Of Lice and Ladies

This is a disturbing and cautionary tale….a tale about how nasty things happen to clean (though not necessarily organized) people. A tale so traumatizing that it’s taken me  months to work up the energy to re-live it and want to share it…..

All those die-hard fans of mine know that one of my core parenting beliefs is this – if you think it won’t happen to you – think again, cause it will and probably worse than you imagined.

When it comes to today’s topic, lice, I orbited that happy planet where if I put DD1s coat in the dryer and changed her clothes and kept her hair dirty (some say lice don’t like dirty hair), then it wouldn’t happen to us. I didn’t need to check her head, I just needed to follow a few steps during the school year.

Ahh…to be young and naive again……

We survived three years of preschool where lice infested classmates, the classroom, the school, but somehow we came away unscathed. I should have known our number was up. So fast forward to the careless summer, a time where mornings are relaxing, schedules are flexible and Pepco struggles to keep our electricity on every time it rains. Ain’t life grand?

DD1 finished a week of summer camp and three days later, she started itching her head. See, in preschool, there are warnings…notes come home, moms whisper in hushed tones about who has lice, you stare at those kids for evidence that they are dirty, their homes are dirty, their parents slobs, you toss your kid’s coat in the dryer at the end of the day, and all is well. But in random summer camps, there is no warning, there are no notes, no hushed tones in the playground, it’s just you against beast. A nasty, horrible fight.

So DD1 starts itching her head like a madwoman and I tell her to put some baby powder on her neck, it must be prickly heat.

Solid parenting 101 over here, right?

We head off to the beach, spend a week at my mom’s house (whoops….sorry mom) and DD1 keeps on itching. My mom was a school nurse for years, she begins to suspect “he who shall not be named”, so we “check” and just see what clearly MUST BE specs of sand. My kid doesn’t have lice! WE aren’t dirty, she’s cute, she’s clean, she’s well taken care of, she doesn’t live in squalor, she’s vacationing on the beach – she must be HOT. It is the hottest summer on record, right?

Another week goes by. I start getting frustrated,  yes, with a four-year-old, and I bark at her to stop itching because she’s making her “prickly heat” worse.

Oh yes, yes I did that. My mom checked, I figured, she’d know what to look for, and besides, no one sent an email around from camp alerting us about any lice infestations. Denial is the first sign, friends.

Some more time goes by…..isn’t that wonderful? We are a veritable breeding ground at this point…..memos are being sent to other louse…come one, come all, these people are IDIOTS and this head of hair is thick and warm and cozy……and this poor kid keeps getting barked at by her good-for-nothing mother about  her prickly heat! Hot headed and idiots…these lice are thinking…….just the kind of place we like to nest….

Then one evening, I decide that the itching has seriously gone on too long, is it time to see a dermatologist, I wonder, and what do I see, but bugs, HOPPING, through her hair, practically doing a jig.

Apparently it’s not time to see a doctor but instead time to buy some RID.

The rest of this tale is not funny or really even that interesting….it just involves an absurd amount of washing, washing and more washing, hair combing through, a hefty bill to the lice lady (yes, there are people out there whose livelihoods it is to remove all lice and louse and nits from heads), more washing and more hair combing through. My kid will now wear her hair up in pig tails, something she’d never agreed to before, all I have to do is make the threat “Do you want those bugs to come back?”

And for anyone paying attention and living in fear, yes, we all had it, me, my husband, the baby, and DD1 – all four of us. When you give lice a few weeks, turns out they know how to spread.

The moral in this classic tale – denial is a bad bad thing and just creates more work. I now orbit reality, not that happy planet of denial. I operate defensively, I assume at least one kid in her class has lice at all times, I don’t let her put her coat on a hook (never in a million years), she’s not allowed to play dress-up at school (sure, mock me, but you can come do my laundry next time it happens – we have plenty of dress up at home), she’s never allowed to get on another kid’s bed at playdates, I comb her hair through 2x a day with the licemeister comb and keep her hair up or tied back every day at school.

The thing about lice is this, it doesn’t cause illness, it is almost impossible to see (until you are a complete idiot like me and have bugs hopping happily around), and you can live in your house thinking things are peachy keen for quite a while – so it’s just a hassle. It’s a gross, nasty hassle and lice are definitely not pro-environment given the volume of laundry they create and trash bags of bagged stuffed animals they waste.

Speaking off, stuffed animals could be an entirely different entry, take a look around your house…see all those friendly soft critters, every single one of them is a lice breeding ground….and you don’t realize how many you have until your kid has lice.

So in the end, what did I learn? No matter how clean you are, how nice your house is, lice is an equal opportunity offender and never harbor feelings of ill will towards parents of kids who bring lice to school or your house….cause you never know when you’re going to be walking in those miserable shoes………oh….and comb through the kids hair 2x a day.

Feeling itchy yet?

One Response to Of Lice and Ladies
  1. Bridget
    December 16, 2010 | 11:17 pm

    Thanks for not mentioning that I also missed the lice in your child’s head!

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