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What’s Nice About Lice

By Katy K. (full name withheld)

I was called at work to pick up my children from school midday this spring. News of their lice floored me. Lice had always seemed like something that happened to other people. Being selected by the lice was an eye-opener. These are my favorite things about lice.

IMG_02731. Hours spent combing hair. I have sons. My braids/barrettes/ribbons experience is limited to my own head. Once you get past the fact that you are picking bug eggs out of their hair, spending hours each day combing is a very relaxing, affectionate experience.

2. Expanding horizons. By necessity, I learned all about the nit-louse life cycle and various strategies for disrupting it. One son read facts about the states to me as I combed: Now I know that Kentucky has the largest fireworks display. And Rhode Island is most famous for having the oldest synagogue. We sat chatting, uninterrupted, for so many hours–probably more idle conversation than we’d have had all month–that I got a new view into my kids’ lives.

3. Bonding with other lice survivors. I’d been admiring the intense bonds of friendship recovering addicts form with each other. But now I see the same bonding mechanism among lice survivors: knowing looks exchanged over the heads of citronella-scented children, and the watchful weariness that comes from hours spent under a bright light with skinny wooden sticks and a child’s head.

4. The satisfaction of  victory. I now understand lice–their motivations, desires, and skills–and feel I have proven, through diligence and hard work, my tenacity. It’s not about the potency of a pesticide shampoo. To best lice, you have to put in the time.  If I can harness this determination and apply it to other areas of my life, I will be an unstoppable force.

5. The authority to tell people what to do. Just as someone who has succeeded at Weight Watchers might push Zero-Point Soup, I will push tight-toothed metal combs and Cetaphil.quit nits

6. Dogs can’t get lice. Or they can’t get the lice we get, anyway. Can you imagine how long it would take to search through an entire dog for things that are nearly microscopic? The huge relief of not having to search our dog for nits made searching the human parts of our family a relative breeze.

7. Kindness from unexpected places. Friends and friends-of-friends shared their experiences and winning treatment strategies. One offered to bring me drinks with straws to sip while nit picking. An old friend gently offered to pick my nits, if it came to that. Our school nurse was much kinder and more sympathetic than she needed to be: she patiently taught me what to look for, the difference between a nit and “bits of scalp” (so kind is she, she didn’t even say dandruff), and advised me against shaving the boys’ hair. People with curly hair pointed out how lucky we are to have straight hair. A mother of teenagers shared her (well-thumbed) copy of Head Lice to Dead Lice, which felt as kind and loving as being trusted with a secret family recipe. We were not shunned but instead were embraced as part of the infested human family.

So thanks to the lice for choosing us. We hope you will not find it necessary to come again.

Read more about how to treat lice in the Kidoinfo archives: Help! My Kid has LICE!

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  • I LOL at every comment!
    With 5 children (4 at the time, pg w/#5), we got “bit” by the nits 2 summers ago…and i thought the same thing altho i would never have told my No Lice friends, how soothing , relaxing and bonding it actually was to go through 4 daughters’ heads ALL day for DAYS!….and repeat!
    Also, i told everyone, being part Asian i always wished for curls for my girls, but, what a blessing that we have thin, fine straight hair!!!
    Your essay was fantastic, you should submit it to a Parents Magazine or something!

  • Beautifully written. I remember the lice picking days of my youth, and the foul stank of chemicals that stuck with me for days.
    I also remember my time as a nanny for an extremely affluent family who actually paid a service to come in and pick the nits from her kids’ heads. Think of all the bonding she missed! 🙂
    All of a sudden as the mom of 2 long hair boys, I am not as scared of lice. Thanks Katy.