A few years ago, we got fleas. It happened exactly one week after we gave the world’s stupidest cat the old heave ho. The flaming injustice of this timing should have taught me something about the way the gods of vermin feel about me. It should have prepared me for what happened to us a few weeks ago, when we made the final decision to send our kids to school next year, instead of homeschooling: we got head lice. You know, the highly communicable infestation that kids get when, unlike us for the last six years, you spend time with other people.
My brain is still twitching like a sad little chimp at the electroshock therapy lab, but I will attempt to share with you what I have learned from our experience.
My first thought is that there ought to be a law against attaching a picture of a louse to every article on how to get rid of lice. I mean, have mercy, I know what they look like at this point. They look like disgusting little demons that can spontaneously generate out of purple hair extensions from the Dollar Tree. I see them all day, every day, whether they are there or not, and they populate my dreams, too. They are sucking blood out of my baby’s scalp. So when I am forcing myself to read yet another piece on how to get rid of them, I would like to respectfully request that the author choose an illustration of . . . anything else. Cheese. Top hats. Nuclear warheads. Something nice; just not more lice.
We actually conducted something of a scientific experiment with our lice-ridding techniques. On the pleasant, docile child I did the routine where you smother her head with olive oil and have her recline on your lap and comb individual nits out of her hair every night for many hours, for several weeks. You can chat about why there are lice in the world, which leads to a discussion of original sin and the felix culpa, which leads to foolish retellings of fairy tales and reminiscinces of when she was a baby. Despite the anxiety and the crick in the neck, it can actually be something close to a pleasant, bonding experience (although you can give a kiss goodbye to the idea of doing or thinking about anything else for 21 days or more).
For the other kid, because we are afraid of her, we took a bit of a risk and went with a relatively new treatment regimen: Cetaphil and hairdryers. So far, we have had identical results with both kids. So here is your public service message for the day: try Cetaphil.
The basic idea is that you drench the head with this mild cleanser, comb it through with a regular comb, and then dry it completely with a hair dryer. You do this once a week for three weeks. It works by “shrink wrapping” the lice. The lice should not be able to develop a resistance to this treatment, because it’s not based on a chemical that will kill them — it simply blocks their breathing holes. Let’s see the little bastards evolve their way out of that one!
You do not have to comb nits, you do not have to wash everything you own (discovering, in the process, that your eight children own 6 large blankets each, and have been storing their all of their summer and winter clothes, as well as a large collection of unwashable fairy costumes, in their beds), and you do not begin to hallucinate.
You may even be able to avoid the soul-crushing experience of hearing yourself shriek, “Oh, oh, oh no, there’s another one, we’ll never get to the end of this, oh, why can’t you just stay still and stop making my life even more miserable than it actually is???” at a cowering two-year-old, only to realize that what you thought was a nit was actually a little glistening fleck of spittle that flew out of your mouth while you were shrieking at a cowering two-year-old.
It may be premature, but I would like to start the beatification process one local teenager named Rebecca, who came over to babysit even while knowing full well that we had head lice. We went to see Iron Man 2 at the drive-in theater, and we brought beer. I think this practice should be incorporated into the American Pediatric Association’s recommendations for the treatment of head lice. It doesn’t do anything for the lice, of course, but it may save your marriage. (Did I mention the spittle?)
Well, that’s about it. I think we’re just about done with head lice, although you have to be free of nits for ten days straight before you can declare a final victory. My friends, if you have tried Cetaphil and it didn’t work, I beg of you: don’t tell me. I’m super serious. At the moment, the baby is napping, there’s a fresh breeze blowing, I don’t feel itchy, and the dryer is silent for the first time in three weeks. Even if it’s only false hope, I’m really enjoying it. Don’t ruin this for me.