Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Lice Whisperer

Back-to-school time in Southern California - watch the leaves on the trees turn from green to toast. Bombard neighbors and relatives with school fundraisers. Crank up the diesel-fueled homework generator.

As I shoveled my way through another pile of school notices, notes, and non-sequitors, I came upon the traditional yet cheery "Greetings-your-child-may-or-may-not-have-been-exposed-to-head-lice-we-must-tell-you-so-we're-not-liable-have-a-nice-day" announcement. Why Hallmark has not come out with a card for this occasion is beyond me. Every year we would get this note. Every year I would freak at the thought of tiny insects camping out on my children. Every year I would pore over their scalps searching for the elusive 'nit.' Never did I find anything.

Until now. Both boys had them. Yech. It was like playing 'Where's Waldo,' only in this case, Waldo had six legs and no sweater. My younger son was worse – crawlin’ with crawlies. Waldo’s extended family, I guess.

I immediately bought the $20 (ripoff!) bottle of magic shampoo and globbed it on our heads. I then boiled every piece of fabric in the house, shaved the dogs, and offered a burnt sacrifice to "Rid", patron saint of bald children. (To be honest, the 'burnt sacrifice' was our dinner that I had neglected while I was shaving the dogs.) Armed with the traditional teeny combs, we then began the ritualistic hunting of the nits.

Novices may think that is all there is to it. Veterans of the Lice Wars know better. Twice a day we hunted. Every seven days we’d adorn ourselves with stinky goop shampoo as an offering to repel the evil insects.

But still they came, crawling back again and again for more. Finally we cornered them. On my youngest son’s head they made a stand, drawing their tiny covered wagons into a circle.

The instructions on the shampoo bottle may tell you what to do, but they don't tell you how to get it done. "Take traditional teeny comb and scrape through child's hair as they squirm, pausing often to yank on individual hairs to induce screaming. Rinse & repeat for 45 minutes."

No sober seven-year-old will stand still for five minutes, much less the 45 needed to properly explore his cranial bug zoo. I was desperate for a solution, and my tranquilizer gun was empty. But since you were kind enough to read this far, I'll share my solution with you, although it's not for the squeamish.

We filled the sink with water. I armed my son with a long hair from my own head. This, I told him, was his fishing pole. If he could hold still, in a few minutes we'd be going lice fishing. As I combed through his hair I'd put any bugs I found in the 'pond', and he'd fish for them with his 'hair pole.' This was fascinating, to the point that he was very upset when he no longer had any lice on his head with which to restock his pond.

When you're done scratching I'll continue. The audience is now split between those wretching at the thought of crawlies in their hair and sink, and the others making note of my technique to use in the future. Judge not, lest ye yourself be itchy.


stevie w said...

At my boys' school, they sell the $20 magic shampoo AS a fundraiser. But I fooled 'em - I cover my kids' books with cookie dough.

El said...

Been there, done that....

Anonymous said...


I worked at a day care. And I had loooong hair. 6. Months. 6. Freaking. Months. Every. Day. With that liittle teeny tiny comb. A yard of hair. 2 hours a day. Every day. For 6 months.

I'll have nightmares tonight.

Annie said...

anon - so sorry. I get itchy just thinking about it. I've give you a hug, but I don't want to catch anything. ;)

stevie - that's a great fundraiser - buy this shampoo from us, or your kid will get bugs!

Blogchik said...

I have it on good authority, from my friend the former corrections officer, that mayonaisse left in hair for an hour or two will kill the little b@stids.

She can't stand the smell of it to this day.

Annie said...

Oh, my - a possible solution.