Why I’m Grateful For My Kid’s Lice
By Jeni Marinucci
PHOTO © Mypurgatoryyears/Getty Images
Jun 26, 2019
It’s the phone call or letter from the school parents dread the most. No, it’s not the book sale flyer or the fieldtrip-volunteers-needed request, or even the 1000-page info packet that comes home the beginning of every school year. It’s the “lice in the classroom” red-alarm warning, and this time it was coming straight at me.
Somehow I had been lucky enough to escape lice for the entirety of my own school and camp career. When my young daughter was sent home, simple instructional pamphlet in hand after she was “discovered” in a lineup, I quite literally had no idea what to do.
First, I put my own long hair up in a bun, then put my head in my hands and contemplated my options after a perfunctory check of Google. The internet told me that my response was required: a) swiftly; and that I needed to b) hit this HARD.
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Proposed protocol ran the gamut from burning sage in an outdoor sacrificial pyre and dancing around the moonlight with half a peeled potato in each hand, to calling in the professional lice squad, whom I was assured would come into my home to wash everything I owned in scalding hot water, bag up the rest and then pull my child’s hair one strand at a time while glaring at me (I expected) with tons of judgment. All for $150 an hour. This did not seem like the direction I wanted to explore, and I already had family members who could do this for free.
What I was not expecting after our lice experience was to walk away from that week having one of the best bonding experiences with my young daughter to date.
Instead, I took the middle-of-the-road approach, which I’ve found to be generally best in all decisions made while parenting young children. I remained calm while I spoke to the pharmacist at our local drugstore instead of screaming and scratching my head. I’ve bought everything at this drugstore from 99-cent clearance sale turkey stuffing to condoms, but for some reason lice was my personal breaking point. I returned home armed with shampoos and combs and plastic caps. WE COULD DO THIS!
And we did.
What I was not expecting after our lice experience was to walk away from that week having one of the best bonding experiences with my young daughter to date. She had remained pretty calm throughout, that is once I had explained that shaving her head was not a viable option so she could stop worrying. I assured her that she would emerge from this episode tresses intact. (I will cop to having at least fantasized about the idea, however.)
The few days at home together until she was given the all clear were happy ones. She was old enough to have the patience to sit calmly while I shampooed and conditioned her hair, then braided it and twisted in into little buns to secure under the plastic cap. We talked and chatted about things we’d never had time to before, and because there was nothing on the agenda other than waiting for things to work, we achieved a level of peace we hadn’t before.
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It wasn’t like a weekend where we had things to do and places to be. Instead, this was like time unpinned. And that I had the fortune to be able to easily forgo two days at work to focus solely on her, to handle her things and wash them with care, was a great gift to me.
Parenting is a verb and it makes sense that it is so. It's such an active state and always so busy — something always needs to be repaired, to be bought, arranged, cooked, cleaned. The days my daughter and I were able to spend with only one another, her comfort and care my only goal, were divine.
I will long remember the peace and calm of combing her hair, slowly and methodically, examining every inch of her beautiful head for hours on end. It was a luxury I hadn’t had since her baby days. And I while I certainly wouldn't wish lice upon this house again, there is a small part of me that wouldn’t not wish it either.
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