Last week, my wife and I hosted some friends for a New Year's Day brunch. It was a great way to kick off 2014, as we caught up with people we hadn't seen in awhile, including one friend who had a baby in the fall.
We have three kids. Our youngest (twins) are nearing their third birthday and are in full "run around the house while yelling at the top of their lungs" mode. I hadn't been around a newborn in quite awhile, so it was fun to see a child at that stage of development again, where just grabbing your finger, holding eye contact and putting things into his or her mouth are fascinating.
We also got to talk to the mother about the typical struggles – the lack of sleep and worries about feeding – and tell her (as countless other experienced parents have) that it gets better.
Of course, try as we might, I'm not sure that the screaming toddlers did much to provide encouragement.
There are a lot of ways to get through parenthood. One is by reading books by experts for advice. Another is talking to friends who have been through it already. Another is to attempt to cope by making light of the whole experience by making prop bets. (I, of course, encourage all three. And if you're going to be making bets, you should be as knowledgeable as possible, so the reading and the advice of others as you enter a new stage can offer valuable information.)
Of course, for friends of new parents, their sudden obsession with the tiny human being now living with them can be mildly annoying, so why not make light of it by making a few wagers of your own?
Here at the top-10 parenting prop bets you can make, presented chronologically. Use these bets to determine who does household chores, or who will pay the baby sitter. Or wager cash with friends who have kids the same age as yours, or just make bets for bragging rights. Regardless of what you bet, making a wager on your kids, or other people's kids, can make getting through those tough years a little more fun and entertaining.
10. Baby pools
This is easily the most common way people bet on kids. Oftentimes the parents aren't even involved, but rather it's the colleagues of the parents who set up office pools where people guess all sorts of details. You can bet on the date and time that a child will be born. You can bet on the sex, height and weight. You may even be able to get an edge on the height and weight bets if you pay close attention to just how big the soon-to-be mother's belly is getting.
If you really want to get into the weeds, bet on the baby's Apgar scores, though that information isn't generally available in the "Welcome to the world!" e-mail you'll get from the new parents, so you'll have to do some investigating.
Assuming you're betting on someone else's kid and the parents don't provide you with enough information to settle the bet, it's best to be upfront about why you're asking. If you ask the dad, chances are good he'll get a kick out of it. And if you just lose out on your weight bet and have the under, you could always ask the parents to check again in a few hours.
9. Over/under consecutive hours of sleep
Anyone who has ever had a baby (or has friends who have had babies) knows that the most challenging aspect in the early weeks is the sleep deprivation. Babies don't understand the concept of day and night. They only understand hungry, wet/soiled and tired. They are often all three of these things, and usually at about 2 a.m. If you're in the throes of massive sleep deprivation, why not bet on how many consecutive hours of sleep the little tyke will get once you settle him or her back down?
Pro tip: Always bet the under. If you win, you get to be the winner. But if you lose, you've still won with some precious extra sleep.
8. Time/composition of next diaper change
One of the responsibilities parents detest the most is changing dirty diapers. Parents often argue about whose turn it is to change a diaper. But maybe you can avoid that argument altogether with diaper prop bets. Guess the nature of the need (1 or 2) and/or the time the diaper needs to be changed, and if you win, your partner gets to change the diaper. Lose, and you're the "winner" and get to change the dirty diaper.
7. Number of baby pictures posted on Facebook
If you're not a parent yourself, but you have friends who are just starting to have kids, it will be amazing to see how the photos they post on their Facebook pages change so drastically. Instead of group pictures with friends taken late at night in clubs, they're posting pictures of their newborn dressed up like a hippopotamus, sleeping with a pacifier. Instead of being annoyed by the seemingly endless parade of pictures of the kid looking pretty much the same but dressed in a different outfit, bet with another friend on just how many pictures they will post in the first month, the first three months or the first six months. It's a fun bet to track, and if you pick the over, you'll never be annoyed by your friend's baby pictures again.
6. Height/weight percentiles at future doctor visits
If you're going to bet on a baby's due date, height and weight at birth, why not bet on their height and weight at their next scheduled doctor's visit? Considering that's all the grandparents are going to ask the parents after each pediatrician's visit anyway, you might as well make it interesting.
5. Age at first step
There are dozens of "firsts" you can bet on, but the first step is a huge milestone worthy of setting up a pool or an over/under line. The simple method with walking is putting the over/under at one year, because kids are usually taking their first steps within a month or two of that date.
Other firsts to think about are first time to roll over, first time to sit up on their own, first time to crawl and first time to hold a bottle on their own.
4. First word
There's nothing more exciting than when your child begins to speak real words, except perhaps winning a bet related to those words. If you're the father, bet on "Mama" or some iteration of it. If you're the mother, bet on "Dada." Parents can be awfully sensitive about which word is the first to come out of a child's mouth, and you don't want to be a father rubbing it in when your daughter's first word is "Daddy" and your wife is already upset. It's much better to be doing something nice for her, like taking her out for dinner because you lost a bet, and quietly gloating that you're the apple of your daughter's eye.
3. Number of times he/she will "escape" from time out
If you've ever been around a toddler, you know that they are constantly testing limits. If you're a parent of a toddler, you’re just about reaching yours. Every. Single. Day. Trust me, I've got two of them in my house.
We use the "time out" as our primary means of discipline. The thing about a time out is, a toddler doesn't always accept the punishment. Oftentimes, a two- or three-year-old will get up from time out and just run away, which means you have to start the process all over. (Please tell me I'm not alone here.) It can be maddening to go fetch a 35-pound boy and put him back on the stair 25 or 30 times, but that's what you have to do. And the only way to do it is with detached emotion and absolutely no anger.
One of the easiest ways to alleviate the tension is to set an over/under line on the number of "escapes" attempted by the toddler in time out. At least it gives you something to laugh at instead of losing your temper.
2. Date of birth of next child
Not long after one is born, parents often start getting questions about when the next one will be arriving. It's often a point of idle speculation for friends and family. Gauge how well they're handling the first few months of parenthood before making a wager on when the next child will arrive. If they seem severely traumatized (one new dad I met admitted to me that he looked at his wife one night at 3 a.m. and said, "We've made a horrible mistake."), go long and put the next one at least three or four years later. You could even be bold and say "never."
If, however, they seem to be adjusting just fine, getting their newborn to sleep for 12 hours at a time at two months, go short and say under 2.5 years.
1. Where will he/she go to college?
Don't ever bet on where your own kids will go to college. Instead bet on where your friends' kids will go to school. If you can, take the field vs. the parents' alma maters. Or, if the parents are very well educated, see if you can get Ivy League and NESCAC schools vs. the field, especially if they have the money to pay the tuition at those schools. Then, when the kids get to be 15 or 16, start dropping some subtle hints about just how good a school you heard that Brown is. Oh, you're looking for a smaller school? Then maybe Bates is right up your alley!
Just remember when betting on your own, or other people's kids: Don't bet real money. These bets are way more fun if they're for a dollar or for a task, like changing diapers.
Home-game hotshot Aaron Todd has covered the gambling industry since 2006. While he is happy to play Texas Hold'em, he'd rather mix it up and play Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw, and Badugi. Follow him on Twitter @CasinoCity_AT.