Last week, I viewed a web show called "Lipstick and Laundry" that a friend of mine co-hosts. They interviewed a pediatrician about the taboo subject of lice. This doctor acted like it was no big deal and that they were relatively easy to get rid of with the products currently on the market.
He's a liar.
Over the course of my career as a mom, with four daughters going through school for a total of 19 continuous years (so far), I have come face to face with the devil himself - in the form that he frequently takes here on earth - a louse.
My first encounter with these creatures from hell came when I took my three older daughters (then in elementary school), to the local "SuperCuts" for a much needed trim. They all sat in the chairs and before I could even pick up a "People" magazine to read during the wait, the plastic capes came off of them and an employee came up to me and notified me that all of them had lice.
I nearly died. This was impossible. My kids were not dirty! I was a good mom! I made them bathe every day (okay, nearly), I took my kids to church! They were all Girl Scouts! I paid my taxes! I worked for Disney for god's sake! I hadn't done anything wrong. And yet, in spite of that, it appeared to be true. I hurried them to the car, filled with shame. Naturally then, my next thought: "What had they done?" And so, the rant began.
When I got home, my housekeeper (ah remember when I had a housekeeper? That was grand. But I digress...) my housekeeper happened to be there and she smiled calmly and had the girls sit on the floor in front of her while she proceeded to pull the nits from their hair. "Oh c'mon", I thought. That seemed a little overboard. Why don't we just get a comb? Ooooooh -what an idiot, I! I learned a lot that afternoon. I learned the phrase "nit picking" had a real origin. And that this was only the first of a gazillion different processes we needed to go through to resume our normal lives. So I sent Bob out for a box of RID and we commenced the weekend long treatment and washing and treating of all sheets, clothes, toys, house, universe - and that was that. The end...
...for many, many years, until about 6 months ago when Grace started bugging me for dandruff shampoo because her scalp itched. I impatiently blew her off. She couldn't possibly have dandruff at her age. She was just making a big deal out of a little dry skin. About two weeks later, she discovered she had lice. Of course I could not believe this - because we had already been through lice. Surely we had immunity now. She couldn't possibly know what she was talking about - such a drama queen - until she produced one. And then I was forced to confront the devil - again.
Let me just tell you (in case you missed the point earlier) that while it is absolutely true that ANY kid (or adult for that matter) can contract lice - regardless of how tidy and clean you keep your home and your family - they are the grossest, most insidious, vile, formidable army of creatures this side of bed bugs. And if you see one of them scurrying around the scalp of someone in your home - you have two choices: a) go to war, or b) kick the infected one out of the house. I will tell you that the later is easily the least trouble but Child Protective Services will likely come knocking so you need to really think before you act. I chose the former. I went to war. And war includes the treatment of pesticides that you pour directly onto the head of the infected person, hours upon hours of searching every single strand of hair on the infected's head for nits (and I mean this quite literally) for weeks following the treatment and then, pulling them off the hair to which they have literally stuck themselves, vacuuming every surface of your house, spraying pesticides on furniture, washing in hot water every item of clothing or bedding or towels that the infected may have come in contact with, throwing any unwashables into the dryer on high heat for hours, bagging beloved stuffed animals to hang in the garage for a month, throwing out brushes, hair clips, combs, etc., and finally, calling the school and friends whose children may have been in contact with the infected. And this is really horrible because the school is reluctant to ever let your child return to the classroom and your friends will hate you.
So I endured the look of fear in the eye of her teacher and the politely concealed but certainly felt hostility of friends, and after a time of caution and anxiety, we all moved on.
But then, recently, she asked me to follow her into her room for private conversation and she began to cry as she told me they were "back". I looked at her scalp. Not only were they back, they were back with a vengeance. How the hell was this possible? Oh right, they are from hell. While my child cried, I fought a nervous breakdown. I had done everything right! I was diligent. I was aggressive. I was merciless. I had conquered. The only thing I had not done was call an exorcist. **
So when the room stopped spinning I went to Google to look it up and found that these little vermin have begun to develop a resistance to the products on the market. Therefore, they are becoming more prevalent and harder to get rid of. So I looked up what they used to do in the old days. Well, shaving her head was an option - but I'd have to sleep with one eye open thereafter. And then I saw this thing about mayonnaise. We slathered her hair with gobs of mayonnaise and put it under a plastic cap for 2 hours. And it suffocated the little demons. And then my cousin Richard told me to apply vegetable oil to her hair and wrap in in saran wrap for 10 minutes. And then I rinsed with vinegar. Many times. And then I did 48 hours of non-stop laundry. And I cleaned and treated her room again and wouldn't let her sleep in it for a week. And I wouldn't let her put her clean laundry back in her room for a week. And I checked for nits every day. And I followed up the next week with more mayonnaise. And I think they are gone.
So yes, I did all that - again. Because I am a mom. And in my heart I knew that in spite of this horror my own child delivered to my doorstep and the ordeal it put us all through, I would one day love her again.
And I'm almost there.
**In extreme cases, an exorcist may not out of the question. Note the woman in the painting above. Her eyeballs have clearly rolled back into her head.