I worked the wide toothed comb through her waist length hair with a minimum of resistance. A light spritz of No More Tangles® was the key to a drama and tear free hair combing experience with my 8 year-old daughter.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw something move down the length of parted hair and I quickly placed a finger overtop of it before it could get away. Picking it up and placing it in the palm of my hand I looked it over carefully. My goodness! It was a teeny, tiny bug.
“Bob! Can you come here for a second” I have no clue what type of bug it is and it was strange that it was crawling in her hair. Bob will no doubt be able to identify the greyish brown bug.
I hold my hand out in front of his face, “This was crawling in Amy’s hair – do you know what it is?”
Bob examined the bug thoughtfully before squeezing it between his thumb and forefinger, ending its life. He then wrapped it in a tissue and flushed it down the toilet.
He began to wash his hands vigorously using the tap from the sink of the en-suite bathroom: A room that barely fit a single person, much less the two of us plus Amy and a stool.
“It’s……ummm…..it’s lice” he whispered as he pushed past me, flattening his body against the door frame creating as much distance as he could between himself and his daughter.
Certain that I had misheard him, I say, “What? WHAT is it?” my voice pitching higher as I spoke.
Bob met my gaze and then glanced at Amy and then quickly looked back at me and shook his head as if to say, “I’ll tell you later” and left the room.
“What’s the matter with Daddy?” Amy asked, looking up from her book.
“It’s nothing sweetheart. Now let’s get this hair braided and you off to bed so you can finish reading your book”. I quickly twisted and turned her hair over and under until a nice tight, heavy French braid rested down the middle of her back.
After tucking both Amy and our little Boy Matthew into their beds, I retreated to the living room to find out what Bob had been talking about earlier.
“It’s lice. That bug was a lice bug. Not a nit, not a nat, not an egg, but a bug……an actual lice bug. We have louse in the house”. As Bob said this he reached up to scratch his own head in solidarity.
‘SHE HAS LICE!!! How can she have lice? I keep her hair so clean!” I am now squirming and scratching and unable to sit still.
I didn’t know at the time but I know now. Lice doesn’t care if hair is clean or dirty or if the home is clean or dirty. It doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor……nope! There is no judgment by lice – they are an equal opportunity infestation.
How can this be? I swear I had been doing the lice checks faithfully. I had seen no nits clinging to the shafts of her blonde hair. This was all happening pre-internet so I couldn’t even turn to Google for advice.
“Are you sure? How can you be so certain that it is lice?”
“Believe me when I tell you…..it’s lice and where there is one lousy louse, there is bound to be more. Do you know how many eggs one louse can……”
“STOP RIGHT THERE!” My legs were turning to Jell-O, spots were appearing in front of my eyes.
“…..at least 10 eggs a day and can live up to 30 days. The eggs hatch in about 7-10 days I believe…”
“I SAID STOP!” I needed to sit down and process this information. My little angel has waist length hair that was potentially riddled with nits and maybe even more bugs!
At this point I could have easily roused both children from their warm beds and made them join us in a Silkwood shower with lice shampoo, but this was early 1990’s and no pharmacy was open past 6:00 p.m.
I tossed and turned all night. All I could think about was those disgusting bugs crawling in my hair and in my bedding. Bugs clinging to every teddy bear in Amy’s room, eggs sticking to jackets and and toques.
I took the day off of work and spent the entirety of the day treating my children with head lice shampoo and washing every sheet, pillowcase and quilt in the house. All of the stuffed animals were bagged and placed outside to freeze. I was never so pleased to see the temperature dip into the negative 20’s and remain there throughout the day. I couldn’t douse everything with gas and light it on fire, so I had to freeze the bugs to death.
The kids were curious, but I managed to keep the secret from them. “This shampoo smells funny mommy. Mommy…..why are you scrubbing my head so hard? Mommy….why is my Blankie outside in the cold?”.
I finished sanitizing the house by bedtime and fell exhausted into my bed, the smell of bleach lingering on the sheets. My mind wouldn’t stop racing, “What happens tomorrow when I send them back to that infested hell-hole (aka elementary school)? Everyone hangs their coats on the hooks by the door, no wonder lice can spread so quickly. It leaps from coat to coat and backpack to backpack. It’s gonna happen again, I am certain! Frankly, I don’t think I can go through it again.
Aha! What if I could figure out a way that my kids jackets and backpacks don’t have to co-mingle with the masses? What if……..I sent them with a garment bag that they can place their jackets, snow-pants and backpacks inside before hanging on the communal hooks?
What if, when they returned home after school, that they left their jackets and backpacks outside to freeze any unwanted creatures?
What if, when they returned home from school, they changed out of their school clothes and into their play clothes and I washed their clothing every night?
What if I braided Amy’s hair so tightly that a wayward nit would need to be Houdini to work its way into her hairline?
And so that is what I did.
My kids used a garment bag until they left Elementary School and entered Junior High where they were given a personal locker. Amy never wore her hair free of braids until she turned 13 (seriously EVERYDAY….NO exceptions)
And they never got infested again……..