Are you a nitpicker? Are you afraid of cooties? Does your head itch? All of these questions provoke the heebie-jeebies for me. Have you ever had head lice? Were you responsible for exterminating lice from your home?
My children contracted lice a few times. Lice are very social and love to visit the heads of all your friends. They are also quite powerful in two ways. The first is the potent capacity of their eggs (nits) to stick to strands of hair. The second is the formidable way that the knowledge of their presence takes control of one’s life. This was hugely stressful to me because I felt both my home and life were invaded. And they were. I had to be offensive and eradicate this enemy. It had to be addressed immediately before it spread further.
The first time we discovered lice I was totally overwhelmed. There were not over-the-counter shampoo products available. I had to take my daughter to our family doctor for a diagnosis and a prescription was written for the entire family to be treated. Another family was living with us at the time so we had to get enough shampoo for four adults and five children. To obtain enough quantity I had to make purchases at two pharmacies. All this was very embarrassing to me, but that was the easiest part of the calamity.
Every head was scrubbed with the smelly shampoo to kill all lice and nits. Then the cleaning commenced. Every room in the house had to be cleaned. All flooring, upholstered furniture and mattresses were vacuumed. All bed linens were bagged and taken to the laundromat to be washed and dried. Hair brushes, combs, and hair accessories were boiled if possible. Some perished in the process. All dolls and stuffed animals and unwashable items that could possibly carry lice were bagged and tagged. The tag was the date 14 days in the future, when the bag could safely be reopened. A louse’s lifecycle is very short. Then the vehicles and car seats had to be cleaned. In cool weather coats, jackets, and hats needed to be washed also.
Next there was further humiliation when I had to inform parents of playmates of possible exposure to lice. Did I have to do this? No, but I thought it was the right thing to do and if we had given it to friends, they might return the favor. It was best for everyone for them to explore and treat if necessary.
I know that lice turned me into a crazy momma. I immediately wanted to give haircuts to everyone. The boys were willing to comply but my daughter didn’t want a buzz cut.
If other parents were not as diligent in treating lice and cleaning their entire house, I thought they were lazy or crazy. Of course, that opinion was not kind, but it seemed reasonable at the time of my stress and misfortune.
I have learned that the only power a louse (cootie) has is the power I allow it to have in my life. That is a huge life-lesson from a tiny bug and applies to all manner of struggles. Problems come in all sizes and at inconvenient times. Everyone (children and adults) have different levels of what they can handle well and what sends them over the edge.
Just thinking about lice makes my head itch. I am thankful for easily obtainable louse and nit killing shampoo.