A Sweet 16 Birthday Idea

Our youngest, Mateo, turned 16 this week, so I thought it might be fun to share something we don’t tell many people… well until now. 😉 I would love to share, how we celebrate our teen’s 16th birthday.

How We Celebrate Sweet 16 Birthdays

There are so many great ideas when it comes to celebrating the 16th birthday.  Hop on Pinterest searching the term "sweet 16 ideas" and your screen is instantly filled with pink balloons, memories to capture and sweet anticipation to the big day.

We realized a long time ago we could not begin to afford a big birthday every year. 

It was a real blessing that we couldn’t even pretend to compete with the Jones because it required us to get creative.

We decided we would be strategic with which years got some kind of party and which years would get a sheet cake, an off-tune happy birthday sung and a small $10 gift.

YEARS 5, 10, 13 and 18 would get a bigger affair.  Examples: Hannah chose a sleepover every time.  Mateo had a bounce house for his 5th birthday and took a friend to an amusement park for this 13th

However, YEAR 16 was the big deal.

You see, to celebrate our teen turning 16 we would take them ANYWHERE in the world.  The only rule: it had to be outside of the USA.  We are always reminding teens that the world is bigger than where they are, so from about age 10 we had them start dreaming of where they would go if they could go anywhere in the world and what would they do while there.

Hannah called her location when she was 10.

Fashion had really been her thing.  She was in 5th grade and was always doodling outfits and shoes and she looked up one day from her drawing and said, “Mom, I think I would like to go to Paris for my sweet 16.”

I was surprised at such a statement and then just smiled and said, “that sounds great.”  While my mind was like… “Ok self, you have 6 years, how are we going to afford such a trip?”

We realized with more people it would be more money and since each kid got to choose a trip we would divide and conquer.

I took Hannah on her trip and this year Luke took Mateo on his trip.

Thankfully that was about the time Dave Ramsey and Financial Peace entered our lives and we were able to purposefully plan for each trip.

Hannah in France

Getting to be the one to take my daughter on her first out of country adventure was epic! We stayed at a hotel about a ½ mile from the Eiffel Tower. 

The Louvre is where we started, followed by days and days of subways, train rides and walking EVERYWHERE YOU CAN IMAGINE.

Things to Note

Do your homework of the art at the Louvre to make it worth it.  We walked most of it, but we mainly went because seeing the Mona Lisa was on Hannah’s list.

Bring good walking shoes, because yeah, it’s a LOT of walking!  But you won’t gain a pound on the trip, even in if you eat a huge pastry everyday… don’t worry, I tried that tactic – totally worked. 😉

Monet’s Garden was the last full day of our trip and it was just… so beautiful.  It is the #1 thing I recommend to anyone who asks.  Followed by spending a day (or 2) wandering the streets of Montmartre. 

Sweet Memories Made

While walking one day we came across a salon that locals use and Hannah got her first highlights. Another day we came across a Dahli exhibit and learned what he meant when he used lobster in his art! LOL, so much laughter on this trip. 

Mateo’s was TOTALLY different. 

When he was 10 he wanted to go to Costa Rica, stay in a treehouse, climb trees to get banana’s and surf all day.   (LOL, he just confirmed that is still on his list.) 😊 He also thought about scuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef in Australia for a while, but I think as he has gotten to know himself, he realized he wanted to stay SUPER busy on his trip. 

So, the boys opted for a cruise in the Caribbean and to make sure they stayed busy, they signed up for scuba lessons the ship.  So, the 2 days at sea were spent learning how to scuba dive and then at the ports they were taken on 2 dives.

They guys had a few first-time moments as well.

First, they both learned how to scuba dive and got to experience a cruise.  But secondly…

Luke was Mateo’s Wing Man

Now, we are a quite conservative family and don’t let our kiddos actually date until they are 18, but somehow on this trip, something really cool and different happened.  There was a girl that seemed to notice Mateo for the first 2 days on the ship and finally on the third day Luke, my husband, leaned into Mateo and said, “ya know, we only have a few days on this cruise and it might be kind of fun to have a friend to hang out with…go ahead, go over there and say hi. We don’t need to hang out 24/7.”

Mateo took his advice.  It turns out the girl’s mom was there for business and most had brought families.  So he ended up spending A LOT of time with her and other teens just wandering the ship, checking out the shows and taking turns on the rock-climbing wall.

It was so EXACTLY the perfect trip for Mateo, just as France was the PERFECT trip for Hannah.

It really shouldn’t surprise me that the trips were so different, as our teens are so different, but it does. 

It reminds me to embrace their differences and that even though they may do life very differently it is so beautiful that they rely on the same God that never changes. *so thankful!*

On a side note: both ended up going on their trip a hair before their birthday due to great deals on travel, but we decided that was fine and still totally counted. ;)

Hugs and love to every mama celebrating their teen's sweet 16 this year.  Such precious and fleeting moments these are.

On the journey with you,

-melissa :)


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