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The kid has a birthday coming up! Help me weasel out of her plan!
June 2, 2014 7:34 AM   Subscribe

My step-daughter's 16th birthday is right around the corner. Like, 8 days away. We always ask her what she wants to do on her birthdays and usually she comes up with something like renting out a place to play laser tag or going to the water park or whatever and we are more than happy to give that to her and she invites friends and there is food and drink and merriment and Huzzah! This year, it could go bad. I need some help!

She's been kind of hemming and hawing about this year. She wants to do something kind of big because it's 1-6. We live in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and she's finally decided that she wants to go to Cedar Point for the day - we'll let her take a couple of friends and ride the rides and eat the food and stand in lines and stave off heat stroke and etc, etc, etc.

Now, my wife and I will do this. We will spend 4 hours in the car with 3 16 year old girls. We will let them listen to the stereo at max volume and hoot and holler and listen to the Frozen soundtrack 185 times and we will accompany them to the park and we will do the whole thing....We will! But.. we kind of don't want to. It's a lot. We feel bone deep exhaustion just thinking about it.

Our only hope of rescue is if we can dangle a carrot in front of her that she will magically fall in love with and think is a totally way better idea than this. We have already tried:

1. The Zoo! She rejected this.
2. The local water park! She rejected this.
3. Go-Karts, Batting Cages, Putt-Putt! She rejected this.
4. Big party and sleep over at home! She rejected this.

The odds are slim at this point, but I figure it can't hurt to ask - anybody... got anything better? Because we sure don't.
posted by kbanas to Human Relations (34 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Sorry to break it to you, but a trip to the zoo, go-karts, water park or sleep over doesn't sound as appealing as a big day out in a new place. I think you're going to have to go with it. A trip to a local zoo isn't exactly a birthday event for a 16 year old these days.

One idea - what about driving out the day before, and staying in a cheap hotel? Then they could have the night together, and you wouldn't be trying to pack in drive-rides-drive all in one day.

Does she have an older cousin (someone in their twenties) who would go with them instead? I'd totally take my teenage cousin and her friends out for her 16th birthday, and they'd probably have a riot together.
posted by barnone at 7:44 AM on June 2 [30 favorites]


Honestly I think you should do this because:
1. You already agreed to it.
2. She's 16. I would have rather aimed a blowtorch at my own face than go on a trip supervised by my parents at 16, so you are luck she is a good kid and wants to spend time with you.
3. You're doing a disservice to 16 year old girls everywhere, by acting liek a stereotypical 16 year old girl, overdramatizing this whole thing. How big a deal is it really to let them listen to their chosen tunes in the car on their birthday? Really? I mean it's Frozen, Not Pig Destroyer or something.

Suck it up and go. Remember, you, too, were an annoying teenager before and honestly your step daughter's style of annoying sounds really really mild, embracable even.
posted by WeekendJen at 7:44 AM on June 2 [85 favorites]


The plan is good. Except, Make a weekend of it.

The drive up, perhaps you can rent a mini-van with entertainment, pop in a couple of DVDs. They have headphones, so you can listen to whatever.

As for the park, screw that. Get a couple motel rooms. The kids in one, you in the other. Drop them off at the park to run around like idiots. You retire back to the hotel to lounge, or see a movie, or swim or whatever.

If you just want to do a day, get a motel for a day-rate (call around, you'll find one.)

But I'd stay over, after a day in the parks, it won't be a late night.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:44 AM on June 2 [28 favorites]


Ya know, the beach at Cedar Point is kind of nice. Maybe you could look into other activities at the park, or nearby, for you and your wife.

I had to go there a couple years ago and had a halfway decent time enjoying the beach and a special pub I lucked into. I do not do rides.

Besides, she only turns 16 once and it will make a great memory for her and her friends if you go.

If you're into nature and are comfortable just dropping them off at the park, there's these:

Pickerel Creek Wildlife Area
Pipe Creek Wildlife Area
posted by bricksNmortar at 7:45 AM on June 2 [5 favorites]


Same group of girls going to the spa together? They could get manicures and pedicures and drink seltzer water with lemon slices. Your other suggestions read as kiddish to me, which might be part of why they were rejected.
posted by punchtothehead at 7:47 AM on June 2 [4 favorites]


You are making me feel like a teenager. God, don't be such a bummer, Dad! Let them do their thing at the park while they're young enough to enjoy it. You don't have to shepherd them around all day; in fact, they'd probably prefer you didn't.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:53 AM on June 2 [22 favorites]


we will accompany them to the park and we will do the whole thing

Well, you can skip this bit at least (unless you want to go on the rides). Drop them off with plenty of water, sunscreen and money and a way to contact you when they're done. I also second the idea of getting a cheap hotel room and turning this into a two-day mission. Then you can enjoy taking her and her friends out for dinner, ice cream, etc. but let them have the day standing in line and going on rides while you chill out by the pool or beach.
posted by mikepop at 7:54 AM on June 2 [33 favorites]


From the above-the-fold description I thought I was going to find some misguided, dangerous request inside.

You already agreed to it. If you cop out you will have a very angry, sulky sixteen-year-old... not without reason.

I think your only honorable way out is to suggest she can pick something local if she can think of something better and you will overlook some slight increase in budget.

Otherwise, why just not put her on the Cedar Point charter bus from Detroit (link)?
posted by rocketpup at 7:57 AM on June 2 [2 favorites]


16 is plenty old enough* to let them find their own way through the park. I agree with everyone else that you parents should find something else to do while they go do their rides.

*Yes, yes it is.
posted by phunniemee at 7:57 AM on June 2 [30 favorites]


Lord, just let her do what she wants. I don't recall more than one or two birthdays in my childhood/teenage years, when I got to do what I wanted - rather than what my mother felt like doing. It sucks to feel as though your parents want to maximize their own comfort and happiness at the expense of your birthday plans. Especially when you aren't asking that much. And I don't think your daughter is making a terribly burdensome request.

You seem like a reasonable parent in general. So if you squirm out of your daughter's plans, it'll probably be more of a disappointment than anything. But still! Don't disappoint her on her birthday!
posted by Coatlicue at 7:57 AM on June 2 [6 favorites]


I'm very familiar with cedar point. No way are your childish suggestions going to compare. No offense, but the zoo is not a place for a 16 year olds party. I think you should do what you promised, because sometimes you do things you don't like for people you love.

If you still attempt to try something else, think college, your suggestions are preteen (and small).
posted by Aranquis at 7:57 AM on June 2 [8 favorites]


My steppie-girl turned 16 this April, and we did a day trip much like what you are suggesting - the girls had an awesome time, and talked about it for days after. Bring something to do if you don't want to ride rides, and make sure everyone has watches/phones so they can meet up if lost. Keep your promise, and go on the trip - you will be happy you did :)
posted by NorthernAutumn at 7:57 AM on June 2 [9 favorites]


Cedar Point is totally the best thing within a drivable radius of Ann Arbor. Without a doubt. These sought-after better-than-Cedar-Point places just don't exist.
posted by kiltedtaco at 8:00 AM on June 2 [3 favorites]


Don't go with them for God's sake. When I was a Michigan teenager a zillion years ago, parents did not accompany to Cedar Point after age 13 or so. And certainly trips when we were 12 ish meant being dropped off with a check in.

Drive the afternoon before. Get 2 hotel rooms. Drop them off, you two do something else for the day. Then pick them up, drive home.
posted by k8t at 8:01 AM on June 2 [11 favorites]


Seconding the point that you just drop them off and collect them later. 16 seems like a good time to learn some self-reliance and responsibility (i.e. making sure you spend your money/time carefully and are able to meet back at the collection point at the right time).
posted by EndsOfInvention at 8:03 AM on June 2


Another voice in the chorus:

You have to stick with Cedar Point because you already said so, but it doesn’t have to suck so hard for you and your wife. My sister and I got turned loose in Disney World at 12 and 13. They’ll be going on their senior trip soon. This will be good practice. My ideas:

Make rules for behavior in the car. You control the music. The noise level has to be kept to whatever level you need it to be in order for you to dive safely without being distracted. If that means you’re the Mean Dad, so be it. A Truly Mean Dad wouldn’t be taking them to Cedar Point in the first place. (Renting or borrowing a van isn’t a bad idea if you can swing it.)

An overnight stay does make the trip easier if it’s feasible. It also makes it so you can break up the car trip with enough stops to keep rested and relaxed, without cutting short your time at the destination.

Mandatory check-ins. We did this at the aforementioned WDW trip, and this was before cell phones. We knew that missing a check-in would result in the trip ending, so we made sure not to get on a ride if there was any chance it would make us late for the check-in. With phones, there’s no excuse. The other girls’ parents will appreciate this.


I guess the overall guiding principle is that you do this really great thing, but you get to do it your way.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:20 AM on June 2 [2 favorites]


I don't mean to be a downer, but you're not going to get too many more opportunities to do this with your daughter. She's going to move out pretty soon; she's 16, after all. I think that you'd regret not doing it more than you'll regret doing it - how many fond memories do you already have of previous birthday parties for her? I know that I personally would give a whole lot to have a family and friends to cram in a car and get annoyed by but also have a ton of fun with this coming weekend.

I think The Underpants Monster has some great suggestions on how to make this trip easier and more fun for you and your wife. Is there a movie that y'all want to see or something else to do in the area? My parents were by no means easygoing (I think the term that best describes my mother is "helicopter parent") but even they would have allowed this kind of outing to take place without them present. They would have driven and then gone and done something on their own, with some kind of check-in system in place. I think that might be really great for everyone in your family (and the girls who are coming along).

Have fun (or try to do so)!
posted by sockermom at 8:25 AM on June 2 [10 favorites]


Spend the 3 days (or nights) before stocking up on sleep. Force yourself to bed at 8. Get copious amounts of sleep. Be extraordinarily well rested in preparation for the trip.
posted by cleroy at 8:28 AM on June 2


By keeping your commitment and following through, you will become the cool parents and your daughter will gain status for those important high school years. Her friends will spread the word, assuming all goes well and they have a great time. You don't have to be glued to them for every second of the day. Take lots of pictures and videos and have fun.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:33 AM on June 2


Hi Everyone!

Thanks!

To be clear, there is no circumstance where we were NOT going to take her, unless we suggested something as an alternative and she went, "That's the coolest thing ever, let's do that instead!"

So, there will be no dream crushing and we will accommodate whatever she wants to do. We were just looking for some alternatives that perhaps she (and we) had not considered.
posted by kbanas at 8:36 AM on June 2


My impression is that your difficulty in finding a worthy substitute is exactly why Cedar Point is so large and awesome, and by extension why that part of the country (and world) has all of the best amusement parks.
posted by rhizome at 8:55 AM on June 2 [4 favorites]


I was going to suggest skydiving, but it looks like the minimum age in Michigan is 18. Nonetheless, I would say that you're going to need something more like this than like go-karts in order to tempt her away from Cedar Point. If I'm right about that, I would also suggest that an amusement park is a far less heart attack-inducing option for you as a parent than anything you might actually sway her with - so my vote is to do the overnight trip others have suggested, let your daughter and her friends enjoy the park on their own, and go have fun yourself.
posted by DingoMutt at 9:11 AM on June 2


Book a night for them at a fancy hotel with a spa and get them all pedicures and let them order room service? You can book the adjoining room but promise to leave them alone as long as they're not being rowdy. I'd have *loved* that as a teenager.

But I also agree with others that, especially in the era of cell phones, you don't need to accompany 16 year olds to an amusement park. Drive them there, drop them off, go hang out at Starbucks / have a long relaxing lunch / see a movie / other things that can be done in an air conditioned environment and then pick them up at the end of the day.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:21 AM on June 2 [3 favorites]


The solution to this is, as others have suggested: get a cheap motel room (or, better yet, two cheap motel rooms) the night before and don't accompany the kids to the park. They'd probably be more excited, and it would be less stressful for you.
posted by breakin' the law at 9:36 AM on June 2 [2 favorites]


My parents did something super similar for me for my 15th/16th birthday, which is about the same time of year as your stepdaughter's (high-fives the fellow mid-June birthday kid). It was a different theme park, but I remember that they rented a big minivan, so that way my two friends and I could be ridiculously loud in the very back of the van, and they let my friends stay over the night before so we could leave extra-super early (and presumably, sleep for part of the drive, since I've never been much for mornings).

Once we were in the park, they let us go off on our own (it was 10-12 years ago, but most of us had been to theme parks on school trips since we were 10, so we knew how to navigate the park with a group of friends pretty well by that point). We met up for lunch and again about an hour before closing, so that way we could shop for whatever souvenirs we wanted before heading out. The plan was to get us pretty zonked so we'd presumably nod off again on the drive home.

My parents, who enjoyed the theme park I went to (I grew up about 3 1/2 hours away from Orlando, so there were plenty of choices), spent the day enjoying themselves together. It remains one of my treasured birthday memories, and one of the few my parents really liked, because they got to do their own thing.

So, if you can't get a hotel the night before, I recommend leaving early and realizing that the drive back will likely be relatively quiet with zonked teenagers in the backseat. With cell phones and texting, you can have them send you status updates if you'd rather do something else instead of heading inside the park yourselves.
posted by PearlRose at 11:15 AM on June 2 [1 favorite]


I took my daughter and three of her friends to Astroworld for her 15th ... they rode the rides, ran around, ate junk food and had a grand old time without pokey Mom holding them back. I packed a couple of books (pre-Kindle days), crosswords and embroidery and parked myself in the Beerhall in the lovely, lovely air conditioning. They checked in with me every couple of hours, I stayed calm and cool and a good time was had by all.
posted by Allee Katze at 11:51 AM on June 2 [2 favorites]


Without knowing about any specific interests she has that you might appeal to, I'm hard pressed to think of anything else that would sound more tempting.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:11 PM on June 2 [1 favorite]


I'd hire a car service or a 20-something relative (or friend's kid, etc) to drive them there and back. I was the youngest of my friend group to turn 16, so one of my friends probably would have driven (we lived about 1hr from a Six Flags and drove there nearly every weekend over the summers) or our parents would have paid someone's older brother/sister to drive us there. Another thought is, if you're close with one of her friends' parents, invite them along, make a night of it and go out for a nice meal with the adults.
posted by melissasaurus at 12:57 PM on June 2


Fancy spa with mani/pedis and cucumbers on their eyes and body scrubs and luxurious baths.
posted by corb at 1:17 PM on June 2


I don't think you need to accompany 16 year olds all around an amusement park. I had a b-day at a theme park at around 13 and the parents were nowhere in sight. No one lost an eye or got kidnapped. Maybe just check in with each other every couple/few hours?

And just keep in mind that it could be worse...my mom suffered through a Slayer concert, which was my Sweet Sixteen birthday wish. One of my greatest memories. Thanks mom!!
posted by medeine at 2:02 PM on June 2 [3 favorites]


I don't get why you'd hang out in the park with them. These girls have phones, yes? Check in every few hours and you are good. You can all enjoy this if you give them some cash and let them adventure through the park on their own.
posted by bluedaisy at 6:19 PM on June 2 [2 favorites]


dude. you don't actually hang out with them at the park. you and mom are just the drivers. you don't even have to pay the entrance fee for you and mom to the park if you don't want to. drop 'em off, agree on a pick up time, they go crazy and you and mom go chill on the beach or see some movies or something.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 9:02 PM on June 2 [2 favorites]


This is what you do when you are 16. Sorry, there are no other alternatives I can think of that could possibly compete, especially if they have never done this yet. My version was Great America. I loved going with my friends. We would gossip in the lines, scream our heads off on the rides, eat all manners of junk food that only a 16 year old body could process, peep at the cute boys, repeat all day long.

I also agree that it would be 100% better for all involved, including you, if you just drop them off and pick them up and give the money that was going to be your cost of admission to your daughter to buy even more junk food and those overpriced picture souvenirs they take while you are plunging down a rollercoaster because that's just what you do when you are 16 and you are there with your friends. I actually still have mine!
posted by like_neon at 4:29 AM on June 3 [4 favorites]


The only things I can think of involve them traveling on their own or going somewhere with a lot of other teens. Are there any two-day mega music festivals coming up? What about an admission ticket to Burning Man (is that even still cool)? But if you felt safe lending them the car to drive solo to Beach Week, then you probably wouldn't have the problem you have now.
posted by salvia at 9:09 AM on June 3


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