Dear Savvy Sister: My 7-year-old expects a party….

Dear Savvy Sister,

How do I put together a 70s dance birthday party for a soon-to- be 7-year-old, in three weeks, with minimal effort and expense, for the non-crafty and lazy, with a house that’s too embarrassingly dirty for guests? Bonus points for incorporating ducks. The girl loves ducks.


Disco Dancer

IMG_0119Dear Disco Dancer,

Is your house dirty or messy? If it’s dirty, you must clean it. If it’s messy, go to Target and buy a bunch of laundry baskets, assign one to every family member, and get all the crap out of the family room/kitchen/living room, whichever area serves as the main gathering spot. If it’s dirty and messy, do the laundry basket chore first, stash those suckers out of sight, then buy some Seventh Generation Disinfecting Wipes with a lemongrass-citrus scent and scrub everything until a fresh inviting aroma permeates the air. This is not for guests. It’s for you.

Now, about the party. Among the modern parenting trends that annoy me the most is the pressure to throw debutante-style festivities for young children to celebrate their continued existence. If anything, parents should be throwing themselves parties for keeping their kids alive for another year. Birthday parties are not a human right. They are not even a civil right. And if they have become symbols of excellence or privilege in your community, buck that trend, sister, and show your kid what’s really important in life.

My daughter just turned eight. She had one birthday party when she turned five, so I agreed to host another. We invited four kids from school plus the neighbors to go to the beach and pool with us. The kids swam and played, ate dinner, ate cupcakes, played some more. I gave my older daughter $10 to organize a Crazy-Jump contest, which she herself supervised and judged. Then they went home. There were no goodie bags. Best birthday party ever. I even had a vodka tonic while it was happening. BOO-yah!

If your child has had a birthday party every year, I would try to convince her not to have one this year. Gentle reminder: SHE’S SEVEN, and still subject to manipulative persuasion. Come up with an excellent plan that involves her favorite things: maybe getting a pedicure with mom, going to Target to pick out a special outfit, out to dinner at her favorite restaurant. Do you have other children? It may be super special for her to have mom (or mom and dad) to herself for an evening.

If she insists on a party, however, so be it. I’m not sure how you made her a fan of 70s era music, but I’ll work with you.


1. Find a place to hold the party. Honestly, I’d do it at your house. Do you have a back porch or a yard? That would be my best advice. Remember, these aren’t “guests.” They’re kids. They don’t care about neatness. Barring that, reserve a gazebo at a public park.

2. Allow your daughter to invite A HANDFUL of friends, maybe six total. No more than 10, and I’m totally serious. Send out casual emails, NOT evites, so the kids’ parents know this is not a black tie event.

3. Order these hilarious disco wigs for the kids to wear. They cost $3.59 each.

4. Find a couple of pre-teen girls to help you on the day of the party. Offer to pay them $15-$20 each,  tell them to come up with some games to play, and ask them to practice applying glittery makeup.


1. Order a pull-apart cupcake cake, decorated with ducks, from the grocery store, and buy juice boxes/water.

2. Make a playlist of disco songs, or let the Pandora music app do it for you.

3. Go to the dollar store and buy plates and napkins and maybe some decorations, and either glitter face paint or glitter eye shadow or glitter temporary tattoos.


1. Play music.

2. First half-hour: As kids arrive, have them put on wigs, let girls apply tattoos/glittery disco stars

15 minutes: have a dance party and play freeze dance while you get them to pose for crazy pictures. My kids love to play a game we call Bubbalubbaloona – we take turns keeping a balloon up in the air while dancing.

15 minutes: play duck duck goose

20 minutes: sing Happy Birthday, eat cupcakes

20 minutes: open presents

20 minutes: organic playtime


For the sake of us parents working hard to convince our children they are not deserving of annual public accolades, please take my advice. I love my children fiercely, forever, deeply, and certainly every year on their birthdays I make sure they know how deliriously happy I am to have them. In fact, yesterday was my oldest girl’s birthday – she turned 13! a milestone! – so last weekend I took her and some friends to the zoo, and yesterday I snuck a sweet note into her lunch. But that’s it. Parties are nice, but they don’t always make children feel special. That’s our job. Okay?


the Savvy Sister

2 responses to Dear Savvy Sister: My 7-year-old expects a party….

  1. Linda says:

    Excellent, fun, and realistic advise. Also, if the party is held at the house, turn on ALL of the ceiling fans before guests arrive. That way, they won’t notice dusty blades. Don’t forget to light a great smelling candle or two WAY UP HIGH, away from any children. These are my 2 party cheats.

    • tricia says:

      Excellent, Linda! I’m into Scentsy now. No candles to burn down the house.

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