I am tired of overwrought kids’ birthday parties. Although I have been guilty of throwing them: I once hired a clown because nothing says “fun” like hissing at 6-year-olds to SIT STILL AND PAY ATTENTION for an hour. Flapjack regaled them with his hacking, tubercular cough throughout the show; the kids may as well have been at a school assembly on hygiene.

Orchestrating overly-precious parties only encourages a spoiled I-am -unbearably- special! mentality in kids. I think we need to step away from the trend toward distributing unwarranted trophies for everyone, and have a little real-world fun. I propose a return to the germy, joyful mayhem of 1980s parties.

6 tips for throwing a 1980s party that will build kids’ emotional resilience and immune systems:

1.  Force them into formalwear. No more showing up in soccer cleats. Make it special by making guests uncomfortable: girls must sport floor-length, polyester dresses, pinch-y shoes, and curling iron burns on their foreheads. A little unfamiliarity lends some drama to the occasion.

2.  Bobbing for apples. Set up a rusty tub full of hose water and kid saliva. It’s fun and inclusive: EVERYONE gets Strep Throat!

3.  Musical Chairs: a game that is the opposite of inclusive. There is one winner, many losers, and you handle that shit gracefully. Maybe you learn to celebrate your friend’s success, instead of demanding participation trophies for everyone.

4.  Money cake: I’m quite sure my mother didn’t consider the choking risks or wash the coins, but there was no greater thrill than getting a piece of cake that MIGHT contain some of the loose quarters she sprinkled into the batter of my birthday cake.

5.  Blind Auction: hand out Monopoly money and kids bid on items hidden in paper bags. Some will bid and win…Unicorn stickers! Paddle-ball thingies! And someone will bid and get the clunker…bag of broccoli! This is where they need to learn to laugh at the absurd and move on, not whine for things to be “fair.”

6.  There’s already something sort of feral and violent about the piñata; why not fill it with something surprising? When spaghetti and tomato sauce explode out of Barbie, everyone goes home with PTSD instead of cheap loot bags. Now there’s a party they’ll remember.

Forget about hiring a professional team of beauticians for a mani-pedi party—trust me, you’ll look back at the photos and realize the girls looked as happy as orphans lined up for vaccinations.

Let’s bring back grubby parties of the 1980s and treat our kids to some gritty fun.

Janice Ricciardi is an exotic Canadian, married to a New Yorker, raising daughters in San Francisco. She used to talk on the radio, but now finds herself writing kids’ names on bananas with Sharpie and vetting the American Girl book about periods.  Her work has been featured in Parents Magazine, POPSUGAR.com. greatmomentsinparenting.com, mommyish.com ,TheMid.com. and scarymommy.com.   Follow her on Twitter @https://twitter.com/MomSlaughter


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