Lice | Please help me exterminate the stigma
“Mom, my head is itchy,” said my daughter just as I was putting her to sleep.
Shit. Please. Not again. And seriously, why does she always bring these things up right at bedtime? My stomach tied itself in knots.
“Okay honey, let me peak,” I reluctantly responded.
I thumbed through her hair, focusing on the roots, the crown of the head, and behind the ears. As far as I could tell, there was nothing crawling.
“I don’t see anything, but I’ll check again in the morning,” I said.
Shit, shit, shit. Honestly, I didn’t see anything. But I knew in my heart that that really didn’t mean anything either. My daughter has long, super thick, chocolate brown hair, the quintessential hideout for lice.
I wanted to be in denial. Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaase, please do not be lice. Please be a reaction to the orange hair spray we used on Halloween. Please be the ridiculous attention thing she does to procrastinate bed time. Please do not be lice. Not fucking lice. I hate lice.
I left the room and my head started itching profusely. (Coincidentally it’s also itching as I write this). The mind has a crazy way of jumping to conclusions.
I went to sleep.
The next day I pulled out the lice comb. On the first swipe, a crawly little brown bug emerged. Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo! FML.
It was time to cancel her impending Saturday night play date and prepare to spend the next 2 to 3 hours sitting in the bathroom with a spray bottle, a bottle of conditioner, a roll of paper towels, and the lice comb. At least maybe we could spin this as quality mommy/daughter time.
And there we sat, patiently combing out the nasty little creatures (and their eggs). One at a time.
The follow up
The next morning, I messaged the parents of my daughter’s friends to break the bad news. All were appreciative. Some of them armed with more lice experience than others.
Then I messaged my daughter’s teacher.
Sorry to report we found lice in Boca Bookworm’s hair. Spent hours with the nit comb last night. We’ve informed all the close friends we know but imagine we should also report to the nurse tomorrow.
She agreed and let me know that she would notify the class.
The fun was only beginning (lice usually reoccurs several times before going away completely), but for the moment I could breathe. My job was done.
My tango with lice
I am no stranger to lice. In the first grade, we dealt with two separate outbreaks. Our rookie outbreak left us spending hundreds of dollars to have the entire family treated by a professional lice service. I watched that lady like a hawk, so the second outbreak was a bit cheaper. Still, it resulted in tens of hours spent combing out.
Let me lay it out for you. If one child has lice (especially if that child is a social, huggy, brush-sharing elementary or middle school girl), a sizeable percentage of the child’s social circle is also infected with lice. This means that if EVERYONE doesn’t treat that shit diligently, the lice just come back and back and back. Ughh.. If your kid gets lice, plan on treating it and checking up on it for months.
In each of my run-ins with lice, I observed three distinct lice “parents.”
- Group number one includes the ones who openly tell the people around them that their kid has lice. These people start an improvement cycle allowing the community to begin treating the problem.
- Group number two is made up of the parents who keep their family’s lice drama on the down low. These parents worry that their kid will be shamed and destroyed socially because they caught lice (the same lice that’s going around half the school.) These people lack accountability and are probably the same people who spread STDs in college. (Harsh, I know). But seriously I am really mad at these people.
- Finally, there are the oblivious ones. These people refuse to believe that their children can have lice, so they don’t bother checking. Or maybe they do check, but don’t check properly because it’s hard and time consuming. These people cause as many issues as group #2, but they use ignorance as an excuse.
The parents in groups two and three are the way they are because of the stigma associated with lice. They perpetuate that lice is dirty, and gross, and caused by people who don’t take showers. These ass holes are the problem.
Here’s some information: Lice is transmitted in one way only – from one human being to another. It’s a lot like the common cold in the sense that if one kid at the school gets it, it is only a matter of time until its raging through the hallways. Even more crazy, lice LOVEs clean hair and is thought to be prevented by washing less frequently or using more hair product.
According to some casual internet research I did, the stigma associated with lice dates back hundreds of years because people didn’t understand basic science. Our ignorant ancestors believed that lice only affected people who were poor and dirty. I have news for you. Insects are not intelligent enough to discriminate.
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How do we kill the lice problem? Put simply, we probably can’t. It’s something that just happens.
There are two things we can do, however.
- Educate ourselves about lice. How to prevent it (rosemary oil, shampoos, braids and pony tails), how to treat it (combing it out, mayonnaise, the ineffectiveness of over-the-counter head pesticides). How to keep it away (see the whole article above. Tell your friends!)
- Kill the stigma. There’s a great website I found while researching for this blog post, endtheignorance.org. Go there and learn some things… then share those things with your kids. Teach your kids that lice is not dirty, it’s not something to be judgmental about, and it’s nobody’s fault. Make sure they know that it’s not okay to tease other kids that have lice. While you’re at it, teach them not to be assholes anyway.
Thanks for reading. Talk soon!