This is a very old piece I wrote when one of my now-grown kids had lice. Just reading it makes me itchy, so beware! Contains spicy language. (although, frankly, I’m surprised at my own restraint, here). There's no real point to this story. I'm just here to amuse you and give you the heebie-jeebies whilst I wait for the algorithms to find me.
FREAKED-OUT SHOPPING LIST (extra points, if it’s purchased at 2am)
1. Nix shampoo. Don't fuck around. Get the good stuff.
2. Hair clips to section hair.
3. Magnifying glass (They don't run in straight lines. It’s more like a demented Plinko path)
4. Metal lice comb
5. A million paper towels
6. Large pot (that i will NEVER use again!)
7. Wire rack for bottom of pot, Try not to melt your nit comb (smacks forehead)
8. Coconut oil (leave on for at least 6 hours to suffocate the little fuckers. Plan to watch a LOT of Dora The Explorer)
9. Shower cap
10. More paper towels, to clean up the trail the shower cap made when it shot off your head like a slingshot.
11. Don't forget to blot your neck as the oil runs into your bra.
12. White vinegar to rinse and add to laundry. (also adds to your general loveliness, regarding smell)
13. Hair dryer that gets really, really hot.
14. Ear plugs, so you can’t hear you child whine.
15. A million garbage bags, to put stuffed animals in that you couldn’t throw away because your child is watching you. Ditto for all of your couch cushions and pillows. Leave them for six weeks. Don't throw them away by 'accident' unless you think you'll need a therapeutic trip to Pottery Barn afterwards.
16. Lysol spray for mattresses, or a winning lottery ticket so you can replace them.
17. A really good vacuum, to use on all carpets, mattresses, couches, car seats and car interiors (don’t forget the roof interior!)
18. The number of a good carpet installer, if you’re really paranoid.
19. White sheets to cover your leather couch with (because your husband won’t let you throw THAT away), so you can sit on it while waiting for the treatments to kill everything.
20. Lavender and tea tree oil for laundry, and possibly your head.
21. Spray bottle to wet hair during daily torture sessions with the nit comb.
22. Baking soda, to see the nits better, if you’re having trouble.
23. Lots of hot water for laundry (no one gets a hot shower for the next 2 days!)
24. Tea tree oil shampoo and conditioner (because the Nix packaging says we can’t use it every day)
25. More patience than I have
26. Large bottle of vodka. That's just for you. (you’re welcome).
You know how they say you haven’t really lived in New York unless you’ve been mugged?
Well, I have a theory - you haven’t really experienced parenthood until you’ve found lice on your child.
As I sit on my porch, feeling the sickly trail of coconut and tea tree oil running down my neck, I have time to reflect. Six hours, to be exact, and I’ve realized that I wasn’t truly done, hadn’t really experienced my ‘last cookie enjoyment,’ until I found eight new friends on my rugrat’s head. Over the years, I survived Emily's febrile seizure at age 5 as her fever soared to 105 degrees, Michael’s fall from his tree house, resulting in a torn Gluteus Maximus muscle, (aka, The Ass Dent), Emily’s broken nose (neighborhood trampoline), and Michael’s head gash (fireplace hearth), resulting in several stitches and a new living room carpet (no one can clean up THAT much blood). I even (barely) survived almost losing him to anaphylactic shock after he stepped into that hornet’s nest at age 12.
These are all big events - frightening events, but none of them so inspiring of the heebie-jeebies as this. It was a point of pride, that I had never had a child with head lice. Sort of like, “Yeah, I totally rock at this parenting thing", which is about as absurd as being proud that your child has never had a cold or been attacked by mosquitos. Ah, but pride goeth before the fall, right?? I am, perhaps the germaphobiest (is that a word? It should be), person you’d ever (not) want to meet. Ah-choo? Nice knowing you. Doctor’s offices? “Do NOT touch the toys, child!!!” Hospitals? Sheldon’s got nothing on me, as I ask myself, “Oh, what fresh hell is this?” As I write this, my heebies have jeebies! It is extremely humbling to realize that you cannot spare your child from the injuries and diseases of childhood, no matter how great a parent you are trying to be.
And yet, I had one more comeuppance. One more thing, to teach me that I had yet to be truly and karmically served. So, here we are, after being up until 5:30am, washing with Nix and nitpicking nits, and squashing every little bugger I could find. Eight lice bugs. Eight lice bugs and about 30 nits pulled from my kid's hair that probably only weigh a combined total of .00001 grams, and this is enough to show me what a smug asshole I’ve been about all of those notices I’ve gotten from school over the years. "Not my kids', I would tell myself as I absently scratched my own head, and frantically checked for signs of the dreaded scourge. "Not in my house", reassuring myself that we were clean, and therefore would never have to make those embarrassing phone calls to playmates parents, warning of potential pestilence. What a maroon!
So, do I have them, too, you must be wondering? Who the hell knows? Have you seen how much hair I have?? Past my shoulders, which points out exactly how smart those moms who cut their hair really are! As I mentioned before, I am a class 1 germophobe and hypochondriac, so I’m going to assume they’re in there somewhere! Besides, what fun would it be if I didn’t go through the same mortifying rituals my kid is at the moment? I’ll consider it a bonding moment. Eyes watering from the stench of Nix shampoo? Check. Frizzed-out hair from combing with a nit comb? Check. Hair soaked in coconut oil? (at least, it’s conditioning, although I’m sure I will look like I’ve rolled in bacon grease for the next week) Check. Head wrapped in Saran Wrap, as I sit on my front porch amusing my neighbours with my pissed off expression because I now HATE the smell of coconut, and look like I've been recently lobotomized? Check, check. Maybe I can just pass it off as a home-permanent? Wait!!! Maybe THAT would kill them???
I've learned something else about lice today, in my heebie-jeebie-inspired search of head lice forums. It turns out (and I'm actually surprised this didn't occur to me) that nits develop, too. It makes sense, doesn't it? When they're first laid, they're almost microscopic, and they fatten up and grow bigger as the baby louse develops within the egg. Bleghhhh. Seriously...fricking bleghhhh! So, I've been driving myself crazy, wondering why I keep finding new nits when there are no bugs left. The answer? They were there all along, but I just couldn't see them yet. Kind of like, "Theeeeyyyyyre Heeeeerrrreeeee!" (bet she had lice). The lice shampoo says that it kills nits, too, but scientists (aka Jeff Goldblum in basically ANY movie) is saying that lice (and therefore their eggs) have developed a resistance to these treatments, which explains why the live lice I found in the 2 hours of nitpicking and careful combing after treating my kid that first night were still sort of staggering around, drunk and wondering where the hell their kegger went? I mean, they were pretty easy to get because they were really slowed down by the shampoo, but still - they weren't dead until I killed them by squishing the little fuckers with my fingernail. It's the old double-tap, so the zombie can't infect you when you think he's dead, but you really should have known better. So, it stands to reason, that since the shampoo says it would kill lice and nits, and it obviously didn't quite do the job on the lice, some of the nits might still be viable. In fact, most lice shampoos say that they kill the lice, but NOT the nits, and that since you can't use it more than once a week, you should wait until the nits hatch, and kill them with a follow-up treatment once they're active, but before they develop enough to lay new ones. This is some serious zombie-apocalyptic-shit here! If you believe that all of the nits were laid at the same time, and will develop within the exact same timeline, you're sort of like the sheriff in those old zombie movies who saunters up halfway through the film, to assure everybody that "The worst is over. Nothing to see here, folks." In my limited zombie/alien movie experience, he's always the next to die, and deservedly so! But beware - there is definitely something brewing in Sigourney Weaver's belly, no matter how attractive she is! In order to really win the war against head lice, you've got to be more like that person who invariably chooses the seat behind me in the theatre making me pee a little every time she screams, "Behind you!" Since I found a total of 8 live lice, which were in various stages of size, (and I would assume) development, it stands to reason that some of the nits would be in different stages, as well. Think, people! When you get to the creature's lair, there are always a few pods bursting to hatch, and some just benignly pulsating in the background in time with the music, and our hero always seems to turn his back on the one that's about to open his eyes and become sentient! I mean, doesn't he HEAR the creepy music??? So, really, the best line of defense is the tried and true method of manually picking out the nits you find, every day, ensuring that none of them have a chance to hatch. WE MUST REMAIN VIGILANT!!! Otherwise, you may as well ignore the creepy man in the black hat, because it's just a matter of time before you figure out your house is built on a graveyard full of zombies.
Zombies that hatch.
Have I mangled enough movie metaphors for one night?