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Teen Furious After Parents Follow Through When She Says She Wants ‘Nothing’ For Her Birthday

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Parenting teenagers is no easy task, in part because a balance between treating them like a child and honoring their wishes when they assert their adulthood can be an incredibly difficult balance to strike.

A Dad on Reddit found himself in this dilemma when he followed through on his teenage daughter’s insistence she was too grown up for a 16th birthday celebration only to find out she was using reverse psychology in hopes of getting a surprise party.

He felt bad about how it all turned out, so he went to the AITA (Am I The A**hole) subReddit for perspective.

The Original Poster (OP), who goes by CarefulLayer8445 on the site, asked:

“AITA Daughter’s sixteenth birthday”

He explained:

“This is lightweight by AITA standards but I am still curious whether I was TA.”

“I (m[ale] 45) have two children: Shelley (f[emale] 16) and Aiden (m[ale] 14). Our relationship has always been pretty solid, and they’re both great kids (sweet, funny, smart, do their chores with a minimum of nagging–I’ve always considered myself a lucky dad, and I’ve told them so), which is why this is baffling me so much.”

“We’ve always celebrated the kids’ birthdays. They always got a birthday pancake breakfast with presents, my wife would cook their choice of dinner and there would be cake, and if they wanted one, a party with their friends (a traditional birthday party type birthday when they were younger; now that they’re teenagers they tend to choose something more like a sleepover with movies and pizza, which is also fine).”

“So a couple weeks ago when we were approaching Shelley’s sixteenth birthday, I was in the car driving her to soccer practice and I asked what she wanted to do for her birthday. She said ‘Nothing,’ which I took to mean that she didn’t want a party, so I said, ‘Just cake and presents then?’ and she said ‘I said *nothing*.'”

“I was befuddled and said ‘No cake, no presents, nothing-nothing? Are you sure?’ and she said to stop badgering her. So I did.”

“When I got home, I told my wife, and later she verified with Shelley. Apparently Shelley was perturbed at having to say ‘nothing’ a third time.”

“So… well, I didn’t do exactly nothing. I bought a frozen chocolate cheesecake (her favorite) just in case she changed her mind, and put aside some money for an Amazon gift card so she could buy herself something when she felt like it. But we did what I thought she wanted and didn’t make any special kind of fuss on her birthday itself.”

“At about 9pm, she burst into tears and said that she’d thought I’d take the hint and surprise her with something, because ‘Of course I didn’t want *nothing* on my birthday.’ It turns out that she had expected us to surprise her with something awesome for a landmark birthday like the 16th, but didn’t want to tell us what to do because ‘it sucks to plan your own party.'”

“And us taking her ‘don’t do anything’ at face value hurt her feelings. I busted out the cheesecake and gave her the gift card, which mollified her somewhat, but she was still hurt”

“I told my sister about it a couple days later, and she laughed and said, ‘Well, it’s clear you’ve never been a teenage girl. Of COURSE she wanted something special for her sweet 16, you dingus.'”

“But my wife (who was also a teenage girl) says that there wasn’t much else we could do, because foisting a party on her if she truly didn’t want one also had the potential to make her miserable, and she was fully capable of saying ‘I want something special but can you surprise me?’ OTOH, she’s always enjoyed her birthdays, so maybe that should have been a signal?”

“It has mostly blown over, but I’m wondering: is my sister right, am I a dingus? Or in this context, a**hole?”

People on Reddit were then asked to judge who was in the wrong in this situation based on the following categories:

  • NTA – Not The A**hole
  • YTA – You’re The A**hole
  • ESH – Everyone Sucks Here
  • NAH – No A**holes Here

And for the most part, they felt OP did nothing wrong here.

“LMAO.”

“Your daughter just learned a valuable lesson in communication and why you don’t play stupid little games.”

“All you did was respect her stated wishes.”

“NTA!!” –monsteramoons

“I absolutely agree with you. She,at 16, just learned a very valuable lesson in how to say what you want. She obviously hasn’t been taught that people have yet to evolve to being able to read minds!!! Lol.” –OperationBright2450

“Tbh OP should maybe sit down with her to talk about the importance of communicating clearly and thinking about the words she chooses, as well as explaining that they wanted to trust her judgement now that she’s older rather than assuming they knew better.” –DazzlingAssistant342

“I wish my mom did what OP did XD since I was 15-17 years old (can’t remember the exact age) and the first time I’ve had ice cream cake due to my mom’s birthday I kept expressing how I wanted an ice cream cake for my 18th birthday.”

“What I got instead: my first cell phone (should’ve gotten one a long time ago due to clubs and sports), a day at a mini amusement park with my family, and ate at TGI fridays. Overall it was a good birthday it wasn’t till after the restaurant I realized my mom didn’t not respect my wishes (I mean why was I surprised to begin with anyways?”

“Cuz at 14 I expressed hugely that I just wanted a DS and only that instead I got clothes and my sister got the DS….. yeah I know… but honestly the sweater was hella warm tho for winter) once again cuz again I just wanted an Ice cream so I had some guilt and just didn’t voice it cuz I knew better lol.”

“Wasn’t till I got married and told my husband how I wished I just got ice cream cake for my birthday XD guess who freaking listened after hearing that like 7 months later? XD my husband got me what I wanted for my birthday. I agree wholeheartedly that his daughter failed with communication lol” –TheAnnMain

“NTA”

“My wife didn’t learn ‘say what you mean’ until her early 20s and the people around her were only as stern about it as they had to be.”

“I learned it when I was 6 and it’s still a strong memory. I don’t remember my parents ever showing a child an emotion like remorse.”

“You did what you were asked and had a backup incase of this exact situation. You’re well on your way to Batman level planning. Plus your kid knows you’ll do as instructed when trying to help, and not to mess around with that kind of thing.” –Beowulf33232

“Your sister is not right. It is not something every girl does. It is something some people do, in a way to test you, which is wrong. People who play such games, get hurt, as your daughter did.”

“If you want, you can apologise for her feeling hurt on her birthday. However, gently let her know that playing the game of I don’t want anything and expecting people to ignore that and just know what you want, is not a game she should play.”

“Saying NO means NO, not yes.” –KarenMaca

“Honestly NTA so much. The biggest gift we can give the people we love is respecting them and listening to their wishes. If she didn’t communicate her wishes, that’s sad for everyone involved, but not your fault.”

“I’ve been in sort of the opposite situation before with my own parents when they insisted on buying me an easter egg every year. I tried telling them, over and over, I don’t want one, I don’t like them, and the thought of having to eat an entire egg I don’t want or like when I know they have a bad environmental impact really caused me stress (I’ve had anxiety disorders so was particularly sensitive to things that stressed me out).”

“Every year they would get me one. Every year. My parents are lovely, but every time I’d wake up on Easter and see an egg I’d want to cry because I just felt so helpless and trapped. I didn’t know what I could possibly do or say to make it stop, and the fact they wouldn’t listen to me just made me feel like they didn’t care about me (note: this is not true, my parents love me and are amazing, they just fucked up on this one thing. I knew this intelluctually, but in the moment that’s how it felt).”

“You’re a wonderful parent for listening to your daughter and respecting her wishes. Thank you. I’m sorry it backfired on you.” –StarInkBright

“NTA. Your daughter is figuring out the meaning of, ‘Fu*k around and find out’ in the most benign way possible.”

“If she didn’t want to ‘plan her own party’ she should’ve used her words to convey what she wanted. Because that’s what people who don’t play stupid mind games do.” –Spank_Cakes

Hopefully OP’s daughter can learn a lesson about communication from this.

Written by John Sundholm

John Sundholm is a writer, content producer and performer originally from Michigan. His writing has also appeared on YourTango, Delish and Medium, and he has produced content for NBC, The New York Times and The CW, among others. When not working, he can be found tripping over his own feet on a hiking trail while singing Madonna songs to ward off lurking bears.