This year marks a monumental year for our eldest child. Our daughter will be turning sixteen in May. I don’t know what she is more excited about – being able to get her driver’s permit, the ability to get an after school and/or summer job, or the infamous Sweet 16 party?
My husband and I are not too keen on the whole driving issue yet. Not only that, she doesn’t have any $$$ or a job, so there is no way she can buy a car or pay for insurance. We cannot afford to buy her a used car and there is no way we’re paying the hefty insurance fee to cover her (nor are we going to put her under our policy). Driving is a non-issue right now as far as we’re concerned.
We have no problem with her getting an after school job, providing she keeps up her grades. I prefer that she gets a Summer job. I’m tired of listening to her whining about how bored she is. Plus it’s good for her to learn the responsibility that comes with having a job and money.
Our daughter is under the impression she’ll keep all her money and use it to buy $8 bottles of nail polish or another pair of shoes she won’t wear. No way! We already told her part of the money will be put into savings towards a car, another part will be put into savings for college. The rest she can use however she sees fit but we told her once she starts making her own money she’ll have to start buying her own things (make up, spending money, money to go to the mall with friends…). I think that is a fair deal.
I think right now the biggest issue is her Sweet 16 party. Most girls dream of their Sweet 16 party from a young age. I know I did when I was a young girl. I never had a Sweet 16 party. My mom threw me ONE party when I was 10 years old. The party was to be outside but it was pouring rain. My mom ended up having to take a dozen kids to the movies to see Grease. That was my one and only party. It always rains on my birthday, which is part of the reason why I never had a party. My mom didn’t want all those kids in our house and back then they didn’t have the party places like they do now.
My Sweet 16 party consisted of me and my four closest friends going to Friendly’s and having dinner and ice cream. That was it. It wasn’t the big party I always dreamed about, but it was still very nice. I even kept a napkin and sugar packet to remember that day.
We live in the suburbs of New York City. A lot of people around here are very well off (financially). They can easily afford to rent out catering halls and rooms at local hotels, hire a DJ and those the swankiest party you’ve ever seen. Not just any party either. I’m talking parties where the boys wear suits and the girls wear gowns and dresses. I’m talking mini-proms! And that is no exaggeration.
I know our daughter wants an awesome party. And I would love nothing more then the give her the party of her dreams (not the kind you see on My Super Sweet 16 on MTV – LOL).
I called around to a couple of places, just to get a ball park figure on what it would cost. One place I called has a 75 person MINIMUM. We don’t know 75 people! My daughter said she would invite homeless people and/or low income families around town for a good meal and a great time to make it to 75 people. If only it was that easy.
The CHEAPEST party option is $36.95 PER PERSON (75 person minimum) PLUS 20% gratuity. On top of that they require $150 for security for every 50 people. Without even thinking about decorations or the cake the party would already come in at almost $3,500! This is a popular venue for Sweet 16 parties too. Plus there is the $$$$ for the DJ. Parents must easily spend $5,000 on Sweet 16 parties. We don’t have $5,000. If we did I wouldn’t be driving a nearly 20 year old car that is held together with duct tape and a prayer.
It’s bad enough that I feel like a horrible parent. We have been able to provide for our children as far as a roof over their heads, clothes on their backs and food in their tummies. But that’s is. They don’t have their own room (they have to share), they can’t have friends over (no room for us let alone others), we don’t have a yard, we can’t afford to go on vacation… I just feel like we “robbed” them of their childhood. My daughter has never been able to have a sleep over in our home. My son has never been able to ride his bike around. We have never been able to have parties for them in our home because it’s too small.
Growing up my daughter has always begged us for a purple bedroom and a canopy bed. Our son just wanted a sandbox to play in. Those are simple requrests that we’ve never been able to provide for.
Our family has been on ONE real vacation in 17 years. That was a trip to Disney World. The only reason why we had the opportunity to go is because my mom paid for the condo, airfare and car rental. All we had to cover was park tickets and food. My kid have to go to school and listen to their friends talk about their yearly trips to Disney World, hanging out on the beach on some Caribbean island or how they just got back from a cruise. All my kids get to tell their friends is that they went for a picnic at the local park for “vacation”.
I feel horrible that we have never been able to provide our kids with something special. That is why I would love to throw our daughter a memorable Sweet 16 party. It’s kind of impossible when you don’t have any $$$$.
We might be able to swing renting out our condo complex club house. But it’s old and outdated (it was built in the early 70’s and still retains the same look including wood paneling all over the place). We would have to provide the food and decorations and hire a DJ. We’ve been to parties at our club house. The tables are like picnic tables and the whole place dark. The dance floor is no bigger than my bathroom.
Another option that was suggested to me was Dave & Buster’s which is a restaurant with a built in arcade, and then a movie aftewards. I’m just afraid that it will be seen as more of a “kiddie” party and not a Sweet 16.
My daughter’s friends are the kids that have the $$$$ parties. I worry that my daughter would be made fun of if she invited people to a “homemade” Sweet 16 party at our clubhouse or a party at the mall. You know how cruel kids can be too.
Our daughter already says to us in a joking manner to pick her up some food from McDonald’s and consider that her birthday party (we next to never eat at fast food places). She says it jokingly, but you can tell just by the look on her face and the tone of her voice that there is a bit of sadness. She knows we can’t afford a special Sweet 16 party for her, like the kind the other girls at school have. You can just tell she’s disappointed.
The other day she asked me if I could do a review of a party venue, in hopes that would help off set the cost and we could actually afford a real party for her. I WISH!!!! She knows that I am fortunate to be able to review a lot of wonderful things, so she was hoping I could add a party venue to the list. I’m afraid not. It doesn’t work that way. I highly doubt a venue would offer us a party to review on my site. That would be a miracle.
She’s been looking forward to this birthday for years. She even likes to look at fancy dresses when we’re at the store and she always tells me how she would like a pair of heels so she could get used to walking around in them. These things were all in preparation for her birthday birthday. I’m afraid this birthday is going to be no different than any other birthday for our kids – we’ll take her to the restaurant of her choice for dinner and then come home and sing “Happy Birthday” and have cake. Not exactly the Sweet 16 party she dreamed of.
I feel like a horrible parent. Well, I always feel like a horrible parent because I wasn’t able to provide things like a canopy bed and a sandbox for my children, but knowing that our daughter’s Sweet 16 will come and go with no fanfare, makes me feel a million times worse. How is she going to feel when she attends her friend’s Sweet 16 parties knowing that her birthday came and went as if it was another day? Right now she has to listen to her best friend talking up a storm about her Sweet 16 party that is not even until September but the parents already booked a room at a nearby hotel and are making preparations for it to be the party of a lifetime. Our poor daughter has to sit there and listen to her best friend talking about her wonderful party knowing all too well that she will never have one.
Good golly… I have tears welling up in my eyes are I type this. My kids rarely ask for anything. Overall they are good kids. Like every parent, we want to make our children’s lives better than ours were. We always want better for our children. It breaks my heart that we are unable to afford to make just ONE DAY out of our child’s life a day where she can feel extra special.
How is she going to feel when she’s a mother and her daughter is approaching her Sweet 16?
I blame ourselves for most of this. We should have started to set aside money many years ago for this day. Sadly whenever we have money it pays the bills. We don’t spend it on frivolous things. I wouldn’t be driving a nearly 20 year old car or cut my own hair if we were “spendthrifts”.
As a parent, have you had any experience with Sweet 16 parties? Do you have any suggestions on how to throw a nice party that the other kids won’t see as “lame”? How can we make our daughter’s birthday a special one? As a parent, how do you deal with the GUILT associated with not being able to provide your children with those extra special moments life has to offer (Sweet 16 party, family vacation…)?