Thursday, December 1, 2011

Of Lice and Kin

So far this school year, my first grader has managed to avoid strep throat, stomach flu, and every other communicable disease known to elementary students. She has skipped steadily through the first semester with barely a cough or sneeze. A couple of weekends ago, however, I literally ran head first into an obsessive compulsive mother’s worst nightmare.

While on a visit to my sister’s home (who by the way also has OCD), we made the gruesome discovery. We had been wrestling with my daughter and nephew in the living room when we saw it. My sweet little girl, who bathes every evening at 6:30PM sharp and thoroughly washes and conditions every lock of her long, curly hair, was crawling with critters. It was all my sister and I could do to not bolt and run.

“What is it?” my daughter asked.

“Lice!” I screamed.



I could see the confusion on her face. “Cooties” was just a board game with some cute plastic bugs in tennis shoes, right?

“Bugs in your hair!”

She looked even more confused.

My sister and I went into hyper-OCD drive. We got an over the counter lice kit and treated my daughter, my nephews and each other. That evening, as she lay sleeping, I dug through her hair like one of those monkeys at the zoo (minus the snacking on the bugs). She was still crawling with them. I felt sick. I reported it to my sister the next day. I could tell we had worn out our welcome. I treated my daughter one more time. Then we helped strip the beds and quarantine the room before we left for home.

Once home, I started the first of 10 loads of boiling hot laundry. I vacuumed. I sprayed furniture lice spray on everything. I treated her hair again and picked knits with a comb. I cleaned all of the bedding. I bagged everything in plastic that was not washable and banished it to the guest bedroom. Then I began making the dreaded phone call, text and email of shame. I contacted the parents of every play date she had for the previous month, the school, her teacher, our neighbor and our babysitter. It was awful. Finally, I cut 5 inches off her golden mane with my sewing scissors as a last resort.  For the next several days, I checked for bugs and knits and combed and parted and checked again. Surely my efforts would pay. I tightly braided what was left of her hair and shellacked it with hairspray because one of my helpful friends said she read it would deter lice.

Then, I received a phone call from the school nurse. She was so sweet. She told me how sorry she was that we were going through this, but that she had found several more knits around my daughter’s ears. There were no live lice, but we needed to get rid of the knits to ensure they didn’t come back. When I told her how many times I had used the treatment, she pleaded with me not to use the toxic drug store treatments anymore because they are not good for kids. She said to just cover her hair in mayo and plastic wrap overnight, and everything would rinse right out in the morning. That is just what I did.

So far, we are truly lice-free. I have several take-aways from the whole experience though if it ever happens to you:

No kidding. That is easier said than done, but remaining calm will help you to make rational decisions about effective ways to get rid of the problem.

2. Talk about it.
I grew up in a home where we dealt with things like this internally and didn’t discuss them in public. I found so many of my friends to be helpful and supportive in finding solutions and sharing their own experiences. Instead of being grossed out or judgmental, they were sympathetic.

3. Know it can happen to anyone.
It does not matter how clean you are or how often you wash your child’s hair, they may still get lice from school or playmates. It is sometimes just a part of growing up.

4. Be gentle and empathetic with your child.
They should not be ashamed or embarrassed because they got lice. It is frustrating for a small kid to sit still for long periods of time while someone knit picks through every inch of their hair. My little one is actually thrilled to pieces to be sporting a new, shorter do. She has also compared notes with some of her first grade colleagues and found out they got lice too and had to go through the same thing.

Dustee Morris is a 35-year-old who manages a full time career, being Mom to five-year-old Rian and wife of almost 12 years to husband Brian.

1 comment:

  1. Oh no! I guess this is where having boys is somewhat "lucky." We've always told them that if they get lice, the first thing we'll do is buzz their heads. :) I'm glad it's all taken care of and that nobody is really any worse for the wear!