If you have dealt with this scourge to humanity, then your nerves are flashing on high alert. If you’re lucky enough to have avoided the insanity-provoking critters from infesting your children’s hair, then you can just think back to your childhood of school lice checks, smelly shampoo, and possibly a too-short haircut. Whether or not you have nuked the little fuckers on your precious babies’ hair or resorted to bribes you thought were beneath you just to comb them out, your scalp is likely itching just thinking about them.
It’s hard to believe that just two months ago I didn’t know what lice looked like. That I couldn’t tell the difference between nits and dandruff. That I assumed I was mentally strong enough to rid my household of lice.
There are countless websites detailing the essential products and necessary techniques for treating lice. There are traditional (aka toxic) approaches, holistic (aka non-effective) alternatives, and combinations of both. There are cleaning advisories (evacuate the stuffies, vacuum the couch, sweep the floors!) and anti-cleaning mantras (don’t waste your time cleaning when you should be combing hair!). Like any topic concerning children and/or health, the online resources are endless, contradictory, and maddening! And while I can claim zero expertise on treating lice beyond my own experiences, I am an expert on the mental anguish that lice can inflict.
On any given week, I struggle with juggling the constant demands and changing needs of my three young kids. I have become accustomed to the glitches that arrive almost daily and interrupt my well- intentioned plans – like the baby locking herself in her siblings’ bedroom, my 6-year-old dropping a xylophone on her foot, or my 4-year-old puking ALL OVER the car. But the discovery of lice has superseded all previous glitches and has disturbed my very essence to its core.
But why? Why have these little bugs defeated me like so many other mothers before me?
The laundry and cleaning needed to be done anyways, so the lice discovery just expedited already necessary chores (though I normally don’t scrub the house in the wee hours of the night). The painful hair combing and constant checking and chemical shampooing are indeed tedious and time consuming and require bribes of extra television and lollipops and gum. It feels endless and is certainly thankless. No kid has ever thanked their mother for combing out their hair with a pointy nit comb.
But the crazy-making comes from this being yet another task for mom. Another glitch, like all the others, for mom to deal with. Unlike other glitches though, this one, the lice, is not an isolated episode. It is an ongoing problem that requires constant vigilance.
Although my family is through the worst, lice has now made its presence on the heads of every one of my daughter’s first grade classmates, and is being reported in other classrooms and surrounding schools. I doubt that my child was ground zero for this outbreak, but my early detection has led to parents giving me the stink eye at morning drop off.
So yes, I am crazier than I was six weeks ago. I’m tired, exhausted, stressed out, and pissed off because apparently lice is another task that defaults to mom.