(This appeared on Huffington Post on 06/04/2014).
When I was around 4 years old, I had a neighborhood friend named Dawn. I would go to her house to play Candy Land, and I would cheat and win frequently. Looking back, that was a really crappy thing to do. Dawn’s family didn’t celebrate holidays for religious reasons, so she was a kid with little excitement in her life. The least I could have done was given her the glory of a few Candy Land victories.
Perhaps because of her strict religious upbringing, Dawn was a really serious girl, and she had distinct rules about things. One of Dawn’s rules came down from her really serious mother, who would say, “Never wear anyone else’s hat.” I had no clue what that meant, but Dawn’s solemn delivery resonated. To this day, if I’m with my mother and someone’s trying on a hat, we’ll look at each other and say, “Never wear anyone else’s hat!” in very serious 4-year-old voices.
I’ll give you two guesses what Dawn was talking about. She was not revealing secret Cowboy Code (true cowboys are really weird about their hats). Whether she knew it or not, Dawn was talking about lice.
Finding out your kid has lice feels like one of the worst things that can happen to a family, but I’m here to tell you that if that’s the worst thing that happens to you, you’re really going to be just fine. It’s nasty, but you’ll be OK. Now, I’m no entomologist, but in my experience there are two types of kids: the kind that lice love, and the kind that lice ignore. I won’t reveal which of my three kids ended up in the latter category, but let’s just say that’s the kid who doesn’t have long hair.
The first time the school called to let us know about a lice outbreak, I immediately turned into Sarah Jessica Parker in the terrible movie, I Don’t Know How She Does It. I began experiencing phantom itchiness from head to toe. My husband, a much less dramatic sort, got busy doing load after load of laundry. He fought off our terrorized preschooler as he shoved 14,000 stuffed animals into garbage bags for a week-long vacation to our garage. I called my sister, who has gone above and beyond to help me with parenting emergencies countless times, and invited her to come over for a lice-removal party. She actually showed up, even though she has the thickest hair in our family and put herself at great risk. God bless that woman.
This is a list that I consider a must-have for families who are battling lice for the first time. Lucky for me, my kids have passed the age of getting lice (at least I hope so), so when parents with little ones come to me with lice horrors, I can always put them at ease.
Lice Survival Kit
- LED flashlight
- White bowl of hot water
- Metal drugstore lice comb (with very thin teeth)
- Prescription lice shampoo
- Disney Channel
- Industrial-sized container of laundry soap
- 4 couple’s counseling appointments
- Case of red wine
The comb is what you’ll use to comb through every strand of your kid’s hair. The flashlight works wonders for finding eggs and bugs if you spot live ones, because they are really hard to see until you have practice. The bowl of hot water is where you need to dump whatever you retrieve, and you will dump that into the toilet after you are finished so they don’t go hopping onto another kid. If you’re like me, you’ll gag some during this process. Hang in there!
The most important thing: Send your husband to buy the lice comb. If he grumbles, tell him to grab a Playboy while he’s at it so if the embarrassment of buying a lice comb bothers him, the promise of wife-approved nudie pic ogling will keep him on task. As for Disney Channel, it may be obnoxious, but it will keep your kid still for six hours straight, and you’ll need that time, especially the first time you’re navigating the rough waters of this terrible experience. (You are welcome to substitute Disney Channel for the movie Frozen, but that alone might push you over the edge. Proceed with caution.)
The couple’s counseling is also hugely important, because I’ll bet you money that at least 15% of divorces happen because of domestic lice infestations. And the case of red wine is the most obvious item. It will gently soothe you as you handle the immense guilt that comes with realizing you and your family members are dirty, foul sloths who should be ashamed of yourselves for having kids in the first place.
Most importantly, take the time to get your pediatrician to prescribe the heavy duty prescription lice shampoo. I am certain that this glorious mixture is the reason that I am now able to eradicate lice within mere hours. The combination of the heavy-duty shampoo and a good combing will knock those suckers out in half the time of a traditional lice kit. Super earthy moms and dads will disagree with me here, but sometimes, you have to do what you have to do. Now, after I created this survival guide a few years ago, a lice removal salon popped up in my city. Let me tell you, if that’s an option, that’s the way to go. Do not pass go and head straight to the lice removal salon. (I’d still buy the wine, though).
For those of you who don’t have that option, a disclaimer. I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night if I didn’t warn you about the prescription shampoo. It turns my hands white for hours, so my husband has to do the hair-washing while I watch Disney Channel and drink wine. I read through the possible side effects, and while it’s not stated in black and white, it’s pretty evident that this shampoo will cause you or your child to grow an extra toe. But the way I look at it, what’s an extra toe here or there when you have a lice-free home? Just add a pair of industrial scissors to the Lice Survival Kit, cut out a space on your shoes for an extra toe and get on with life.