Q- Dear Margo: The other day I caught my two primary-school-aged daughters in the tub with red food colouring and they were playing 'vagina blood' by dropping red food colouring into the water by their girl-bits.
This is not the first time I have caught them pretending to be menstruating. Should I be concerned that these kids are playing menstruating games? This seems really messed up. Are they being abused or something?
A- You obviously don’t need me to tell you that childhood sexual abuse is a serious issue and that a concerned parent should never ignore any of their suspicions and should instead educate themselves, and/or consult a professional. I am not a professional, but I can tell you what I think.
If your concerns are based on this incident alone, then no, I don’t think they are being abused. Your girls have an appropriate vocabulary for their body parts.
They call a vagina, a vagina (they didn’t tell you that they were playing the “sissy-blood game”). So someone has taught them, or they have learned for themselves, the proper word for their genitals.
Some would argue this form of frankness about their anatomy puts them less at risk of being abused, and it makes it easier for them to tell someone when something is wrong.
Instead of being weirded-out by their behaviour, you could look at the positive in that they are somewhat sexually educated, are playfully curious and are going to no great trouble to hide this from you, which I think is healthy because it means they are comfortable with you overseeing their games and have not yet learned to attach shame to this kind of behaviour.
Children who have been sexually abused (from what I know and have researched) tend to show a dramatic change of behaviour accompanied by strong negative emotions. I encourage you not to just take my word for it, but go ahead and look into it yourself. Every parent should be aware of the signs of childhood sexual abuse. As far as the behaviour goes: kids are weird, man. Think back to all the games you played, or the kids you knew played; some of them were strange, right?
More than one of my girlhood friends would purchase femme products from machines at the swimming pool just to see what they were about. One of my friend’s moms got real pissy about the ‘tampon in a water glass experiment,’ and I am still to this day a little peeved that she inflicted shame on us because of this natural curiosity in a product we would one day have to use.
In our culture menstruation really isn’t discussed that much; some mothers don’t educate (thanks mom) and sex-ed can either come too late (they already know) or fall short of quenching a child’s thirst for this kind of information. So it should make sense that children (especially girls) are more than curious about this seemingly secret phenomenon. Bring home (if you haven’t already) an age appropriate book about puberty. Education, and your young girls’ fascination with menstruating will help them better ‘deal’ when the time comes.
Ain’t it funny how many young girls are duped, they can’t wait for ‘it’ to happen, and then later wonder why on earth they had wished for such a thing. Need some advice real bad? Ask Margo: