Ah, the wonderful memories my second daughter's birthday will always bring back. She is 12 today and exactly one year ago while fixing her little sister's hair, I saw some tiny little thing move. I looked closer and got a hold of it. I ran to the office, Googled it, and sure enough, lice! I was horrified. The horror really set in when I remembered the birthday girl had just had friends at our house for a sleepover birthday party the night before. They're tweens. Tweens like to do hair at sleepovers, and that involves sharing brushes. I hollered out to her to hurry into the bathroom, and I lifted a chunk of her hair. Nits, A LOT of nits! I later decided that using the crimper fried most of the adults as I only found nits. We proceeded on to church where I grabbed the hand of any child I caught scratching their head. I caught hubby picking lice off of a head like an orangutan and squeezing them to death between his fingers and shot him a look that a wife should not give her husband, especially at church. I was just sure everyone who saw that and all the itching, knew we were infested and were silently damning us to hell right there in the sanctuary for daring to show up. After church, I Googled some more information, set to work on a home remedy I discovered, and ordered an array of products on Amazon to use in a couple days if that didn't work. I vacuumed, washed, boiled, and bagged up everything! I treated my entire family because I decided I had it too since my head was suddenly sooo itchy. Since then I have realized the strength of the power of suggestion. How many times have you scratched your head while reading this paragraph? Don't lie. I know you have. I can barely continue writing because I keep itching mine!
End of lice story, right? No. Ridding my family of lice was not the only thing I felt compelled to do. I very easily could have treated the lice and told my girls to keep quiet about it at school. I didn't. I could have just hoped the heat of the crimper prevented any from being passed on alive. I didn't. I could have figured that it would likely take weeks for the moms of our guests to discover lice in their daughter's hair, by which time it would be unlikely that they would link it back to the sleepover. I didn't. Instead, I was brave enough to care about doing the right thing. I had to be brave enough not to worry about the social stigma associated with lice. I texted those moms and the moms of my younger daughter's friends and every mom I saw at pick-up the next day.
I would guess that most of you have at least checked your child's head for lice after hearing hushed tones in the hallway and whispers in the parking lot about a possible outbreak. I would also venture to guess that you have rarely heard it from the mother of the child who actually has lice. These little insects don't just hide in hair and thrive on blood from a scalp. They also hide behind secrecy and thrive on the fear of embarrassment. When parents secretly treat lice and do not tell their children's classmates to be on the lookout for it, one child passes it to another and that one doesn't find it and treat for a few weeks and in the meantime passes it to another, who doesn't find it and treat it until they have passed it to another, and so on and so forth, forever, and ever, and EVER!
If we were all open and honest about lice they would no longer have anywhere to hide. We could be a united force that eradicates all the lice simultaneously. Instead, we worry that people will think we are somehow 'less than', don't wash our kids' hair often enough, or that our houses are dirty. We are afraid our child will be ridiculed by their peers. We are sure that if we are the first to speak up all the other mothers will be happy to blame our child for it when theirs gets it too.
But here is the thing. Lice do not magically materialize out of thin air when a kid's head is really dirty. (And thank goodness, because we would have a rough go of it at my house if that were the case.) They are passed from the head of one child that touches the head of any other child, clean or dirty. Lice don't discriminate. They are not contemplating crawling onto a child's head and thinking, "Ohh, no this one's dad is a doctor and his mom washes his hair for him every day. He's too rich, gotta leave him alone. Ah-ha! Here is a child of sufficiently low socioeconomic status! Her single mom is a waitress and has to wait to get paid to replace the bottle of shampoo that ran out a couple days ago! I will crawl onto her!" That's just not how it works, but you would think so from the way some people behave.
But us moms can beat this. We need to talk about lice the same way we talk about bedtime strategies and potty-training. We need to share our experiences, so we can all learn from and help each other. Next time you find lice at your house, get brave and find yourself a megaphone!
Want to know more about getting rid of the little suckers?
I clean my kids' bedrooms very thoroughly one time each year. I usually get it done before school is out for the summer, but last year I barely got started before the last day of school snuck up on me. As a result, I spent the first part of the summer doing it while all the kids ran wild, ignoring any requests I made because they knew I was focused on the bedrooms. So, while I waded through my children's excessive worldly possessions day after day, they did whatever they wanted. They watched tons of TV, played Wii, made a wet, sandy mess outdoors (much of which found its way into the house), and left evidence trails of every snack they made for themselves all over the kitchen and living room. Cleaning does not occupy the mind well, so I sat seething and sorting and dwelling on how selfish, spoiled, entitled, and disrespectful my kids had become.
To top that off, I've found that the depths of the mess in a child's room is an archeological dig of all the naughty things they have done over the past few months. There are reminders of things you knew about, discoveries of things you didn't, and concrete evidence of things you suspected. I found marker and nail polish places neither of those things ought to be. I found mean notes about siblings and pity party scrawlings in random notebooks about how unfair I am, and deprived and mistreated the child who wrote it feels. I discovered stepping on the little metal Monopoly dog hurts even worse than a Lego. I found old food in these rooms where food is not allowed. I found toys that belong to siblings that appeared intentionally hidden.
As compelled as I felt to go discuss each of these misdeeds with the corresponding culprits, I decided retroactive punishment was not an option. My daughter would have no idea what she put under her dresser four months ago and there was no possibility of convincing her that the furry green creature on the plate used to be a half-eaten piece of pizza. My son would explain that his little sister brought puzzles and games into his room because it was the only clean floor space in the basement, until she came and destroyed it of course. When they ran out of siblings to blame, they would move on to the cousins who were not present to defend their honor. And bringing up whatever inspired the, "I hat you, I hat you, I hat you," note would inevitably begin another argument. I was too busy getting the cleaning done to stop and confront them about each infraction anyway. Plus I was preoccupied by the fact that my 8-year-old does not know all about spelling long vowel words with a silent 'e' at the end. So the irritation with all these new found and remembered infractions festered making me increasingly furious.
Imagine me as a can of pop and imagine each moldy cup, each airsoft gun pellet, each Polly Pocket shoe, each piece of trash, each musty towel, each long lost single shoe stuffed in a toy purse, and each hour of the kids' TV watching and Wii playing as a little shake. I will not go into all the horrific details, but I'll just say about the third week in, the kids flipped my tab by claiming I was "starving" them by refusing to buy ice cream and snow cones at the ball field each day. (Insert loud, long, psychotic rant about their lack of respect and gratefulness for each day here.)
You are probably expecting some great faith-filled experience or perhaps just a Bible verse about some inspiring way I overcame this horrible negativity since that is generally how this type of blog post ends. Well, sorry. Not this time. I didn't overcome it. Cleaning my kids rooms sucks and I am never going to become Cinderella singing with the birds over it no matter how much praying or Bible reading I do. But since blog posts are supposed to be helpful to their readers, I will tell you this: Christians, and especially Christian moms with young kids, are going to have awful days. Once we get ourselves together after a bad day, or week, we can look back and see that we did not give our children grace and completely lost our tempers. We can berate ourselves and vow not to let that happen again. But it will. It WILL happen again. We are still human. Kids are still kids. So let's forget berating ourselves and insisting we will suddenly become perfect or that we can find a permanent fix for entitled children. Let's just pray for forgiveness and the guidance to lose it a tiny bit less next time.
We must also understand that those bad days serve a very important purpose. They help us appreciate the mundane. Ironically, it is those days that remind us how to be as grateful for God's gifts as we hope our kids will be one day. They make every tiny mom win a little sweeter. Something as simple as heading to church at the end of that week with all the children wearing appropriate church shoes that they found all by themselves, in their closets was indescribably glorious!
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I am the mother of seven children ranging from teens to a toddler, living out in the middle of nowhere, USA. I aim to hone the craft of giving advice without pretending to have this whole mom thing figured out. I am Christian, but not the really nice kind that is good at it. I am also conservative, but I promise not to be in your face with political agendas very often. I like to infuse humor into my writing, so don't freak out if you are offended or appalled by what you read here. There is a very fine line between serious advice and sarcastic hyperbole.