The past week has been a parade of month-long infestations. We've had moms wringing their hands, with furrowed brows, asking in that exasperated tone, "How did I NOT know my kid had lice??" My answer? "Because you weren't looking for it." Sometimes they have looked. With their eyes. See my previous entry "Check Please!" to get the scoop on that. Sometimes the school nurse has looked, sometimes the pediatrician has looked, sometimes the dermatologist has looked. All this looking and little Bobby or Janie has had head lice for a month or more.
It's enough to make a mom feel bad. I'm a perfect case study in this regard. Until October 23, 2008, I had never experienced lice in my home. Aside from an unfortunate incident at summer camp in 1982, I never even thought about head lice. Well, I thought about it when I saw a note in my kid's backpack, but I never really THOUGHT about it. Not the way I do now. So, I was going about my incredibly normal, uneventful life until I got a call from a good friend, "My daughter has lice and so do I. You need to get your son checked." I thought to myself, "OK, I'll check him." He was out on a playdate at a friend's house. Had I really thought he might have lice, I would have immediately gone to get him. Not knowing what I know now, I figured he probably didn't have it. I was wrong.
About 2-3 hours later, when my friend dropped my boy off at home, he walked through the door into the foyer and I immediately stopped him. I parted his hair with my hands and a bug skittered past my left index finger. What came next was embarrassing. I began to jump around screaming, "OH MY GOD!" over and over again while flapping my arms like a psychotic chicken. That was a Friday evening. The next two days was a blur of dripping conditioner, nit combs, boiling water, and LAUNDRY. There was lots and lots of laundry. A lovely woman came to my house to treat my son. She checked my daughter, my husband and me. She told us none of us had lice. She was wrong. My daughter and I both had lice. She didn't use a comb, she used her eyes. Tsk tsk.
The feelings a mom has when her babies (no matter their age, they are always our babies) have bugs in their hair run the gamut. She feels inadequate for not knowing it was there, she feels guilty for not being able, in the moment, to be the one caring for her child in a time of need, and she feels negligent because things like this just shouldn't happen to "good" moms of "good" children. How do I know every mom in my office feels like this? Because I've been there myself. I am in the perfect position to counsel these moms because I have walked the mile in their shoes.
So if or when you find yourself in this position, remember, if you were walking down the street and the winning lottery numbers were written on the side of a building but you didn't know that's what they were, you'd think it was just graffitti. If you don't know what you're looking for you won't find it. I've said it before and I'll say it again, if you're not checking your kids with a comb, you may miss something. Invest in a good solid stainless steel nit comb. It will last you until your kids go to college and it's just as important as ointment and band-aids to keep in your mommy kit. If you find it fast, you may only have one person to treat as opposed to a whole family. Believe me, it's better that way.
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