My kids are teens, so we have seen many things. Broken limbs, stitches, infections, strange rashes, and a myriad of bodily fluids that escape their human form without warning. But we have a dirty little secret. We have never had lice.
I don’t like to admit it, in fact, I never admit it to other mothers in person. You think having lice is shameful? Try never having had a shared experience and talking like you have. That is true pain. I stand amongst the lice mommies and listen to the stories and knowingly shake my head in disgust occasionally interjecting a hearty ‘I know.’ I have sympathy itches and emergency vacuuming sessions awaiting the arrival of the little buggers. Nothing. I want to understand your pain, but I am going to have to do it from the serenity of my lice-free home.
But, don’t stop talking. I need all the information for when it is our turn. I have the right shampoo on hand, the perfect nit comb in the drawer, and the lice patrol’s number on the bulletin board. You have given me so much without knowing I was taking notes. But you have not given me unhatched cootie eggs. For all of that, I thank you. We have always been a close-knit family, but we are prepared to never be close-nit.
On your advice, I expended energy demanding my daughter put her long hair in braids as she rolls her eyes and walks out without a hair tie near her hair, but three on her wrist. (What is that, by the way?) I have begged that she doesn’t play with her friends’ hair, snuggle on the couch to watch a movie, share a pillow, or God-forbid a brush. She doesn’t listen and has done it all. Still nothing.
The dreaded notes have come home. The ones that say, “We can’t tell you who in the class has lice, but it isn’t your child, yet.” Then the first word out of my kid’s mouth is “Janie was sent home with lice.” Wasn’t Janie just here for lunch on Tuesday?
We have had the call of shame from another mother. The quick apology in that meek, slow tenor. “We thought Charlie was over it, but it appears they are back. We are just calling everyone who was at the sleepover. Please don’t let anyone else know.” Like, that is going to happen. That is school-yard gold.
Our kids have been to camps, parties, places with borrowed helmets, sleepovers, and every occasion that fits our schedule. I don’t ask if it is a lice-free event. But, they always come back just as I sent them, only smellier and pumped full of sugar.
There were moments where I thought I would be the carrier. I worked head to head with a kid at the school one day when he excused himself to look at something in the microscope. He came back to ask if I wanted to see lice close up? I did, but on a computer screen, not a slide. Later that year, I sat on the lice couch at the school talking to my son’s classmate. I didn’t know that couch was where the kids with lice serve time until their parents or nannies finally get up the nerve to retrieve them. The friend was sentenced there that day for hours before I had our lovely chat.
I have dug through our progeny’s hair with fervor, waiting for the first sign of a spec. Knowing that every dandruff flake was ‘the one,’ only to discover it wasn’t.
My kids have tried to be like yours in every other way. They didn’t plan to be different. By writing this, I’m sure I am inviting the god of nits to pay us a visit. But I am sorry, not sorry too. I do a little happy dance and a high five when we escape the pests. I raise a glass to the guardian angel protecting us from the foulest of bugs.
Now that you know, just try to drop those little critters off here. We have staved off the worst so far and are well prepared. Lice apocalypse be damned, we’ve got this. Enter at your own risk.
Maybe our secret isn’t so dirty after all.