Often, it happens without warning, as I enter a room.
I have less than a tenth of a second to assess the situation, plan a response, and act.
If I get it wrong there will be consequences.
Ranging from a catastrophic loss of trust, to a blood-stained carpet, and in the worst cases to a long wait sipping vended coffee in A&E.
If you’ve ever had to catch a small child, mid-leap, as they fling themselves trustingly at you, you’ll no doubt be nodding in empathetic agreement.
They do it because it’s fun – simple as that.
They also do it because you always catch them, because you’re daddy.
If you dropped them, they’d stop, but you don’t drop them, because of the consequences, so they keep doing it.
It’s a classic parenting catch-22.
The stakes are raised when the small child becomes a medium-sized child – one seemingly unaware of their own weight and heft, but trusting nonetheless.
They clamber up on to the arm of the settee and thrown themselves in your general direction. You squeal – nooooaarrrgghhh! – but maintain enough composure to catch them, heart racing, and relieved.
In my experience they’re probably about four-years-old, and the incident is akin to an angry grocer assaulting you with a sack of potatoes.
Trust me – I’ve antagonised enough greengrocers over the years to know what that feels like.
If it weren’t for your well-developed core strength, honed over several years of intensely physical parenting, your child would now be smeared across the living room floor.
The un-breakable bond of trust un-fixably broken.
If you negotiate the medium-sized phase with a 100% record you deserve some kind of recognition. But you don’t get it, because parenting doesn’t work like that.
What you get is phase three.
Which is the same as phase two, but the child leaping at you is now seven years old, and this has gone too far.
My seven year old is practically a fully grown human. He can almost lift me. His unquestioning trust is in equal parts touching, and stupid.
It is only a matter of time before he blind-sides me, and I hit the deck like a sacked quarterback on my own ten-yard line.
And all because I didn’t nip things in the bud and drop him when he was a two-year-old.
It’s a confusing business, this parenting lark.