Recently, a friend warned me that one of my daughter’s playmates had lice, so before Katie went to bed that night, I called her over to take a peek at her scalp. As I parted her hair, I was greeted by a bug running for cover.
I did what any normal mother would do. “Keith,” I shrieked, “get over here!”. He ambled over, not too worried, and gazed at the offending creature. “Huh,” he said. “Look at that.” He’s a pediatrician, and pediatricians have no sympathy unless someone is coughing up a lung.
I insisted that he leave right that instant and get some lice killer shampoo. He asked if it could wait until morning. I gave him That Look. Off he went.
We stayed up until midnight as I picked eggs out of my daughter’s hair. We changed everyone’s bedding, even mine, because she likes to crawl into bed and wrestle in the morning. We banished all stuffed animals to garbage bags in the garage for two weeks. We vacuumed the sofa. Basically, I overreacted. But let me reiterate: my kid had something crawling in her hair. I think I was entitled.
The next day, I ran an internet search for information about lice, and found a very comprehensive site put out by Harvard University. But the more I read, the more I felt that these people had far too much education to understand the real world.
First, Harvard went to great pains to declare that having lice is not a big deal. It doesn’t cause any illness or infection, and it’s not nearly as transmissible as a cold or flu virus. They went on to say that kids with lice should be allowed in school, because we let kids in who have colds. And colds, to Harvard, are far worse.
Obviously no one at Harvard has ever done laundry.
But here’s the thing, Harvard. I knew Katie wasn’t going to die, or get a debilitating illness, or be disabled. I was not worried about her health. But I was worried because my kid had bugs in her hair. Bugs. In. Her. Hair. Pardon me if I think that’s a big deal, but I think having insects crawling on one’s scalp is enough to cause most mothers to go into panic mode.
Harvard then went on to explain how lice tend to like clean hair, so there should be no stigma attached to it. Again, I understand. I know that it was not Katie’s fault that she got it.
But it would be my fault, I think, if she failed to get rid of it. While clean kids get it, dirty kids rarely get over it. It’s not easy to fight the little buggers; you have to comb those eggs out, and they’re sticky little things. You have to kill all the little babies. You have to wash your child’s bedding and toys. But some parents don’t do all this. And then a few weeks later the child has a full blown case again.
It’s almost guaranteed that there will be at least one child per classroom who has chronic lice, and I know some parents who make sure their children’s hair is not "clean” at school as a precaution. It’s not that they swear off shampoo; it’s that they pile on the gel and hair spray. Apparently the bugs don’t like goop, so it’s like putting a “No Trespassing” sign on your children’s heads. We’re going to do that from now on, even though Harvard failed to recommend it.
They did, however, try to put a positive spin on the lice thing in general, proving once again that academics are overpaid. “A few lice on the head should not cause alarm; rather, they present an opportunity for parents to spend the needed time with their children in order to find and remove the offending insects.” What a great bonding time!
If any of you would like such an opportunity, we saved a few eggs in a plastic bag to use in a science experiment later. I’d be glad to give them up. Personally, though, I’d
suggest a game of Monopoly or a walk around the block. But then, I don’t have a Ph.D., so you’ll have to make that judgment yourself.