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lice, you ain’t nice

Every time I see an email about lice from my kids’ school, I read it with a shudder of revulsion and then try to figure out which kid in the class has the lice. Then I try to prevent my kids from coming in contact with the perp, all without actually mentioning the word “lice.” It’s tricky.

Me: “Hey Finn. So how about those Blazers, huh. Say, anyone at school get a haircut recently?”

Finn: “What?”

Me: “You know. A haircut. Like anyone cut their hair super short? Or…I don’t know. Any of your friends get a new hat?”

Finn: “Like what kind of hat?”

Me: “You know. A hat. Like, a baseball hat. Any kind of hat.”

Finn: (Long pause). “No.”

Me: “Ok, that’s cool.” (Pause). “Hey, maybe don’t do any reading today in the reading corner.”

Finn: “Why not?”

Me: (Pause). “Well, you can read. Just don’t, you know, touch any of the pillows. Don’t do any lounging. And maybe, you know, don’t touch any of your friends today.”

Finn: “Why not?”

Me: “Because.”

Finn: “Because why?”

Me: “Because I said so, ok?”

Finn: “But why?”

Me: “BECAUSE THERE MIGHT BE BUGS ON THE PILLOWS OK?? Now eat your breakfast.”

The thing about lice is that centuries of human familiarity with lice hasn’t robbed it of its power. It’s like leprosy. I haven’t heard of anyone having leprosy in a really long time. But anyone who has seen Ben-Hur knows that leprosy is no joke. Your skin falls off, and then your fingers fall off. I don’t want leprosy, and I don’t want lice. Lice isn’t a sexy old-timey disease like consumption, which makes you think of Chopin coughing delicately into an embroidered handkerchief and seems kind of romantic. Yes I know that consumption is technically tuberculosis. But do YOU know that lice is BUGS? In your HAIR??

Feel free to start screaming. I did, when we got the call. I buzz my kids’ hair on a regular basis and we’d avoided five rounds of lice at my kids’ school, so I thought we were home free. Nope. Tate had a bug near his ear, and needed to be picked up. The school checked Finn as a precaution and said he was clean, but my older son was leaving for outdoor school the next day, and I wasn’t taking any chances. My car screeched into the school parking lot and I left the engine running while I ran in to grab Finn. Tate had already been picked up by Tom and with any luck, was at home being fumigated. Inside the school, Finn sensed my distress and reacted accordingly.

Finn, digging in his heels: “Wait, why are we going home early?”

Me: “Ha ha, happy to see you too, sport. Hey Chandra!” (Waving to another parent). “I just, you know, felt like picking you up early because…I missed you.”

Finn: “But I want to play soccer!”

Me: (Leaning close, grabbing shirt, and hissing). “Listen, buddy. Your brother has BUGS, ok?? IN HIS HAIR. We need to leave. RIGHT. NOW.”

With Finn in the car, I sped off for Lice Knowing You. The only nice thing about lice in the modern age is that there are places like Lice Knowing You. Lice Knowing You is a real place that actually exists. It is a salon, just like any other salon, except that this salon isn’t marked from the outside and the only service they offer is the removal of bugs from your person. The school had told me that Finn was clean, but, no offense to the school, I needed a professional opinion. I screeched into the parking lot and dragged Finn into the salon, where I tried to be really chill about not touching any of the surfaces. There, a lady sprayed conditioner in Finn’s hair and then gave Finn the first combing of his life. No lice.

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I packed Finn into the car and we peeled off for home. I arrived to find Tom and Cuz stripping all the beds. Tate was running around the house stark naked. I waved to Tate from a safe distance and turned to Tom. “So, did you do the lice treatment?”

Tom looked up from spraying a mattress with an expression that suggested that he had been dealing with lice and spraying the mattress for approximately seven years, instead of the 45 minutes that had elapsed since he’d left the school with Tate. “I didn’t find anything,” he said.

What did he MEAN he didn’t find anything? Tom wasn’t like Finn, who often asks where his glasses are, when they are on his face. Tom is a FINDER. Tom’s ability to find things is like number 4 on the top ten things that I love about my husband. If Tom didn’t find lice, there were no lice. But still. The school wouldn’t have sent Tate home on a TUESDAY unless they had found some serious lice. Would they?

“What do you mean you didn’t find anything?,” I asked. “Do you even know what lice look like? They look like little white grains of rice, Tom. Like little white eggs. Did you even look at any pictures??!!!” I could feel myself sounding and looking like a howler monkey and was powerless to stop it. Tom stopped spraying and pulled his body up to full height. “Yoona. I know what lice looks like. I know what nits look like. I looked at the pamphlet in the kit. He didn’t have any lice.”

Well. He didn’t have to get all hysterical about it. I gave him a look and hauled both my boys to the bathroom, where I clipped on my trusty Number 1 guide and buzzed them clean.

Try clinging onto that fuzz, you nasty lice. And you nasty nits, too. ‘Til next time.

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30 Comments Post a comment
  1. I’m terrified of my child getting lice, but your post had me cracking up. I didn’t even know lice salons existed. Strange concept, but at least you wouldn’t have to bring the “infected” child into the house to contaminate the others! Lol.

    August 29, 2014
  2. Very well done. When my daughter came home from summer visitation with lice, I saw no humor in it at all. Because of that, neither did she. Glad you were able to see the light side of it with your family’s help.

    June 10, 2014
  3. I am crazy psycho about lice talk with my daughter. All the time I am reminding her not to share brushes/pillows at sleep overs/hats. I remember open house night at pre-k the teacher was showing the mini house they had for kids to play with. There were dress up clothes. When the parents moved on to the next set of things to look at. I hang back. I took my daughter over to the dress up stuff and told her NO MATTER what do not put those hats on. There could be lice. She has always been aware of lice and knows the rules. Well two winters ago. She was outside playing with her cousins. She left her hat in the house. Her cousin had an extra beanie with him. He gave it to her to wear. Well the day before he went to his mothers for an over night got lice from her stepkids. (Which his mom hardly see’s him, so it was rare he was ever over her house). Within an hour of wearing the beanie. She got lice. I freaked out. It took a week to get rid of them. The treatment worked half way. Then I read olive oil over night wearing a shower cap smothers the lice. Poof it worked. Now anytime she stays the night anywhere. I oil her roots and braid her hair with extra conditioner. Lice cant hold on if the hair is slick. And I repeat “no sharing” anything.

    June 7, 2014
  4. stephaniesunderland #

    I cried with laughter reading this. I could hear myself skirting around the issue too. Very well put!

    June 4, 2014
  5. Around here it is required to tell the school when your child has lice and remove them from the building untill all nitts are eliminated.

    If you have a girl with long hair and hear that lice is going around in school, don’t panic. After checking her head and finding no lice, I can give you a fool prove way of keeping it that way.

    1. Don’t wash her hair. The little bugs love clean scalps, it is easier for them to suck blood from durt free heads.

    2.Braid her hair in as many braids as you can stand to braid and don’t take them out untill the epidemic is over.

    3. Rub lavender oil or teabaumöl, (a german word for an oil from the tea trees in Australia), directly on your childs scalp.

    4. And other than telling your children not to use combs, jackets, hats ect. from others, Put all of thier school items in a plastic bag. No hanging jackets on the hooks…no no put then in the plastic bag that hangs on the hook.

    If you DO have lice, DON’T use the Chimicals on your children under two years of age, just pull the suckers off, it is two dangerous for your child otherwise.

    If you do have lice don’t panic. You don’t have to freeze the stuffed animals, or change sheets every night. You don’t have to vacuum the house like crazy. Just spend an afternoon in frount of the telli with your kids and comb those suckers out. Nine days later, do it again. You can send your children to school directly after the first treatment.

    May 30, 2014
  6. Gerri #

    I am writing a ‘blogs I enjoy reading’ post, and yours is one of them. I would really appreciate if you would give me a 1 or 2 sentence quote about your blog, that I would include in my post. Cheers, and thanks! gerriblue.wordpress.com

    May 23, 2014
  7. Judy Ring #

    As an elementary school counselor, I became the unofficial “lice removal expert” for the parents. I learned more about lice and their life span and how to get rid of them than I EVER wanted to know. One thing you may need to watch for: the live bug lays the nits right at the base of the hair. So even though you gave the buzz cut, if there was a live nit near the scalp, it could hatch and start that cycle again. Yeah, not what you want to hear. So make sure you treat the hair with the chemicals and watch for the nits as the hair grows. They are really hard to see until the hair has grown out and the nit is away from the scalp. In Tate’s case, it is very possible that the bug had just crawled/jumped onto his head and had not had time to lay any eggs at all. So many people think it has to do with cleanliness, but it really only has to do with being human and a host for a parasite that likes us as a food source. Sort of like mosquitoes but they have the grace to fly away after biting.

    May 9, 2014
    • this is very helpful! we did treat with chemicals, plus the combing. i know the buzzing is not a solution, but it helps, psychologically.

      May 9, 2014
  8. First, I’m loving that post lice-comb realness that Child 1 is giving the camera in that picture. It contains multitudes of ‘tude. It sort of reminds me of Tom’s futsal badge picture. You might be the Annie Leibovits of angsty family photos.

    My other favorite part of this post is when Tom stops and pulls himself up to full height. That’s some serious tone-setting imagery right there.

    Second, Gah! You’re back, and not a moment too soon!

    I, personally, have never had lice, and if there were lice outbreaks (there must have been, right?) in my school, they never notified anyone. But educated people on the internet are saying that we should just live bug-infested lives:
    http://www.slate.com/articles/life/family/2014/03/lice_in_school_let_em_stay.html

    May 8, 2014
    • hello friend. first, i get the theory, but that article is terrifying. complacency is the first step to total takeover. by the lice. second, i love that photo so much. i like that you can see his little baby hairs which i never even noticed he had, since i don’t comb his hair. also my family is naturally chock full of ‘tude so i can’t take credit. third, i think i may just start blogging once or twice a month. mulling it over. less pressure

      May 9, 2014
      • You mean to tell me that complete strangers on the internet are not your first priority?!? That’s crazy 🙂

        May 9, 2014
  9. This is so true! We’ve been there (twice unfortunately). My daughter is a magnet for them apparently. How mortifying! It’s like a parental rite of passage.

    May 8, 2014
  10. Emz #

    Lice Knowing You sounds good. When I was little it was just my mum, a harsh chemical and a brutally wielded comb.

    May 7, 2014
    • I think the chemicals are milder but that comb was wielded pretty brutally on Finn. The lady apologized and said it hurts more if you haven’t brushed in a while. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that he has never brushed his hair

      May 7, 2014
      • Emz #

        Hahaha. Don’t feel bad, my partner never brushes HER long hair either.

        May 7, 2014
  11. You might have heard me screaming all the way from Portland when I found out my niece had lice, the day after she spent the night at our house. She even borrowed my brush. 😦 I decontaminated the entire house and all of our heads but never found a bug. Whew!

    May 7, 2014
    • i feel especially sorry for you, because you gave to your niece, by hosting her. and she could have given you lice!!!! 🙂

      May 7, 2014
  12. Karen #

    All I have to say is be thankful that you have the buzz cut option, because I didn’t, twice over, and it SUCKS. What also sucks is that parents don’t tell the school or tell other parents, because it’s icky and embarrassing, but all that means is that the stupid BUGS keep spreading. And by the way, Lice Knowing You is fabulous but they charge by the hour, which for long haired girls gets rather pricey. (Not that I blame them – it takes longer, so should cost more.) Finally, I do have to agree with the other commenter – did YOU get checked? Because if you snuggle with those boys, well, enough said.

    May 7, 2014
    • yes i got checked! also, you have hit the nail on the head with regard to the weird secret behavior of parents whose kids get lice and don’t report it. or the ones that are scared to tell their friends about it, or that their kids have it. it’s lice. everyone gets it. the sooner we treat it like every other disgusting childhood scourge by getting it out into the open, the better we can deal with it

      May 7, 2014
  13. Lice is one of the least fun things we’ve been through with our children. Only a couple of rungs below hospital visits. So… my only girl child (so no buzz cuts here thank you) who at the time had very long cury wavy hair (Mom’s black and Dad’s white) got lice at church. I can’t begin to describe how unhappy I was and how much work it took and how badly I felt for her after about the fourth time scrubbing the shampoo through her head and combing all that hair with those itty bitty combs. I would have happily paid Lice Knowing You an insane amount of money to get through all that hair! Thankfully that was our only sweep with it. We all but burned every piece of fabric in the house and the boys all got buzz cuts.

    May 7, 2014
    • yes, i do feel bad complaining about lice with my boys. my friend has a kid with long curly hair and i can’t even imagine the horror of dealing with lice with that beautiful hair

      May 7, 2014
  14. We fortunately escaped school days lice free. It helped my kids were both super sarcastic so others kept a bit of distance out of respect (and fear). I remember from my own elementary school days (in that short span of years after one room schoolhouses, encompassing red scare “duck and cover” drills but before corporal punishment was banned) a girl who had to wear some sort of shower cap arrangement to school for several weeks due to lice.

    We weren’t sure what was going on with her but if recollection serves her family moved out of state shortly thereafter. Times seem to be much better now in terms of understanding and acceptance. (And/or lice are a lot more widespread, Lice to Know You? Eeeugh!).

    May 7, 2014
    • it’s Lice Knowing You. not lice to know you. i only correct you because i made the mistake about ten times in writing this post. and it got me thinking about the brilliance of the name. because “lice to know you” implies that you feel polite and kind toward the lice, whereas “lice knowing you” implies that you’re happy to say goodbye to lice. i love thinking about stuff like this. the shower cap story makes me sad

      May 7, 2014
  15. You’re back with a vengeance! How ironic – we spent 3 hours at Lice Knowing You this Saturday. I have a daughter with long, thick hair, so buzzing was not an option – just picking those suckers out strand by strand. And Yoona, I know your denial protects you, but were YOU checked? Because just like colds and germs, my kids shared their lice with me. Ain’t parenting grand?

    May 7, 2014
    • yes i got checked. also, as soon as my kids got lice i texted my friends that i finally had a new blog topic. so yes, i am back with a vengeance, and it’s all due to lice. i ought to feel grateful really

      May 7, 2014
  16. VERY entertaining story!! I hope that reading it is as close as I get to actually dealing with lice but know that the odds are against me. I am very freaked out by lice – I remember being terrified of being one of the lice-kids back when I was in school and checks were underway. My girls aren’t worried about it in the slightest which I find weird but also much healthier. When you think about it, it really isn’t a problem for the kids – it’s the adults who suffer….

    May 7, 2014
    • and with that last line, you’ve kind of summed up parenting in general, i think. i also hope that this post is the closest you get to lice! good luck!!

      May 7, 2014
  17. This is hysterical! The pictures are wonderful. My four daughters, all with very long hair, had lice when they were in elementary school. It was horrible and took up hours of my day combing and combing their hair to get rid of those nasty bugs. We felt like total pariahs.

    May 7, 2014
    • pariahs, yes. i felt that way especially as i struggled to find the lice knowing you. totally unmarked. and i wondered why. but then i knew.

      May 7, 2014

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