Lice. Just saying the word makes you reach up and scratch your head. Lice is probably the number one fear of mothers with school-aged children. I remember those days before I had The Lice. Oh the innocence. My kids won’t get lice! They’re clean, they know not to share hairbrushes, we never try on hats in a store, they don’t go away to summer camp! We won’t get lice. I was adorable.
I still remember that first afternoon. It was early October, several years ago. I arrived at my mother’s house to pick up my kids for the evening. “Mom,” my child said. “My head is really itchy”. Hmmm…I thought, dandruff maybe? So I took a quick look at her scalp. And something very small…moved.
No. No. No.
So I checked another area of her skull. And a few very small somethings were moving. It was right about then that I passed out on the inside.
On the outside I of course kept it together. I may have yelled, “OH MY GOD IS THIS LICE????” to my mother but overall I kept it together. I put the kids in the car, drove to the pharmacy, marched purposefully into the store and located the lice treatment. I avoided all eye contact with the cashier (like I was buying condoms or something) and shuffled them all back into the car. I threw together a quick dinner and then I ordered her into the shower. We scrubbed and I envisioned all of those little nasty creatures just washing down the drain. We combed her out and I sat her down under a light. I took a smug look at her skull thinking, “Ok, that probably got rid of those jerks…look at me. I did it!”.
And what I saw made me sit down right there on the floor. Then, I started to shake.
My husband was still at work (like he was really going to be of any help anyway) so I of course texted a friend. She had had The Lice before so I knew she would know what to do. She told me, “I’m coming”.
The rest of that night the two of us combed through every, single strand of my daughter’s hair. We pulled out countless bugs and eggs. We did a thorough look through the other two children’s heads and sent them to bed. While one of us combed the other began to tear the house apart. Every sheet, pillow, blanket, slip cover, and stuffed animal was dragged to the basement and thrown into the laundry. Did I mention my dryer was broken?? Yeah. My dryer was broken so I had to keep lugging the wet clothes around the corner to my sister’s to get them dry. I threw out every hair tie and hair brush we owned. By midnight we decided she was “Lice Free”. I dragged my itchy, creepy crawly self to bed and scratched my own head until I passed out from exhaustion.
The next morning I brought her into school and I asked the nurse to examine her head. She agreed…lice free. Phew. I finished thoroughly cleaning the house and I checked her head every night. We had a few days, maybe a week, of no lice. Then, it happened. Another child came home from school and said, “Um Mom? My head is really itchy.”
I took one cautious look through my daughter’s thick, long hair praying to and begging any supreme being out there to please spare me from this horror. Her hair was, of course, infested with those assholes.
I’m pretty sure I blacked out for at least 60 seconds. And then guess what I did? I hunkered down, ran back to CVS for more lice shampoo and I started the arduous process of coming through her hair. It took six hours. That’s right. Six. I’m not exaggerating. SIX. Around 2:00 in the morning I sent her to bed. Every night after that first night I sat her down in what eventually became known as “The Lice Chair” to comb through her hair. Every night I found at least a few live bugs and many eggs.
Side Bar: Do you know what you do with those live bugs when you pull them out of the hair? You put them into a cup of water since drowning them is really the only option. And do you what they do? THEY TRY TO CRAWL OUT. It’s the stuff of nightmares, truly.
Every night we combed. Every night we cried a little. For weeks. Yes. Weeks. Every couple of days I washed every piece of fabric in my house. Stuffed animals and extra blankets were put into garbage bags in the basement where they would stay until The Lice left our home. Every night I changed everyone’s pillow cases and her entire bed. We were up until midnight almost every night. Every now and then we would skip a comb out. And the next night we would regret it since the bugs seemed to multiply exponentially. The only thing that went right for us during this hellish ordeal was the bugs never migrated off of her head and onto the heads of her sisters or myself (although I had nightmares, daily, that they had).
One day, several weeks after the first bug sighting, my mother took a hard look at my exhausted face and said, “You have to end this. Now.” We sat down in front of Google and we searched “Lice Removal Experts”. We found this lovely sounding place called “Hair Fairies” not too far from home. I called and explained (in tears) to the lovely voice on the phone my issue. She told me to come the next day.
We walked into a place that looked like a hair salon and smelled like mint. In almost every chair sat a little girl with long hair and an iPad. Behind each was a woman slowly combing goop through her hair. A waiting area was occupied by a few women, each holding a massive cup of coffee, and each looked up at me with the same dazed look in their eyes that I imagined I was sporting. A lovely lady sat my daughter down, took one quick look at her scalp and said, “Oh yes. This is bad.”
Four hours and hundreds and hundreds of dollars later we walked out of there. All of us had been checked, combed, scrubbed, and lathered in lice prevention cream. My daughter was officially “Lice Free”. I had a guarantee and receipt to prove it. Of course in order for them to give us their money-back guarantee I had to also buy the shampoo and conditioner and the prevention oil that I was to use every day for the
foreseeable future EVERY DAY FOREVER.
We were instructed to put our heads back on towels in the car and to immediately get the car vacuumed. Upon returning to my house I made the girls sit at the kitchen table since I knew the kitchen was a lice free zone having no carpets or fabric anywhere. I then swept through each room of my house vacuuming, dusting, and stripping every curtain, slip cover, and piece of fabric imaginable. One by one I declared a room Lice Free and they were allowed to start moving around the house. The Lice had left the building.
Since that fateful Season of Lice, my girls have smelled like tea tree oil. They know to apply the oil every morning before school. We also apply it before trips to the movie theater, any auditorium for a play or show, and before birthday parties. We bring it with us on vacation and I have a spray that I use to spray our pillows and stuffed animals before any trip. They NEVER drop their coats into coat piles on beds at parties or use any type of communal coat rack. They stuff them into their backpacks or tie them around their waists. They know to drape their coats backwards around movie theater and auditorium seats. They know to hug their friends with their heads held slightly back since “hugs spread bugs”. My girls practice “lice safe” behavior and are proud of it.
Am I embarrassed to share that we had The Lice? Absolutely not. The same month that we had it? Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck did too. She told Jimmy Fallon all about her “Hair Fairy” who actually came into her home to get rid of the jerks because, well, they’re millionaires and they can afford that type of intervention. Everyone is likely to get lice and the clean haired lovey girls who delight in hugging their friends and sharing hats, scarves, bows, and headbands are the most likely victims. Good luck to you all if you have yet to know the horror. Maybe you’ll be spared. If not, pay the money for an expert. Worth. Every. Penny.