They catch you when you wake up in the morning, using your body as a trampoline. Despite the pain and the aches, you actually look forward to being awoken this way.
They say Papa when you least expect it, after 4 years of silence.
They say Papa for the whole car trip, after they learn it at 18 months.
And another way they sneak up on you is they get born, and it only fully sinks in two weeks before the date.
When you have your firstborn, it is a major event. Everything is larger than life. Every ant is an evil monster to be killed. Every item in the hospital bag (or hospital luggage if you want to be accurate) is important. Everything needs to be bought — the cot, the clothes, the bottles, the toys.
By the time you have your second child, everything is cool. The wife even does some of the gynecologist visits on her own. You take a Gameboy to the hospital.
And then number three, possibly the Baby of the family, is due to arrive.
Number three is the sneakiest one. With Papa and Mommy busy with her autistic oldest sister, and precocious second brother, Baby knows she needs to make her presence felt.
So Mommy gets more uncomfortable kicks and movements than from any one of her kids. Mommy gets more nausea than before. Mommy has less appetite, her favourite foods taste horrible.
But even with all these attention-seeking reminders, Papa and Mommy are not quite ready when the doctor tells them... soon.
Then we start to realise the wardrobes and drawers have no space.
We realise have given out all the infant clothes to other Mommies.
We realise the bottles and nipples need to be replaced.
We realise the white cot handed down from my younger brother (because Isaac is still using his) is still being used a mini-storeroom.
We realise we still haven't chosen a first name for Baby and have been using her second name thus far.
At least the wall fan was bought and installed in the kids room, I tell the wife helpfully.
"We need a checklist, I think," I tell the wife with my best take-charge tone. "Go write one, ok?"
You think you get better at having children after you've had a few. But really, we've had to learn something new each time. With Faith we needed to learn to deal with autism. With Isaac, we needed to learn to deal with a boy. With Baby, we will need to talk to parents who have three kids or more. What are the logistics of dealing with three?
Like I said, kids sneak up on you.
"Faith really looks like she wants to swim. You should have brought her swimming things," the wife chided.
"She'll be fine. We'll just keep her at the playground, and away from the sight of the pool." I am always an optimist.
"She is really starting to whimper and pull at you, I think she really wants to swim," said the wife.
Her friend kindly offered her son's smaller bodysuit for Faith to wear.
"Ok then," I said, a Papa's heart is very easy to un-harden, you don't even need to know how to talk, "I suppose she can swim in this square pool next to the BBQ pit, it looks small enough. That kid who just used it doesn't look much taller than Faith."
Like a stone from a catapult, my Faith bolted from my wife's hand.
One step, two steps, three steps, hang on, why is her head underwater?
Like a stone, she sank into the 0.9m mini-pool that was just a tad deep for her height. I could see her struggling to stand, her head tilted back in an attempt to break the surface, as I waded into the pool to get her out.
She looked a little surprised when I pulled her clear, but not frightened.
I, on the other hand, was terrified.
Then I realised that I had waded in fully clothed and was drenched from my jeans to chest level.
I also had my waist pouch on, with my iPod and my camera in it. I removed them immediately and surprisingly they were dry, as the water did not seep into the pouch fast enough (thank you, Eastpak). My wallet was in my jeans, but it only got damp. Amazing.
Twice she decided she was bored of the baby pool and climbed over the wall separating the big pool from the baby one. Twice I had to run over to stop her because she did not have her arm floats on.
My daughter, I discovered, can really climb and she moves like lightning. I should have known how quick she can be from the way she swiped some birthday cake not long ago, during Isaac's birthday party.
I decided to drive home to change, after Faith was done swimming. When I walked back to my car, I realised my running bag was still in the boot, with a full set of clothing and my track shoes. So I took a shower at the pool toilet and returned faster than expected. God bless the running bag.
Having children is not unlike being unable to swim, and in a pool too deep for you, and without your arm floats.
One step, two steps, three steps... sink.
But we have each other, and if it gets too deep, Love will fish us out of deep water. Even if it means jumping in fully clothed.