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Tips from a new dad: ‘I’ve discovered the secret to keeping a toddler entertained’

by Laurence Mackin
22nd Nov 2019

child strange obsessions

child strange obsessions

Laurence Mackin’s daughter has developed some strange obsessions — and he’s more than happy to indulge them

My daughter has developed some strange obsessions. Much like head colds and relatives, they appear suddenly and without warning, and have a tendency to linger for weeks or months. There is no logic to them that we can ascertain even if they seem vital to her. Perhaps, if I manage to decipher them, I might unlock a new level of understanding in baby/adult relations, one that will move our society to a new epoch, and away from the largely Calpol-based transactional economy we currently labour under.

So far, though, these things remain largely enigmas. It should also be noted that these are things she must typically carry within seconds of seeing them. You are not allowed have. She must have. She must have now. Here are some of these things so you can quickly hide them should you meet her. I would also like to apologise in advance.


She must have the keys that are in your hand, immediately. We were not surprised by this, as there does seem to be a long tradition of people jingling keys at babies in order to keep them entertained, especially when the child is crying. I’m not sure what message this sends: surely if your child is annoyed, the last thing you should be doing is rattling your house keys at them, laughing at the fact that they have no keys of their own, and given the housing crisis, they never will?

This, though, does not deter her, so she still wants your keys. My wife, being the smart one in the relationship, bought her a little set of keys. It has a real uncut car key, as she likes keys so much that she will immediately jam them in her mouth. It also has a fake car key, with little buttons that beep and meep as if locking our imaginary car remotely.

We gave these to our daughter. She jingled them once, maybe twice, and has ignored them ever since.

Last week, though, I found her with my house keys which she was jamming into the front door lock, in the midst of one of many attempted escapes. Not so fast, Steve McQueen.


Loves a phone. Any phone. It’s probably because of the moving pictures, the interactivity, the pretty colours and the opportunity to order food at a push of a button that is full of salt and actual flavour. The main reason she wants your phone though is that she loves watching videos of herself. If you don’t have a decent library of videos of her, she is probably not interested.


Not since Gene Kelly has anyone loved an umbrella as much as my daughter. She tends to walk around with it, tap, tap, tapping the floor like an actor doing a bad audition for Winston Churchill. The fact that it is taller than she is is utterly adorable. Unfortunately, she seems to have figured out that she can use the handle to pick up and hook things that are out of reach or, better yet, use it as a climbing device. This is probably a cause for concern for parents who get caught up in the minor, dangerous details.


I dearly hope she is not a little Imelda Marcos in waiting, but she certainly shares her love of shoes. Her favourite thing to do with shoes is wear just one and hold the other while walking around the house. It’s doing nothing for her posture. In fact, she loves shoes so much that when you put some on her, you need to give her another to hold so you can slip the main pair on. I have yet to see if these decisions are sartorially based, but so far she is addicted to her little black Nikes and little blue Clarkes, and even to me these seem like solid fashion choices. The shoe as handbag trend she seems to be rocking? Not so much.


So these proclivities are mostly cute and largely forgivable. But this one has gotten me into trouble on more than one occasion. It usually begins with a point at your midriff. Then a shout. Then a poke with her pudgy little finger. And then she lifts up a T-shirt or top to get a look at your creamy middle, which she thinks is the most hilarious, fascinating object since her shoes. This is all fine in the comfort of your own sofa, but when you are out and about and she does it to a complete stranger, it’s as charming as belly button fluff. And it’s not like you can just roar “Stop pointing at his belly” in the middle of the street. There are no winners here.

Parenting tip No. 5

As outlined above, when it comes to keeping my daughter happy, distraction is the key. Won’t put her shoes on? Hand her another shoe. Won’t eat her dinner? Put something hilarious in her eyeline and shove the spoon in sideways. Bawling her eyes out at having her nappy so cruelly changed again? Tickle her little soft feet until she cry-giggles. I’ve developed the sort of misdirection skills that Penn and Teller would admire. Just don’t jiggle your house keys at them, you smug monster.

Read more: Tips from a new dad: Can parents squeeze in a swift pint with a smallie in tow?

Read more: Tips from a new dad: ‘I have a daughter and now I cry at movies, ads, music and matches. What fresh hell is this?’

Read more: Tips from a new dad: Find an alternative to stupid baby monitors and treat your child like a wedding

Photo: Unsplash