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Mediocre Mom Manual: Oh No! The “L” Word

In case you aren’t up to speed, I’m a bit of a germaphobe. I don’t touch public door handles. I don’t touch the moveable railings on escalators. And I do not like things that crawl in any form. (Although I did overlook this stage when my children were going through it.) In fact, if you also belong to this particular group, you might want to stop reading right now. Put your hands over your eyes and hit the red x up there in the corner. Tune in when I post another blog.

I also understand if, after reading this, you decide you don’t want to know me anymore. Turn in the friendship card. Cancel our coffee date. I don’t blame you. One of my worst parental fears has come true; I met my neurotic phobia “head-on” if you will, last night when peering through my child’s hair, I found:

The “L” Word.

Yes, the modern day form of Leprosy, those nasty little crawlers that put the fear of God in the hearts of parents everywhere. My poor child was crying (who wouldn’t) and it was one of those moments where I absolutely, positively, had to be the adult lest I scar my child for life.

“You have lice.” I calmly said. “Dad is going out to buy some shampoo.” My child was freaked out, but my reassurance was downright medical. “It’s no big deal. We’ll take care of it and you’ll be fine.”

At that point I instructed my child to stay in the bathroom (and remain there for hours…) while I slipped into the hallway, gagged, jumped up and down in disgust, and fought back bile and tears. Oh, quit your laughing. I know that if this is the worst thing I have to deal with as a parent I’m pretty lucky. I know that at least it isn’t cancer or another dreaded disease. I realize we’ll get over it, and things will be fine. I get it.

Out of respect to my child, I will go no further describing my child’s involvement. But I will let you in on a few things that now go on in my head. (Not on my head, Praise you, Jesus.)

First, I have morphed into one big itch. My leg itches-I have body lice. My eye twitches- the suckers are feasting on my cornea. My toe throbs-I’m sure somehow the vermin have found a way inside my muscle wall. I actually considered walking through the house with a blowtorch and a can of Aqua Net. The mass burnings of the Great Plague no longer elude me. My husband and I piled all the potentially “contaminated” articles onto the floor of the toy room and proceeded to do laundry from there. In fact, I have done 15 loads just today and the pile isn’t much smaller. I have decided that throw pillows are unnecessary; stuffed animals contraband. I have a bid on e-bay for three cases of clear shower caps, which I am considering making a dress requirement for all family and visitors.

I have told only a few family members and close friends-not even wanting to joke about it myself. What will people think? Will they start staring at my head all the time? Will they refuse to let our children play together? It’s one of the largest silent social secrets of all time, probably next to swinging. It’s something adults whisper about in hushed tones, only divulging their own personal familial battle after they have seen a friend’s RID bottle wedged between the folds of the newspaper while in line at CVS. It’s that illusion bubble popped, as people wonder, “WE can’t have it! We’re (rich, clean, smart, funny, normal…fill in your adjective).”

This event has transformed the way I see the world and unfortunately, not for the better. I am doing errands at Target and see an employee scratch her head. “I bet she has lice,” I think. A few more employees later, I witness another itcher. “Yep, everyone who works here has it.” I wonder if there are nits lying around on the shopping carts I touch; the backpack from school, the plate the neighbors sent over with cookies. I stare at the backs of people’s heads watching for movement. I cringe (just a little) when my children want to have the neighbors over to watch a movie or get out all the blankets and make a fort. The movie theater is one big, fat contamination area. Airplane seats the enemy. My good friend (and secret-lice-sister) suggested taking plastic bags with me and laying them behind my children’s head in any public setting. Now you’re being downright silly, you say. Honey, that’s only part of my problem.

I am now planning to check all my children and my husband every night. One remaining issue resides in the fact that I must trust my husband to look through my hair and detect the undetectable. My husband (bless his heart) can’t find his car keys in the car key drawer. “Where did you find the keys?” he’ll ask as I hand them to him once again. “In the drawer,” I sigh, “where they always are.” “Huh,” he replies. “I thought I looked there.”

You can imagine the solace this gives me as he exclaims, “No honey, don’t see a thing.” Since I have little confidence that he would be able to find anything, (were there anything to find) I shampooed with the special stuff twice and blew it dry, making sure to sufficiently burn my scalp in all areas. I pulled it back into a ponytail and I refuse to scratch my head with my fingers, lest I should accidentally get an invisible nit under my fingernails and pass it along to one of my family. Would you like to have coffee now?

The people I have told have been very supportive. One of my good friends told me that lice only like really clean heads, so I should take that as a compliment. She informed me that people who are homeless don’t have lice, because their heads can be so dirty. Well, if that’s the case, I’m packing the children up tomorrow because I found a perfect bench on the Common, with a fab view of the Frog Pond.

I had never heard this particular assertion, so I did a little research. There is enough conflicting web information to make a person scratch their head. Lice are hard to get rid of. They’re easy to get rid of. Lice only like clean heads. Lice don’t care how clean your head is, as long as you have one. Cover your head in mayonnaise and wear a shower cap to bed. NEVER use mayonnaise and a shower cap, it’s bad for you. Lindane is the best pesticide to get rid of the bugs. Lindane is an incredibly toxic chemical and should never, never be used to get rid of lice. The best yet, was that gasoline and kerosene get rid of lice. The one side effect is you might unintentionally off your kids. There were so many mixed messages, that the blowtorch and Aqua Net idea started sounding logical. My mother poo-pooed me. MY mother. The woman who handed me her phobia genes, said, “Rachel, relax. It’s like you’re trying to kill a fly with a brick.”

Well, at least I would know the fly is dead. I am nothing, if not psychotically thorough.

Alright! Fess up! Have you dealt with lice before? Share your horror stories (tips and helpful hints are welcome too)!

Rachel Vidoni is a professional writer and blogger and former classroom teacher. She is a mediocre mother to three pretty neat kids. You can follow her humor and family blog at www.eastcoastmusings.blogspot.com. You might not be a better parent after reading her blog, but you will feel like one.

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