Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Ramblings from my attic #103

Lice – The Gift That Keeps on Giving
Ok, so you see two or more parents talking in the school hallways or on the playground or in the parking lot. Simultaneously they reach up and start vigorously scratching their heads. You know what they’re talking about.

I have friends on both ends of the lice panic spectrum. One friend; after dealing with three heads of girl hair, a two month infestation, and 3 million loads of laundry; breaks out in hives and reaches for a bottle of wine every time I bring up the subject. The other says she’s ready to set a place at the Thanksgiving table for the little critters, since they obviously like her kid so much, and in the grand scheme of things, she’s dealt with worse.

I felt smug last year after our first invasion of the dastardly little bugs. I saw them, I nuked them, and I cut their nits out, end of story. Then this September, when I thought all was right with the world and children were all where they should be, the innocuous piece of paper arrived from school stuck between a PTA fundraising request and my kid’s homework. “Head Lice Alert” shouted the heading. I sighed and asked, “Does anybody in your class have head lice?” and let my fingers take a perfunctory stroll through hair smooth on top but dense and tangled beneath. Finding only a bit of dandruff, I tossed the notice in the trash.

Two days later I noticed her furiously scratching at the base of her neck and behind her ears. I groaned. I spent hours chasing her matted head around the house until I finally spotted the little varmints. As lice infestations go, this was a small one. I hurried down to the local pharmacy and got the obligatory toxic shampoo to nuke her head, but because her hair was only superficially combed I couldn’t reach all the nits. “Honey, I need to trim your hair to chin length so I can get all the nits out.”

Arms crossed angrily over her chest. “No!”

I tried again. “I know you’d rather Hannah (our beloved hairdresser) cut your hair, but she can’t while you have bugs. I can do it first, and then we can have Hannah fix it up later when the bugs are gone.” Sounded pretty reasonable to me.

“No! You are not cutting my hair” she screamed, then began sobbing.

This was going well. Time for desperate measures. “I’ll give you five dollars if you let me cut your hair.”


Ok, now what? “How old are you? What if I give you seven dollars to spend in the National Museum of the American Indian gift shop when we go tomorrow?”

“No.” More sobbing and a dramatic stomping retreat up the stairs and to her room.

I resume my pleas from half way up the staircase. “Look. We have no choice. I have to be able to find the nits in your hair and right now your hair is too tangled for me to search.” Pause. “How about $12?”

“No, no, no, no! I’m never ever letting you cut my hair!” she shouted.

Feeling every bit a failure, even for a slacker mom, I slumped over to the dining room table and tried to distract myself from her continuing tirade by sipping coffee and reading the newspaper.

After a while, the stomping ended. I heard her door open followed by quiet footsteps on the stairs. I pretended not to notice as she glided into the room with a smile on her face. “Do I have to spend the $12 at the Indian Museum?”

She loved her new pixie cut; I thought we were lice free; and the Indian Museum became $12 richer.

Fast forward a few weeks, a few hundred loads of laundry later, a follow-up dose of lice shampoo behind us, and again I find lice in her hair. My sanity, already border-line, slipped out through a crack in an old window sill. After bearing the brunt of a few of my unintelligible tirades, my husband decides transplanting trees and bushes in our yard a small price to pay for being outside of my screaming range. That he also could be heavily armed with yard implements was a bonus.

“Honey, your hair is still too long for me to get all the nits out.”

“No, Mom, you are NOT cutting my hair again,” arms once again folded across her chest and her eyes dark.

Not having the patience to dicker like last time, I cut to the chase. “I don’t have any choice. We aren’t getting rid of the lice. You have to let me cut your hair. I’ll buy you a gift at Target as soon as you let me give you the haircut.”


A while later, I perched her on a stool in the bathtub, wet her hair, and proceeded to trim. Oh *#@# I shuddered after the first snip. Her chin length bangs were suddenly three inches above her eyebrows. Maybe kitchen shears in dim lighting wasn’t such a great idea. “Let me see, Mommy, let me see,” she said excitedly. “Not yet,” I said. “Let me finish.” A few minutes later the rest of her hair zigzagged up and down with the longest pieces just covering the very tip top of her ears. Nervously, I removed the towel around her neck and she went running into her room to check out her new “do” in her big mirror.

That’s when the screaming started. “It’s horrible, Mom. I look horrible,” she shrieked. My husband tried to calm her down, while muttering to me, “Why didn’t you take her to a hair salon?” Soon, we were all yelling, quickly followed by Lindsay and I each locking ourselves in our rooms. Hey, don’t look to me for good parenting tips!

Hubby finally managed to talk each of us out of our rooms, promising dinner at the mall and a movie. Two and half hours later we came home laughing and hugging, but careful to not disturb little one’s newly pierced ears, the antidote of choice to “looking like a boy, like you do, Mom.”


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