I am not a violent person. I don't think I am especially angry. But if you've ever taken your child to a play centre then you might just have an inkling of an idea where I'm coming from when I say I have been tempted to punch a 6 year old boy in the throat.
Here's what I know. Play centres, while advertised as fun for kids and relaxing for parents, are actually the ninth circle of hell. Or the tenth. I forget what we're up to. What you learn very quickly when you take your kid out into the big, wide world is that people suck. And their kids suck even harder.
If you witness a (devil)child lifting your child off a bike BY THE HAIR just because (devil)child has decided they want it for themselves then I challenge you not to imagine any kind of throat punching. Of course, you're not going to actually do it but what CAN you do? Because it always seems that little Satan's parents are conspicuously absent.
My rule is this. I'll have a look around to see if I can spot the missing parent first. But if no one comes forth to claim the demon seed and the demon seed continues to be an arse clown, then I can't promise I won't do some very serious glaring. I mean, my face will be all kinds of stern. And I've never been pushed this far yet but I am prepared to do the "I'm watching you!" mime – you know, the one where you point to your own eyes and then point at the target, real menacing-like.
Don't get me wrong, I use the play centre as an opportunity to not have to talk to my kid, too. And no, I don't always know where LD is or what he's doing at every moment he's within the walls of the play centre. But I like to think I look up from my book/writing/mobile phone (read: magazine/doodling/plate of fries) at appropriate intervals. And I'm pretty good at picking out a cry/call for help that belongs to my kin. And hey, I'm not a straighty-180 stickler for rules but the sign says "Three Years and Under" so unless you're the world's most gigantic toddler, piss off out of the little kids area, Satan Jnr!
I'm not saying my kids are perfect. I dare not leave Zee alone for even a minute because I can bet he will gouge some poor unsuspecting person's eyes out just trying to say hello. And LD did crash into a little girls head once while riding down one of those Little Tikes rollercoasters. But at least I had the decency to come running over, apologising profusely, face ashen with shame.
In all seriousness, watching your kid interact with others can be brutal. We're hard-wired to want to protect them. And punch the throats of anyone who attempts to bring them harm. And then, you discover, like a slap in the face, that not everyone parents the same way. It's tricky terrain to navigate.
But whenever I feel conflicted about the question of what is an appropriate response to a child hurting or bothering my own child, I think of something my friend, M, said to me once. She said:
"As long as you don't give the kid a Liverpool kiss and then scream in their face, 'Wasssssup?' you're probably okay"
Hey, it resonated with me. If you have a better idea, I'd like to hear it.