It’s not love. It’s actually much closer to loathe. It all started on an innocent Monday morning as I was walking the kids to school. I saw what I assumed were mayflies in my oldest daughter’s hair.
It wasn’t mayflies.
I had it confirmed by my sis, since I am a lice virgin. With a heavy heart and an already extremely itchy scalp, I turned home to face the mountainous task in front of me. One I had dreaded since the first day of school. Once I had spent the majority of JK trying to prevent, only to slip up in SK.
I spent the walk home going over where I had gone wrong as a parent. Had she picked it up at school? I let her wear that stupid hat in last week. She must have shared it around. There hadn’t been any ‘lice letters’ home from school for weeks and I had gotten cocky. I had let her wear her hair down and wear an elf hat ‘just for fun’. I had let my guard down.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized this might be an act of karma for the family. The previous Saturday had been rainy and dreary. After a day spent indoors, we had decided to take the kids to burn off some energy after an early dinner. We went to a play place, I won’t say where to protect the possibly innocent. After about twenty minutes of the kids running around I asked my husband to take our not quite potty-trained three-year-old to the bathroom. Twenty minutes later she emerged from the plastic jungle paradise soaked in urine. Down to her socks. I then found out my husband had simply asked her if she had to go pee and the TOOK HER WORD FOR IT. He then had to inform the manager, who found some low-level lackey to don rubber gloves and track down her mess.
We left behind a mess, we took home an even bigger mess.
Day 1: Denial
After a thorough inspection, it was discovered while my oldest was infested and my middle daughter only had a very mild case. I shampooed those two with chemicals while the rest of us did a preventative olive oil treatment. I spent the day cleaning clothes, floors, bedding and steaming everything. I bagged up the toys and then vacuumed everything I could. My husband came home and took the rest of the laundry (I literally had a five-foot tall pile) to a local laundromat and spent his evening hanging out waiting for bedding to dry. I thought the worst of it was over. We decided as a family for my daughter to stay out of school one more day to be safe.
Day 2: Destruction
With my house cleaner than it had been in months, we decided to spend the day at the zoo. I called up a close friend and we met with our kids for a fun adventure. I let my friend know that the kids had an encounter with the little critters but it was over and done. After a fun filled day, we met up another set of friends at the park.
“I know that it’s gone but I still cringe when I see them hug,” joked the friend’s dad.
That night at bath time, my husband began yelling for me to come upstairs.
“Is this what I think it is?”
At this point all three kids had it. My husband had freaked out and shaved his head the first day. Luckily as I have dyed hair, it seemed I was also more or less immune. Cue another trip to the laundromat and three more chemical treatments. I know I had to make some uncomfortable phone calls. It was eerily similar to those calls people have to make when they find out they have an STD and the reaction (I assume) was pretty similar.
Embarrassed mother: “Hey Buddy. You know the last time we hung out? Well, I thought it was safe but it turns out it was not.”
Duped father: “You mean I could have it? Do we need to get checked now?”
Embarrassed mother: “Yes and yes. And I would also find a new babysitter. Sorry.”
This time, the evening air had a tense feeling. The trip to the laundromat was no longer ‘a fun story to tell’ but more of a huge inconvenience and expense. We realized that the reason we thought the bugs were gone was because the lice comb is actually really ineffective in getting the nits off. I saw a clean comb and thought it meant a clean head when if fact, it meant the opposite. We faced the scary fact that despite our best efforts, the lice were winning. We needed to get our sh*t together and fast.
Day 3: Determination
The next day started with a tiny ray of hope. After calling in ‘licey’ to work, I got a bit of really great advice. The lady that I worked with advised me to mix equal parts oil and vinegar into the hair, leave it for 30-60 minutes and then use the comb. Luckily, it seemed this approached worked like a charm and I was able to get the bugs out easily. I threw the bedding into a hot dryer, flipped and vacuumed the mattresses and began praying for relief. After their treatment, I was able to get their scalps fairly clean and finally saw a light at the end of the tunnel.
The stigma that now surrounded us held on though.
That night was soccer uniform pick-up and I had ‘warned’ friends we were coming. Despite a huge crowd, I saw them conjugating and trying to avoid eye contact. Oh well, it had been three days and we needed to begin to work our way back into society. I approached and watched the group take a collective step back. I knew better than to ensure them that we were safe.
“It’s getting there. We think we are done.”
It was the words I was too scared to speak aloud before but wished so deeply to be true. My husband wanted me to keep the kids home for a full seven days just to be safe but by day three I was going a little stir crazy and couldn’t take the constant head checks. After two clean checks in a row, back to school they went. Hair dirty, braided and doused with pesticide-free preventative spray.
I can’t make one of those phone calls again.
*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Parent Life Network or their partners.