Let me start by saying that this post is a compilation of past (way past) experiences, like from over a year ago. So if my kid is currently playing beauty parlor with your kid, and they are both using your wet brush, there is no need to go into a mad panic.
Still, head lice is one of those things that is not typically discussed in casual company, and therefore is a scenario that makes you feel like the worst parent in the world for no reason. So, here is a step-by-step guide to take you from the depths of despair to the lice, er, light at the end of the tunnel.
Stage 1: You Will Have Serious Denial
I never put “head lice” into the category of things that would even remotely affect me or my family. When the head lice alert from the school nurse would come home I would promptly place it into the discard pile along with the flyer about the karate camp we would never attend. I simply (and incorrectly) assumed that if you wash your children’s hair daily and are recruited on a regular basis to detangle and style it that you would escape this horrendous experience completely. Nope. It can happen to anyone and it is not your fault.
Stage 2: You Will Go Into Panic Mode
I will never forget the moment I saw something move at the nape of my daughter’s neck. I think I still have PTSD from that moment. I immediately sent my husband to the 24-hour Walgreens to purchase every imaginable product. I dug the crumpled paper from the school nurse out of the trashcan and smoothed it with trembling fingers. “Head lice will not harm your child and is not a serious concern.” Not serious! There are bugs living, breeding and multiplying as we speak on my child’s head. This is not okay! My daughter is dissolved into tears in the bathroom and is screaming for the kitchen shears. I am tearing though the house like a banshee, stripping beds, bagging pillows and peering out the window for my husband to return with our bag of salvation from the Walgreens. Upon his return you will shampoo each head in your household (twice) with the products and consider giving everyone a Ramona Quimby haircut.
Stage 3: You Will Realize The Drugstore Products Don’t Work
After being unable to sleep because you are lying on a beach towel covering your bare mattress, you will resort to calling the pediatrician. After being mocked by the after hours call center, “Ma’am, this is not serious, you can call back when they open.” And hearing from your best friend and all of the internet that we are in a epidemic of something called super lice (I picture the little buggers wearing masks and capes) that are immune to the drugstore products (wait, what?) you learn about this magical place affectionally known as The Lice Spa. You will take their earliest appointment, even if it is one state over, and pack the entire family into the car for a little road trip. (“It will be fun,” she said. “We will get milkshakes on the way home,” she said…) Five hours later, after everyone has been checked, and the offenders have been doused with oil and obliterated with a giant hairdryer contraption, your family will be given a clean bill of health and permission to re-enter society. You will even consider asking about franchise information upon checkout.
Stage 4: Caution Mode
After re-washing and drying (for the record, it’s the drying for 30 minutes or more on high heat that kills the suckers) everything that you can fit into your front-loader, you will consider putting your new couch on the curb and maybe even putting a for sale sign in your yard. You will purchase new brushes for everyone and forbid anyone to use the other’s pony tail holders (color coded, for each family member). You will be gun-shy of sleepovers, camps, the fair, or anything where your child’s head will come in contact with any potential offender. You may feel “ghost-itching” for weeks. You will discreetly “check” your child’s head everywhere – the checkout line at the store, while watching TV, while tucking them in. It will drive them crazy, because they know what you are doing and they are terrified of what you might find.
Stage 5: Divine Secrets of the Lice Mom’s Sisterhood
You never wanted to be in this sorority, but you will take comfort in knowing you are not alone. Slowly, slowly the stories will come out and people will find out why you had to “Go away for a little while.” Head lice may not be “serious,” but it sure does a number on your sanity – and your GE Steam Technology Sensor-Dry. Stay strong, and know that you can get through this.
Have you dealt with the dreaded head lice? How did your family handle it?
Kelly Barbrey is an early riser, old soul and retail therapy expert. She is a wife, a mom to two strong-willed girls and works full time in tourism marketing for Experience Columbia SC. When she’s not working or wrangling kids, she loves having date night with her husband at a local restaurant, exercise, reading and sharing real and humorous accounts of life, motherhood and nostalgia on her blog, Up Early + Often.