Distraction techniques

One of the things you pick up early on when dealing with a baby (and eventual toddler) is that you have to distract them. A lot. When they start wanting the things you'd rather not give them (the remote control, sharp objects, feral animals) you have to make other stuff seem more enticing. Sure I'd love for you to play with that pen whose cap you are trying so desperately to lodge in your windpipe. And yes, I'd love nothing more than a pop quiz in child CPR, but how about we play with this stuffed animal instead?

You never know when you might need to distract your child. I've had to do plenty of it to calm our daughter down while my wife changes her diaper. There are times when I do my best just to calm our little girl down and stop her from throwing a tantrum because she would rather stay in a dirty diaper all day. Other times, I'm doing my best just to keep her focused on staying on our changing station rather than taking a header off of it. I'd love to see her swan dive someday, but I'd rather it be into a pool than into our hardwood floor.

The thing with distracting a child is you have to be quick on your feet and improv like it's nobody's business. Physical comedy, sounds and lots of movement tend to work well. Political satire, sarcastic wit and nostalgic references are completely lost on your tiny audience member. You've got to be a mix of Robin Williams and Carrot Top, but with less hair and not so freakishly muscular.

When our daughter was still an infant, I learned that she liked it when I donned a homemade cape (a blanket) and made whooshing noises while running around her room. I  would zoom around in circles and she would get a kick out of watching the cape fly around the room behind me. Every so often I would run the cape over her face, quickly covering and uncovering her, and she would giggle with glee. Life was simple then, and that was the only trick I would have to pull to get her to calm down while she got changed.

These days I have to run a few things by her to get her to her happy place. I like to start with a little peek-a-boo just to gauge how receptive she'll be. Sometimes that will be enough, and sometimes it only lasts a couple of rounds. She'll even play along by covering her eyes and thinking that she's become invisible upon doing so. I'll go in on the gag and start asking aloud where she went. Then I'll follow that up with calling the police and telling them I've lost my child. Then I have to explain to the police that I didn't really lose my child and that, no, I don't believe you can become invisible if you put your hands over your eyes.

In terms of props, I've recently discovered that a flashlight can turn a grumpy child into one filled with amazement. Just dim the lights and introduce them to the wonderful world of shadow puppets. Talk about cheap entertainment. This is the best! All you need is two extended fingers and a balled up hand and voila! Instant rabbit. Toddler. Mind. Blown. Our child can't form words yet, but I swear when I first introduced this she stopped my wife exclaimed, "Ahh baaa oo oo oo!" (Translation: "Holy fuck! Do you see that shit on the ceiling? Is that real? Holy shit it's real and it's in my room!")

I have to work on expanding my shadow puppet repertoire. Perhaps learn how to throw an eagle, or a goat or a lyger. I think if I could nail that last one I'd be set. But then she'd get all tired of seeing the lyger in all it's shadowy majestry, and I'd either have to come up with something to top it or find a new schtick altogether. What comes next after shadow puppets? Cirque du Sole acrobatics? Live animal acts? Do I have to find a cheap circus animal to come and perform nightly? Do they even hire them out like that? Maybe some of these animals take side gigs to make more money to provide for their families. I'm sure the circus doesn't pay very well these days. Perhaps I've gotten off track, but I can't help thinking about thinking about the side jobs of circus animals now.