The Great Barometer

Mom didn’t like talking about menstruation, but she did tell me at least one thing: If you’re lucky enough to have a regular cycle, chart it so you won’t be taken unawares.

I’m sure she didn’t specifically use those words (Mom would never say “taken unawares,” but that’s what came to mind when I sat down to write), but since I was a rule follower and almost always did as Mom said, once I began my period, I did chart my cycle. And I was lucky enough to have that regular cycle she talked about. So for years, every 28 days, almost like clockwork, my period arrived.

Menstruation is a topic I don’t mind talking about, so my kids know it’s fair game at home. When Zoe and Talia still lived in the house, I encouraged them to chart their cycles too. And when Melina began menstruating, same thing.

Melina doesn’t like talking about her period. Ever. And she doesn’t like to chart it either. But she will walk by me ever so slowly and whisper, “I got my period,” because she knows I’ll put a mark on the calendar.

The thing is, I know when she’s going to get her period before she does, and I knew when the girls would get theirs. That’s because I’m the great barometer.

Long after I began menstruating but before I had kids, I read up on learning to listen to your body. Tracking fertility also helps learn about your cycles, so with respect to my own body, I can pretty much tell you when I’m going to have my period. (Now that I’m OLD, and my cycle is as fickle as the Ohio weather, my ability is declining, but that’s for another post.) The thing is, while I don’t grill my children about what’s happening inside their bodies and/or their underwear, I’m very observant in terms of behavior and skin changes.

I used to say, “Are you going to get your period?” to the girls. They’d say maybe. And then lo and behold, two days later, Aunt Flo arrived.

It’s not magic. It’s observation.

The other day, Melina got into the car. I squinted my eyes (which I need to do more now that I’ve had cataract surgery but I don’t have the right prescription for my glasses yet). My gaze roamed her face, lingered a moment on the new pimple on her chin. My mind leapt back to that morning, to how she spoke to me, her gestures. Everything about the morning routine. “Are you getting your period?” I said.

She rolled her eyes and tossed her hair, just a little. “Mom! And no.” She didn’t like that I had pointed out the pimple on her chin without actually pointing out the pimple. She didn’t like that I was asking her to talk about something she didn’t want to talk about. She didn’t like that I had accosted her just as she entered the car.

We drove home talking about everything other than her period.

But guess what? The next morning, Melina came downstairs for breakfast. “Can you get more orange and purple pads today?” she asked.

I rolled my eyes, tossed my hair, and added them to the list.

Image of measuring device by Tom from

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