I thought we had gotten through our parenting years without having to deal with this obnoxious, loathsome scourge--but no. The tenacious vermin made their stealthy entrance on Sunday night, after 18.5 years of vulnerability.
M. Peevie and I quietly freaked out, while Mr. Peevie calmly continued to watch Olympic lugers rocketing through frozen alabaster tunnels. I walked over and stood in front of him, blocking his view.
"I don't think you quite understand the seriousness of this situation," I said to my follicle-free spouse. "This is a family affair. We need you to join the freak-out." Mr. P. is a fast learner. He immediately hurled the TV remote across the room, grabbed his phone and leapt into virtual action, Googling "CDC + head lice."
By the way--do not look at the images page that comes up when you Google "CDC + head lice," or you will have nightmares involving Egyptian-plague-level infestations for a long time.
"This says we need to wash everything on the hottest wash cycle," he announced, and started tearing sheets and pillowcases from the beds. Within minutes he had gotten the first load started, and offered to make a drug-store run.
I texted my friend Bella, who has dealt with this particular plague before, and had successfully defeated the tiny procreating pestilence. "Bella! Lice!" I texted. "Help!"
She, being a paragon of empathy and compassion, called immediately. "You have to go to Walgreens RIGHT NOW," she said. "Buy Rid, and start the treatment tonight." I could hear Mr. Bella in the background, advising me to stick with the harsh chemicals and not waste time with the homeopathic remedies. Bella also recommended a lice removal salon, "just to make sure you got them all."
The nasty bug-killing shampoo smelled like we were dipping M. Peevie's head in a bubbling cauldron of chemical waste products. I thought it was within the realm of possibility that M. Peevie and I would both be lying on the floor, unconscious, at the end of the treatment, our brains liquefied by the harsh fumes.
But at least the bugs would also be dead.
Then came the hard part--the comb-out. Suffice it to say that, before I started combing, M. Peevie and I had a fairly stable, amicable relationship; but at the end, with her hair bobby-pinned up in pincurls of chemical gel, and my fingers cramped and burning, we were as adversarial as Holmes and Moriarty.
We slept, sort of. The next day we visited The NitPickers for head checks and treatments. Our technician/therapist (TT) regaled us with facts and stories about the persistent pests ("they feed on your blood!"), and reassured us that what she was seeing was very mild. She found about 25 nits on poor M. Peevie's head, but no live bugs.
When it was my turn, I quickly realized that having your hair combed with a narrow-toothed nit-comb feels like getting your hair caught in a piece of farm equipment. This is why M. Peevie was so mad at me the night before! I really thought I was going to end up bald. TT combed and combed, and I wiggled and moaned like a toddler. "It really hurts!" I said, because I am a delicate flower.
"You're a giant baby," I'm pretty sure she told me.
TT found some tiny flecks that she thought might be nits, but we weren't sure. A few minutes later, she wiped the comb on the white towel and said, "Look at this."
I leaned over, and saw my tiny crawling nemesis. "Aaargh," I moaned. "Ack. Damn. Oh. No. Damn. Damn."
M. Peevie came over to take a look. "Are you mad at me, Mom?" she asked.
"Yes," I said, "You dirty, vile, disgusting child. This is one hundred percent your fault."
Jay-kay. I did not say that; and in fact, I said the right thing: "No, baby girl, I'm not mad at you. It's not your fault." But where did they come from? I wondered.
The American Academy of Pediatrics indicates that infestations are common among children age three to 12 years. We were, statistically speaking, in the clear; and yet--here we were.
That same well-sourced article also affirms that head lice
make themselves at home regardless of the health, hygiene, or cleanliness of their unwilling hosts. They don’t spread disease. Really, all they do is create a disproportionate brouhaha, and their stigma is far worse than their bite. One of the worst effects of a head lice infestation is the psychological trauma that goes along with the diagnosis.
A "disproportionate brouhaha." I like that. I think it would make a good title for my memoir.
TT said we had to comb ourselves out every day, and come back in three days for a re-check. I found a few nits in M. Peevie's head, and one live nymph in mine yesterday. Today we were both clear. We head back to see TT tomorrow after school, and I am hoping against hope that this is the end of our Adventures in Peduculosis. (That would not make a good title for my memoir, but you can use it for yours if you want. No credit necessary.)
Because I'm all about giving, I'll send you off with some rhyming couplets about head lice, courtesy of children's book author Mike Allegra: