the issue here isn’t the same. No one followed the OP’s stepdaughter around trying to sabotage her moment in the sun. The whole SNAFU resulted from poor communication and poor choices on the part of several adults and one teen… That said, the idea that anyone should “fall on their sword” to placate a child or to make a situation better is just dishonest, repugnant and not a sustainable way to relate to other people. Really? NO!

      • Michelle March 8, 2016, 9:38 am

        Agree, Stacey. Lying to make it better doesn’t make it better, it’s just another lie.

  • Rosie March 7, 2016, 5:38 pm

    I feel for the OP as a stepmother to a 15 year-old boy myself. You try to do something nice for your stepkid, but if it gets messed up in any way, you are worse off than if you had never proposed it. Even if it goes well, you have no way to control how the stepkid thinks about it. I feel this a lot at Christmas and birthdays, when my husband does very little for his kid and I try to make up for it, but somehow the kid always winds up acting disappointed. I do agree with the broader sentiment of doing whatever you need to do to make yourself feel satisfied that you gave it a good effort, regardless of the way the stepkid chooses to interpret it. At the end of the day, you have to live with yourself and you can’t control what other people think.
    For OP, I would try to help with a graduation party for the stepdaughter, but exclude the mother entirely or be very firm about what you are or aren’t going to do, and don’t change your plans for her. And don’t expect your stepdaughter to be happy about any of it, or pin your hopes on winning her over with the party. My rule of thumb is to make enough of an effort that you feel satisfied with yourself for making a solid effort, but don’t work so hard that you will be resentful if something goes wrong, such as the stepkid being upset or not thanking you. My example: Neither of my stepson’s parents have saved any money for his college. I’ve worried about it for several years, since he started living with us full time, but didn’t get any traction from his father about it. Now he’s two years away from graduating high school and there’s still no money set aside. I’ve fretted about it but ultimately decided that I would be resentful if I were the only one to be funding his education. So I haven’t saved any money either, and have decided that my contribution will be to help him navigate the college and financial aid process, and possibly contribute something once he starts school depending on the situation. I would feel awful if I did nothing to help him, but I can’t carry the financial load on my own knowing that he may well be disappointed or blame me somehow anyway.
    And easier said than done, but try to work it through your husband rather than being seen to be in charge. (But at the same time, be very clear with him about what he can and cannot compromise on with the mother and the daughter.)

    • Dee March 7, 2016, 6:42 pm

      Rosie – You said “… when my husband does very little for his kid and I try to make up for it, but somehow the kid always winds up acting disappointed.” and “I would feel awful if I did nothing to help him … he may well be disappointed … anyway.” You seem to see the disappointment as a bad thing; this boy is actually being quite astute as to his feelings. His father is disappointing him, greatly, in multiple ways, so the boy most certainly should feel disappointment. If he didn’t, that would actually be a problem.

      You are making it worse by trying to prevent those very normal feelings. Let him be disappointed in his father when his father disappoints him. Acknowledge those feelings. Sympathize with him. Ask him if there is anything you can do for him, just between you and him, leaving his father out of it because clearly he is immune to your (and the boy’s) influence. But do not attempt to derail your stepson’s feelings that come up as a very natural consequence of having an uncaring parent. You don’t want to teach the boy to cover up his legitimate feelings to make you and his father feel better. You do want to establish a relationship with him, outside of his father’s involvement (or lack of), that is honest. Asking the boy to pretend he is happy his stepmom cares about his feelings while his father does not is not honest or healthy. You should actually be pleased the boy is able to articulate such feelings clearly, as a lot of young people (and even older adults) struggle to identify their feelings, and it leads to continued difficulties establishing and keeping relationships.

      The goal should be for you and your stepson to establish a relationship that is separate from his father’s one with him, one where neither you nor he are responsible for his father’s actions. Where he can express his pleasure or displeasure with you and his pleasure and displeasure with his father but where you do not interfere with the relationship between the two of them, for good or bad. Just concentrate on you and your stepson. You’re not responsible for his college costs but can support him emotionally, if that is what he wants. Let him complain about those costs to his father and mother but you stay out of it. Likewise, give him gifts that are strictly from you, and if his father does not put an effort in, let that stand. Stop trying to cover up what must be so hurtful to that boy, that his parents don’t care much for his feelings. That really stings and needs to be worked through so he can cope with it, not deny it.

      • Rosie March 7, 2016, 9:02 pm

        I appreciate this thoughtful advice!

        • Dee March 8, 2016, 11:28 am

          I hope it works out well for you, Rosie. Your stepson doesn’t want a substitute for his parents but it would be great if he could put aside his longing for that which he cannot have and accept you as a stand-alone friend. It could be a wonderful relationship for both of you, if he can get there. Family relationships, especially those that are not chosen but thrust upon us, are so very difficult but when they work they are the richest and most rewarding bonds we can have.

      • Serryce March 7, 2016, 9:22 pm

        Yep. This.

    • Just4Kicks March 8, 2016, 6:53 am

      I agree with you that it’s the husband’s job to put the ex in her place, and stick up for his current spouse.
      My husband used to (when my stepdaughter was in her late teens) let her get away with things her mom wouldn’t.
      “Katie” was going to a college party where there was going to be drinking, and her mom said absolutely not, you’re not going.
      Cue “Katie” calling her dad in tears that mom won’t let her go to this party.
      My husband said spend the weekend at our house, and as long as you don’t drink, you can go and your mom won’t find out.
      Oh, hell no.
      My husband and I had a HUGE fight over that one, and I said she is welcome to stay at our house anytime she wants to, but she is not going to that party!
      After a few days of frosty silence, he told his daughter that I wouldn’t let her go either, so guess who was the wicked witch in that scenario???

      • Vermin8 March 8, 2016, 11:52 am

        OMG. I feel your pain on that – both for the foolishness of attempting her to go to a party forbidden by her mother (ie, defying mom for a perfectly reasonable prohibition) and then letting YOU take the blame..
        My husband did that to me – I didn’t want his son driving my car because he showed a lack of responsibility with vehicles. His couldn’t pass inspection and neither he nor dad nor mom had any money to put towards it so I was expected to but his dad had been supporting him for 2 years – free rent, utilities, medical – so if he hadn’t saved money I figured it wasn’t a priority for him so why should it be for me?
        I told him to take the public transportation in our area. Well, he refused until he had a date then waited until the last minute and missed the bus because he didn’t realize that there was variability in the time for the stop. When I said he couldn’t have my keys Dad told him “your stepmother doesn’t want to give up her car.”

        • Marion March 9, 2016, 10:08 am

          If that were to happen again, I think that’s you cue to say “no, I don’t, but I’m sure your dad will lend you his”, and let any ‘consequences’ happen to your husband’s car!

      • Mizz Etiquette March 8, 2016, 12:29 pm

        Ugh…that’s horrible. Of course he blamed you. 🙁 I’m sorry that happened.

        • Just4Kicks March 8, 2016, 7:17 pm

          Thanks for the support! 🙂
          Don’t get me wrong, my husband is a great father, but still (even with our kids sometimes) wants to be the cool parent.
          There was another time when his daughter went out with her no good boyfriend and returned to her mom’s house, by the grace of God, drunk as hell.
          Her mom screamed at her, and took her car keys and phone and sent her to bed, saying we WILL talk about this in the morning!
          After her mom went to bed, she stole her mom’s car and went back to the party!!!
          Her mom jumped into the car and physically dragged her home.
          Around four o clock in the morning, she calls my husband screaming her mom is a bitch and she wants to come to our house RIGHT NOW!
          Of course, a four am call scared the crap out of us, and my husband told her to calm down and what on earth was going on?!?
          Her mom was screaming in the background, “if you want to live with your father so badly, GO….GET OUT!!!”
          My husband said to his daughter, “give your step mom a few minutes to get dressed….she’ll be there as soon as possible.”
          Uh…..No….I sure as hell WILL NOT!!!!
          Then my husband got pissed at me, and said fine, I’ll come get you.
          Nope. If I have to hide OUR car keys….I will!
          She is going to come here and steal one of our cars!!!
          I was furious with them both for a really long time.

          • Vermin8 March 9, 2016, 6:55 am

            Been there, done that, too – ie, the automatically take the kid’s side without hearing the other side of the story (sometimes you don’t have to – it can be easy to extrapolate).
            And how nice of him to volunteer you to get her drunken self!
            Unfortunately not using a filter when the kid is complaining leads to an spoiled, entitlelist kid.

      • Kate March 9, 2016, 3:48 am

        Oh, I feel sorry for the mother here. How difficult to maintain discipline and respect as a parent when there’s a ‘cool parent’ undermining you.
        My stepson got all excited coming over to our place a few months ago because he was on an electronics ban for being rude at home, and thought it was party time at our place….nope, we’d talked to his mum and stepdad and the electronics ban was in full effect at our place too. He’s learned his lesson now, that we talk all the time so there’s no getting away with anything!

        • Just4Kicks March 10, 2016, 7:18 am

          In the case with my step daughter coming home drunk, I was COMPLETELY on her mother’s side.
          It’s a true miracle she didn’t kill anyone or herself.
          My husband had a lot of nerve thinking I would go get a drunk (and probably high) girl to bring back to our home….if she took her mom’s car without permission, I was afraid what she would do at our house.

          I was stopped by a woman out shopping one day with my two younger kids, who overheard a conversation between my kids and I while we were browsing the same sale rack.
          I grounded one of my older son’s, and my husband gave him back his phone and told him he could out that weekend.
          Of course a huge fight ensued, with my husband taking my son’s side.
          I stood my ground and hid his phone and car keys so my husband couldn’t give them to our son.
          One of the kids shopping with me said, “Wow! I heard “C” talking about you taking his keys away after dad gave them back to him….He sure is mad at you!!!”
          I said “well, I’m your Mom and your friend, but mom comes first. If you guys aren’t mad at me once in awhile….I’m not doing my job right as your parent.”
          When we got into line to pay for our items, this lady was in line already in front of us.
          She turned around and said, “I’m so sorry….I didn’t mean to eavesdrop, but I couldn’t help but hear you talking with your kids. I have two teenagers, and I’m stealing your “if you guys aren’t mad at me once in awhile, I’m not being a good parent. My husband also, does not GET sometimes that you can’t be their friend all the time. You need to drop the hammer once in awhile!!!”
          We both laughed, and I thanked her and we went on our merry way.
          Now, I certainly will not win any mother of the year awards, I make lots of mistakes, but kids need to know the parents are in charge of the kids….not the other way around.

  • Karen L March 7, 2016, 6:22 pm

    It was hard to tell from the post, but did you plan this party all on your own, without any input from the daughter (“girl child”)? If so, perhaps her mom was just trying to interject some of the daughter’s wishes into the planning process, which may have seemed to daughter and mom that YOU were the one living out your childhood fantasies.

    • Michelle March 8, 2016, 9:43 am

      Mom never said “my daughter would like X and Y”, she said ” I think we should have a cupcake tower, I think we should have a chocolate fountain, I think we should hire the DJ from my office party”.

  • Jays March 7, 2016, 7:01 pm

    I also hated “girl child.” Ugh.

    I think the OP’s then-boyfriend/now-husband bears some blame here. He wants his daughter to have a party but doesn’t want anything to do with it, so he just dumps it on the OP? Uh?

    And it’s not fair to say the OP canceled the party. She put a ton of work into it (although I agree it would have been better to involve the birthday girl more) and then the mom tries to take it over to a ridiculous (round tables? a grand entrance? seriously?) degree, so she washed her hands of it and handed it off the person who seemed to desperately want to plan it. Who then dropped the ball.

    • Michelle March 8, 2016, 9:43 am

      Totally agree, Jays.

  • Lanes March 7, 2016, 7:48 pm

    Yuck, the whole post just stinks of disdain for the “girl child”.

    You clearly don’t like your stepdaughter, OP, and that’s ok, nobody has to like everybody. But try to show some more respect, calling her “girl child”, and point-blank refusing to throw her a party when you successfully threw her brother a party is mean spirited and shows you up more than it does her (or her mother).

    Why don’t you set a budget, and let your stepdaughter plan her own party? Tell her she can do whatever she wants to celebrate, within that set budget, and within responsible reason. What teenager wouldn’t want free reign over their own party?

    • Mizz Etiquette March 8, 2016, 12:31 pm

      Did we read the same article? OP spent a lot of her time trying to have a nice party for her stepdaughter. Sounds like she’s trying to win her over.

      But I too, would have a difficult time liking someone who stole from me. And I’d have a bigger dislike for the husband who let his daughter treat me like that.

    • Semperviren March 8, 2016, 3:02 pm

      I agree. I wanted to sympathize with the OP and I understand what it is like to “co-plan” a party with someone who won’t share the decision-making and the fun, creative part. But I just couldn’t…the disdain and dislike for the SD seeps in everywhere and I can’t help but think that if it’s obvious to me, a stranger on the Internet, that the SD must feel it as well.

      I don’t admire the snippy letter to the mom, I don’t admire the purple ink boobytrap. They may make you feel clever but they are unlikely to resolve things amicably with people it’s in your interest to get along with.

      I will say the blame for starting the whole thing goes to the OP’s DH- who 1) notified his daughter’s actual mother as an afterthought, 2) seems to have excused himself from involvement by feigning “male helplessness” with party planning, 3) naively supposed his ex and his current partner were well-suited to planning a party together and that THAT would end well, and 4) failed to communicate the idea, budget, expectations, and roles to everyone.

      • Just4Kicks March 10, 2016, 7:46 pm

        Agree on many of the above points made, however, trying to raise our four kids to be respectful and respect our decisions in disciplining them was VERY hard when their dad would let their step sister get away with all kinds of stuff.
        As in, “you let Susie do that last month! Why can’t I?”

  • koolchicken March 7, 2016, 8:29 pm

    Obviously the first party got out of hand. But the admin is right, you need to try again. Your husband has communicated he wants to throw a graduation party for his daughter, that apparently doesn’t get to see much of anymore. The obvious thing to do here is throw a party. Just be clear and communicate that you’re not willing to deal with outside interference. This is a party in the step daughters honor, so if anyone gets to give input it should be her. But as you have a strained relationship it might be difficult to get her to agree to a sit down. Have your husband call her, tell her he wants to host a party in her honor, and would she please come over to discuss it with BOTH of you. Ask her what she wants the theme to be, any special foods, and maybe a few other details. But then just plan the party. If the ex wife emails you’re not really under any obligation to respond. If you do make it clear this is your party and she’s free to host her own. Go about your business and don’t trouble yourself with what other people are doing. This is for you and your husband, it’s not really about pleasing the guest of honor who should be simply happy that anyone was willing to host a party for her where all she has to do is show up.

    • Michelle March 8, 2016, 9:48 am

      Maybe DAD should try again, or try for the first time. HE wanted HIS daughter to have a party and HE dumped the planning on OP. Maybe if the daughter wasn’t STEALING OP’s things, she could be around more. I wouldn’t welcome a thief in my home, either. Sure, it’s Dad’s home, too, but he obviously doesn’t seem to give a damn about his daughter. He throws money at the situation and hopes it will work out.

      • NicoleK March 10, 2016, 4:45 am

        Yeah when your high schooler is stealing kicking them to the curb is not the answer. Serious work on the relationship is. Washing your hands of your kid is the opposite of that.

  • BagLady March 7, 2016, 9:57 pm

    From the OP:

    “her parents were clearly not picking up on those hints [about wanting a sweet 16 party] 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.”

    OP was operating on the information, given to her by her partner, that the girl’s mom had no interest in throwing this party. So, as a favor to her husband, she goes full speed ahead, securing a venue, DJ, photographer, all at a good price.

    Then Mom gets wind of the plan and decides she wants to be part of it. She starts by offering to pay for the girl’s outfit, hair and nails, which OP gratefully accepts. Then she starts trying to change all the plans. Now it has to be her chosen venue, her chosen DJ, her guest list. I don’t blame the OP for feeling steamrollered … by someone she had been led to believe wasn’t interested in throwing a sweet 16 for her daughter in the first place.

    OP was damned if she did, damned if she didn’t. If she stands firm with bio-mom and says, “No, sorry, these are our arrangements and you aren’t changing them,” she’s the Evil Stepmother who’s trying to take over the Mommy role in the girl’s life. Instead, she stepped back and let bio-mom do what she thought bio-mom wanted — to throw the party her way. And now she’s the villain in stepdaughter’s eyes because the party never happened. But that’s on bio-mom, not her.

    I feel for bio-mom, too. Even if she wasn’t interested in throwing her daughter a sweet 16, I can see her wanting to be part of it when she learned her husband and his partner were having one. But she overstepped by trying to change arrangements that had already been made.

    Am I the only one who isn’t bothered by the term “girl child”? Maybe it’s because I love the Christmas song “Mary’s Boy Child,” but I don’t see it as insulting in any way. It’s a quaint, old-fashioned, even term to my ears. It’s not as if OP had called her stepdaughter “The Brat” or “Miss Thing.”

    Not that she was a pouty brat — but it sounds as if some commenters are seeing her that way. And

    • Michelle March 8, 2016, 9:50 am

      I’m with you. Many are so ready to jump on OP when the majority of the fault lies with the Dad, who wanted it to happen but not actually do anything and the Mom who decided after the plans had been started that she needed to get involved and make it the ways SHE wanted.

    • Mizz Etiquette March 8, 2016, 12:33 pm

      Bio Mom was threatened by the party plans, hence trying to change everything. She did it for her own selfish reasons.

    • Bast March 8, 2016, 7:28 pm

      Girl child didn’t bother me, either. Stepdaughter is a girl, and the child of her (then) boyfriend and (now) husband. It actually feels a bit hypocritical, if people are getting upset about the term “girl child” but then have “girlfriends” and “boyfriends” at all ages. Sometimes it’s simply easier to use titles like that than to come up with fake names, and at the time OP wasn’t step-mom. She was Dad’s girlfriend, who was trying to do something nice for her boyfriend’s only daughter.

      Spawn army also sounds rather tongue-in-cheek. OP was referring to her own biological children in that group.

      No, I can only raise an eyebrow at the OP’s e-mail to bio-mom, because that came across as a touch passive-aggressive.

    • keloe March 8, 2016, 8:14 pm

      “Mary’s Boy Child” is about a newborn, though, not a teenager.
      To me it’s like referring to her as, say, “baby girl”. It can be an endearment in certain circumstances, but as there are clearly no warm feelings here, it becomes more like an insult, intended or not.

  • BagLady March 7, 2016, 9:59 pm

    Argh. Wish we could edit. Next-to-last sentence in next -to-last paragraph should be “It’s a quaint, even tender term to my ears.” Last beginnings-of-a paragraph, please ignore. Thought I deleted it.

  • Rebecca March 7, 2016, 11:00 pm

    Seeing it from the teenager’s perspective, she was told there was going to be a party, and it didn’t happen, and as far as she is concerned, it’s because her stepmother got annoying with her mother and said, “I’m not doing it now.” I know it’s not as simple as that, but that is how the girl would have seen it and I am not surprised she was angry.

    (She does sound spoiled, referring to it as “a loss of 100 gifts” instead of “I didn’t get to have my party.”)

    I think rather than emailing the mother to say (in effect), “I’m not doing it now” I think it’d been better and perfectly reasonable to say, “Husband asked me to plan this party with X budget. I’ve already done a lot of work arranging things to meet that budget and still have a nice party. Of course we’d love you to come, but changing things at this stage of the game is not possible. If you’d like to take over the planning of this party, please do and I will happily bow out, and I will be unable to contribute financially, but if you still want me to do it then I will but please do not try to make changes.”

    Or something like that. Something that says, “You can plan and pay for this party, or I will, but not both of us.”

    • Michelle March 8, 2016, 9:53 am

      That sounds like a reasonable solution, but I think Mom would have shown up late (if at all) and then complained the whole time. She might have done anything in her power to basically ruin the party because “she tried” to help but wasn’t “allowed”. I think this party had failure written all over it as soon as the husband decided to let the ex jump in at the 11th hour.