March 1, 2018

By Jill Rothenbueler Maher

Wanna bet?

My husband and I have enjoyed very small-scale bets since our early days of dating. The bets have been a source of friendly competition and a way to set aside differences until we could undertake a little research to decide upon a winner. The topics are usually trivial and esoteric — some are too strange to print. Our friends laughed along with us when they heard about the ongoing record we keep of all our little bets in our “bet book.”

Now our daughter is part of the contests over topics like last month’s Super Bowl outcome. We wager things like who gets to select dessert or who gets to pick the next board game we play. Sometimes the debate over the appropriate wager takes a lot of back-and-forth and becomes its own mini negotiation.

For the bets about trivia topics, it is surprising how often the winner is decided by semantics or interpretation. So we are very deliberate in the wording of the actual bet, such as, What is the average rainfall in Milwaukee County in the month of March for the years 2000 to 2017? versus How much does it usually rain in March?

In the fall we included my parents and sister and enjoyed a six-way bet about the first day of snow here in the Milwaukee area. It was our second year doing the first-snowfall prediction and experience taught us to be specific, after all, pride and a whole six dollars was at stake! So we specified that the first snowfall must be measurable (no mere “traces”) and reported at Mitchell Field.

I have heard that kids often adopt the worldview and general outlook held by their parents. I hope that low-cost, lighthearted games like these reinforce the view that learning new facts can be fun and it’s ok to disagree with those you love. And, it’s a lot of fun to win!

The author is a freelance writer and mother of one. Reach her with comments or suggestions at

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