A letter came home from school today that strikes fear into my heart. It’s the pediculosis letter.
For those of you who may not be familiar with the medical terminology, it’s more commonly known as Head Lice, Nits, or the Scourge of Parents the World Over.
I have a love / hate relationship with the little critters that dates back to when I was a child. In those days, the Nit Nurse came to the local school to forage through the follicles of the entire under 11 population, and report loudly back to the class teacher should any of the blighters be located. Those children were then duly dispatched home with a strongly worded note, some noxious shampoo and the instruction not to return until the all clear had been sounded.
When it was my children’s turn to attend primary school, the Nit Nurse had been phased out as cruel and barbaric. In its place was a more holistic, cyclical process of repeated infestation and endless torturous combing sessions. Teachers no longer bothered to send notes home, choosing instead to accept the inevitable presence and adopt the lice as classroom pets.
By now, Health Authorities were attempting to rebrand nits, sending out cheerily colored information leaflets informing parents and children alike that head lice (the creepy crawly adult version) preferred clean hair in which to lay their eggs. Sadly for me, this came at precisely the wrong time; for once I was proud of my superior parenting powers in Wiggy’s lice free status. Apparently, it now told people that I didn’t bathe him enough.
And then came Martha to redeem my status. As with everything Feisty, she came out fighting. She hadn’t even made it to school age before managing to infest the entire family (myself included) with a particularly virulent strain. You have to hand it to her – when she does something, she does it with gusto. She is the family version of Typhoid Mary, skipping merrily through whatever ailment she manages to catch, and leaving a trail of incapacitated bodies in her wake.
So it was with this particular pediculosis; her fine wispy hair was quickly deemed inadequate for purpose by its local population who promptly decamped to me. (Those of you who have already read Tick Bite Fever will know that I do not take parasitic invasion well.) At the age of 34, I was struck down with my first ever case of head lice and spent Christmas fruitlessly applying every homeopathic, non-toxic nit remedy to my scalp. I was finally forced to skulk into the local Boots drugstore to locate the head lice version of napalm, interrogating the hapless assistant in an attempt to establish which was the most lethal remedy.
She looked concerned when I loaded three bottles into my basket, and tried to intervene on behalf of whatever child I was in danger of poisoning. If you ever want to end an unwanted conversation swiftly, I can vouch for the phrase “you might not want to get too close, I have head lice” as being a winner.
But the thing I love about head lice is that they are a shining example of non-discriminatory practice. They are global – we have managed to play welcome host in every country we have ever lived, and sometimes, twice. They have no interest in race, color, culture, income or social standing and ironically, the more ambitious the parenting, the more prevalent they seem to be. I can only think they are standing waiting at a little head lice base camp somewhere, waiting for you to even think the words “Well, of course, MY children…”
Head lice. Parenting Karma