It’s 7:30am on a Saturday morning and Clare did not know this was a time that existed.
It’s still dark (it’s not, but it feels dark) and cold (it’s the middle of summer).
She’s driving to pick up a toddler, so his parents can go to a wedding and talk to other grown adults, perhaps for the first time since their three-year-old was born.
When Clare arrives, the toddler is sitting on the lounge with a toy that he announces isn’t his. After a few mumbled instructions, and a wave towards a pile of toddler accessories, the toddler’s parents leave, and Clare is alone with a baby who she quickly learns hates being referred to as a baby.
It takes an absurdly long time to leave the house, mostly because the toddler comes with a great deal of trinkets, including but not limited to: sunscreen, a hat, a nappy (just. in. case), a toy, another toy in case he decides he hates the other toy, Crocs, a change of clothes, a screwdriver that reminds him of his dad (probably should have confiscated that but eh), a book, a lunchbox, a water bottle, and a number of unidentifiable yet equally necessary objects.
LISTEN: If your kids go to bed with the Giggle and Hoot goodnight song every night, we’ve got some bad news.
Once in the car, on the way to our house, toddler mumbles to himself, and Clare wonders if she should make light conversation.
“How’s pre-school going anyway?” she asks, before getting a response that she is 90 per cent sure was in Spanish.
She realises one of the best qualities about toddlers is that they have no sense of social awkwardness, and she sits in silence for the rest of the trip, while he chats to himself about cars or dogs or something.
At home, Jessie embraces toddler who has sticky hands and no one knows why.
Toddler asks Jessie why she is wiping down the bench, and she says, “I clean on Saturdays”.
He replies, “But it’s Tuesday…” and both of us start to question our own sense of reality.
The plan is to take the toddler in our possession to the Wildlife Park in Darling Harbour, because we’ve decided that kids are just like dogs, and you gotta tire them out with activities.
He agrees to the plan, and says he is excited to see the ‘moos’ which is code for cows.
There are no moos.
We head to Darling Harbour, and walk past an idyllic fountain where children are playing. The toddler wades in ankle deep water, and we go to take a photo of how cute he is being.
He then dives into what, realistically, is piss water, submerging his head (... somehow) and all limbs. Just as we go to grab him, he rolls over like a pig in a mud pit, as to sufficiently wet his entire body.
He squelches for the next three hours and we've never been so grateful for the waterproof quality of Crocs.
"Do you think they'll let him into the Wildlife Park this... wet?" Clare asks Jessie.
"Yeah, I'm pretty sure this would happen all the time," Jessie says, not believing a single word she is saying.
Once inside the Wildlife Park, we notice the toddler is far more excited about the prospect of seeing certain animals than actually seeing them. He gets most excited about a frog enclosure that turns out to be empty, closely followed by a very unconvincing statue of a bird.
At one point, he tries to infiltrate the kangaroo enclosure which is sealed off only with ropes (you need more... security) and we have to do a discipline which consists of, "Hey, nah, don't, pretty sure kangaroos kick or something."
He seems to understand.
When we leave the Wildlife Park he's still wet but relatively unfazed, which we believe is resilience building.
There appears to be a superhero convention nearby, and grown adults are walking around in Transformer costumes. Toddler. Can't. Deal. His eyes glaze over. He is suspicious but also curious. This moment will confuse him for years to come.
When we get home, we swear there's something we forgot to do, and Clare says, "Hey... do toddlers still nap? Or only babies?" Toddler gets angry at the word 'baby', and is inexplicably walking around the apartment with daddy's screwdriver again. Seriously, it's a hazard and someone should do something about it.
We check notes left by mum, which clearly state he should have been asleep an hour ago. By the time we look up, he is face down unconscious on the lounge, still with screwdriver.
An hour later he wakes up and says he wants to "play because it's Tuesday," a simple factual inaccuracy we refuse to correct him on. We take him to the park, and on the way he asks, "What that?" while pointing at an O-Bike.
Given that O-Bikes are Jessie's biggest gripe, she goes into a 20 minute rant about the fundamental flaw of their business model, and how humans will always destroy shit if it's shared. Toddler nods, and Jessie knows she has done an important education.
When we get home, it's toddler dinnertime, which is adult afternoon, and we decide Weet Bix will do.
Toddler is excited by complete destruction of life routine, and eats upwards of four Weet Bix which feels like a lot for a small child.
It's now bath time, mostly because toddler has been covered in piss water and apple juice (there was a spill that didn't seem significant enough to mention) for far too many hours.
Toddler gets in bath and starts playing with, er, water trinkets, at which point we ask each other, "How long is bath time meant to go for? Like 10 minutes or an hour?" We ask toddler and he starts banging loud things together like an actual maniac.
After 20 or so minutes, toddler says "ENOUGH NOW" and demands towel. We wrap him up, but then he throws the towel off because this is his favourite part of the day: Running around all naked and hiding in his tent.
Now, we decide, it's time for bed, which we have no idea how to... enforce.
"Bed...?" Clare asks, with clear lack of confidence. Toddler laughs because no.
"You wanna watch Wiggles quietly?" Jessie asks, commending herself on level of slyness.
Toddler watches Wiggles for a while, then wants to watch something else, and then something else, before Jessie says, "Yo, I was hoping to watch this stand up comedy thing on Netflix tonight, you keen for that?" He hands over laptop, and together we watch an entirely age inappropriate show, which manages somehow to put him to sleep.
He wakes up a few times and says "AH!" because he misses mum and dad, but we pat him on the head and he dozes back off.
"He went to bed a little later tonight," Jessie assures Clare. "So I'm sure he'll sleep in a bit tomorrow morning..."
Narrator: He did not sleep in a bit tomorrow morning.
At 6:20am, Jessie is awoken to toddler at edge of bed saying two words: "Play. Now," holding a screwdriver, which is far more terrifying than any horror movie she's ever watched.
She makes him breakfast, and then puts on cartoons, which are particularly torturous early on a Sunday morning.
At one point, hours later (it... it was only 6:40am) toddler loses screwdriver and starts crying because "daddy". Eventually it is found inside a drawer that toddler definitely can't reach. The mystery stumps everyone.
Jessie then takes toddler back to his house, where he gets on a scooter that may or may not belong to him, and heads for the road. Jessie has to run which she swears wasn't part of the deal. He starts playing with his neighbours, which seem to be around six, and Jessie doesn't know how to ask: "So, ah, are you sweet to mind him, because it's 10am and I kind of need a nap..."
Instead, she hangs out with them, and toddler asks if she can please fill up his bucket with water. He then leads her to the front yard, where he has dug a hole and motions for Jessie to fill it. She obediently does so, and then he cries like she has never seen someone cry before, because apparently she actually ruined his hole. He sulks in the corner for five minutes and Jessie feels both awkward and apologetic. She then bribes him with a snack which is definitely... bad. To this day, she does not know what she was meant to do with the hole.
The toddler's parents arrive home that afternoon, and of course he is asleep because he is enormously sleep-deprived and also maybe coming down off a sugar-hit.
Toddler has no visible injuries, is somewhat clothed, and smells fine.
And as Jessie leaves she whispers in toddler's little ear: "Don't tell mummy and daddy about the screwdriver."
Too much noise and not enough time?