Ah, spring! This past week has finally started looking a little less like winter here in New England, and people from Maine to Connecticut are walking around with smiles on their face. The garden stores are opening up, eager buds are popping out on the plants and trees, and one afternoon - go ahead and laugh, you non-New England readers - I even drove around with my windows open!
All sorts of living creatures are making their spring appearances and while some are welcome, others are decidedly NOT. I've spent the week dealing with a visit from one of the unwelcome varieties of small critter. Not the woodpeckers, although they are back. Nope, not any 4-legged animals, like mice or raccoons. Unfortunately, our little visitors are of the 6- legged variety, and as I've been wading through all the treatments and advice and home remedies, I've learned a lot about how to deal with Our Friend: The Louse.
One thing I have noticed now that I am a member of this special club is how many people still feel a sense of shame and panic when their kids get lice. When the first case appeared among our acquaintances a few weeks ago, I spent hours on the phone with a friend listening to her freak out after her child was sent home from school with an itchy head. I felt a ton of sympathy for her, and I hope I was helpful in talking her down from the ledge a little bit, but while I could identify with the panic part of what she was feeling, I didn't understand the shame she obviously felt.
Now that we have it in our house, I still don't get it. Panic? Sure - you want to be done with this never-ending combing and laundry NOW, and when it still isn't eradicated you feel frustrated that you have to start all over. I wasn't sure why it didn't bother me at all if people knew, though, until I called my mom and told her about my awful week. She replied, "Remember when your sister got it? "
Suddenly, it was clear to me. I didn't remember it that much, because it was no big deal to my family. Maybe it was a reverse class thing, because my dad was a doctor and we caught it from my cousin via a ritzy high-class gymnastics camp, but I just never thought it was anything to be ashamed of. Getting lice was like getting poison ivy - a bummer, a bit painful, and even though it took you out of circulation for a while, it was just bad luck.
A quick spin around the internet will show you that lice are universal. It is a myth that only "dirty" people get them. People from all walks of life have the little buggers hitch a ride onto their heads and into their homes. Heck, even the Countess from "Real Housewives of NYC" had to deal with them. Of course, her kid had international jet-set lice, but I digress.
This post is really for those of you parents who have yet to experience the thrill ride that is a lice infestation. Chances are good that you will experience it at some point in your child's school years. If (when) it happens to you, just remember that "louse" is not a dirty word. You have nothing to be ashamed of. Really.
Instead, do what I've done: shampoo, treat, comb, pick, bag, wash, repeat. Do your best to eradicate it, be patient and diligent, and try not to dwell on where your child picked it up. Repeat after me: "Catching lice is not a moral failure." Then go play the lottery, because you are totally due for a change of luck!