This incident affected me way more than I thought it did at the time (and possibly way more than it affected Grace, who was the victim/recipient of the actions), so here I go rambling.
Yesterday, the three of us were visiting my in-laws for a bit. At some point, the habit of getting ready to leave followed by Grace getting a couple of marshmallows from my mother-in-law has developed. So yesterday, Grace was getting ready to go, she got her marshmallows in a baggie to take home and was making the rounds to say goodbye to everyone: her mom-mom and pop-pop (my in-laws), GG (her great grandmother), and a friend of my in-laws who’d stopped by to say hi. When she went to say goodbye to the friend (whom she’d been shy around and avoiding for the most part up until now) and he asked her about the marshmallows, she showed them to him and they started talking about them, with the friend quizzing her on what colors they were (which is annoying in itself but harmless so whatever). Then she went to take the bag back so we could leave and he pulled it away so she couldn’t get it. He repeated the offer/pull away routine a few times when Grace became upset and went to run away from him. People reassured her that he wasn’t taking them from her, they said he was just teasing, then they gave her the bag and encouraged her to say bye and give the friend a high five.
Intellectually, I know his intentions were in fun, but it brought up something emotionally for me that I’m feeling even the next day. Watching the scene play out even a mere five feet away, I felt helpless to protect her from what was happening. If a child had acted that way, would the expected response be laughing and understanding that he was “just teasing”? Or would someone have stepped in in defense of Grace and given the bag back to her? I felt helpless to stop this obviously distressing “teasing” and helpless to assist Grace to understand that her reaction was legitimate, since people were quicker than I to step in and tell her how she should feel. (I have minor issues with my in-laws’ use of the phrase “don’t cry” as well, but it’s usually been easier for me to reassure her in those instances.)
Part of my reaction has to do with my own grandmother using the phrase “just teasing” when I was younger. I can’t remember exactly the circumstances, but I remember strong feelings of not being taken seriously when I’d become upset at the teasing, or being told I was taking things too seriously or being too serious. These strong emotions are making it hard for me to understand if I’m reacting appropriately to something that happened to my child, or if I’m overreacting because I see myself in her place and see how hurt I’d feel were it me.