There are a few instances when I decline to update my Facebook status for fear of being ridiculed by my friends, family and marginal coworkers.
I usually don’t write things like:
“Headed to the One Direction concert tonight.”
“Just ate a whole jar of Nutella.”
Or anything that includes the term “Woot.”
So a couple of weeks ago, I certainly did not update my status to say, “Our girls have head lice. Woot woot.”
Once you have a case of head lice in the house, you tend to withdraw from society. There is a stigma attached to having lice, even though it’s more common than you think. I equate it to the first season of Glee—where everybody was making fun of it, but secretly watching it at the same time.
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I actually had a case of head lice when I was in grade four. My mom was angry that I was scratching my head repeatedly and she later discovered the bugs crawling through my hair. I didn’t mind missing a couple of days of school, because it meant I got to watch The Price Is Right—albeit with a shower cap on my head.
So, 30 years after that incident, I had another brush with head lice when my wife found them in our oldest daughter’s hair. We immediately threw her sheets, pillowcase and stuffed animals into the washing machine and tried to calm her anxiety about having bugs crawling through her hair. You spend so much time telling kids that there is no such thing as “cooties”—only to explain that there actually is a condition where tiny bugs will suddenly appear on your scalp.
Once we realized we had a full-fledged case on our hands, I headed out the door to buy some lice shampoo.
It’s an embarrassing feeling, walking into the drug store to ask for something like lice shampoo. I told my wife that if there ever was a time for me to load up on embarrassing items, this was it. “Hey, do you need tampons? Maybe I should buy some jock itch spray. I might even buy a Big Turk chocolate bar. Let’s get this all out of the way at once.”
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When you buy head lice shampoo, everything else in the cart looks pretty tame. And of course they keep head lice shampoo behind the pharmacist’s desk, so you actually have to ask for it. You can’t discreetly sneak into the drug store to buy it—you are actually forced into drawing attention to yourself. (Thank goodness this isn’t the same policy for anti-diarrhea medication).
My wife applied the shampoo to both of our daughters’ hair, and the stuff was absolutely potent. It makes Selson Blue smell like Febreeze. But when you finish the shampoo treatment you still have to pick out the individual nits and eggs from the hair. After watching my wife do that for several hours, I have a brand new respect for the hygiene habits of orangutans and gorillas—since they do not have the luxury of using a specialized comb.
The process takes several hours over the course of several days. The nits are more stubborn and persistent than a telemarketer and seem to appear with the same frequency. A lice attack isn’t over until you’ve removed every single egg, because it could hatch and trigger another attack.
For a few days, we were kind of turned off from eating certain kinds of foods. My stomach churned when my wife asked, “Does anybody want eggs for breakfast?” Eggs are not a popular term in our house these days. And I was in the food court at the mall last week and declined to put the sesame seeds on top of my Chinese stir-fry because they reminded me of the lice bugs.
Of course, you go back and try and figure out how this could have happened. And then you also need to make the other parents in your child’s circle of friends aware of this, so they can be on high alert. That portion is equally embarrassing as going to the drug store.
The phone call to the other parents is part informative, part accusatory, because quite frankly, your child could have got the lice from their kid. So the conversation usually opens like this:
You: “Hi, how’s it going?”
Other parent: “Good, thanks.”
You: “Anything new at your place?”
Other parent: “No—why? Is anything new at your place?”
You: “Maybe. That depends on whether or not there is anything you are itching to tell me.”
At some point, you will finally admit that there is a case of head lice in the house and you are hoping that somebody will take responsibility for it. In the end, you usually don’t know where the lice came from—only that it was passed along to you like a bad chain letter from the 1990s.
So, if your child ends up with head lice, try not to take it personally. It doesn’t mean you are a bad or neglectful parent. It’s more common than you think—even if you don’t want to publicize the fact that your kids have it.
Follow along as Ottawa-based sports radio host Ian Mendes gets candid about raising daughters, Elissa and Lily, with his wife, Sonia. Read all of Ian’s The Good Sport posts and follow him on Twitter @ian_mendes.