My daughter started daycare at 3 months old and has been exposed to other kids her entire life. She attends public school, Girl Scouts and many other outside activities. One of the major fears I have always had as a parent was dealing with those childhood epidemics. No, not chickenpox or the flu. I can deal with the itchies and puke. I fear things like pink eye. The things that spread like wildfire. At first it’s just one child and within minutes you have an entire class infected. I know that pink eye is totally curable and really, if I think about it, it’s one of the less gross afflictions of childhood. But the whole idea of an oozy eye and having to put eye drops in my child’s eyes while they are screaming… yeah I’ll take puke any day.
In prior years we’ve lucked out. We had one bout of pink eye with our son when he was a year old. That was not my idea of fun, but thankfully my husband handled the majority of that. This year… we were not as lucky. While my husband was out of town, I had to combat my nemesis of childhood ailments. Well, not so much an ailment but rather an infestation. Yep. I had the pleasure of treating my daughter for head lice. Ugh! Did you just cringe? I know I did. The mere mention of head lice gives me the creeps. Even as I write this, my head is itching and we’ve been clear for three weeks. Something about little bugs crawling around my scalp just freaks me out. That and it takes FOREVER to treat for them. I remember how long it took when we ended up with it as kids. It was awful. So when the school called me and informed me they were sending home the majority of my daughter’s class, I could have cried.
I got the call on a Friday at like 9am and it went something like this…
- Secretary: Hi, I have Alexis here in the office. It seems we’re facing our third outbreak of head lice for the second grade class. (I was cringing at this point. My stomach had pretty much dropped and I was about halfway to a panic attack. Yes. I realized it could be worse and I was totally acting crazy.) I’m not certain she has lice but she does have some red marks behind her ears. Now, it could be her headband she’s been wearing all day. She’s not sure. But we just don’t want to take a chance.
- Me: Oh I can’t blame you. Either the nanny or I will come get her as soon as possible.
- Secretary: Thank you. Like I said, I don’t know for sure. We’ve just been hit so hard with it this year…
- Me: Yeah, I understand. It’s nothing to mess around with at all.
- Secretary: Thanks. I’ll see you when you get here.
So there was a chance it wasn’t lice. My mind was racing. I had checked her not but two days prior. It was all part of our daily process. When we received a notice the school had the first lice outbreak, I went through the whole lecture with my daughter. “Don’t share brushes or hair ties… or hats or anything that touches your head. Do not rub heads with your friends. You really don’t want bugs in your hair do you?!” Of course, that totally freaked her out. I strive not to pass my crazy onto my kids, but in this case, I made an exception. My daughter’s hair is just as thick as mine is and I really did not want to have to pick through it with a nit comb. We started a daily process of looking through her hair. I could not believe I had missed it. I had failed to catch something so vital. I was in a full panic as I explained to my boss that I had to leave work. My heart was racing and I was about to have a major breakdown… in public.
I raced to my car and dialed my sister. I rushed through an explanation and let her know we would be spending the afternoon decontaminating. If Lexi had it then chances were her house was contaminated too. After hanging up with her I took off toward the school. Thankfully, her school is about 10-15 minutes from work so I had time to calm myself. By the time I had gotten to the school I was in a much better place. I could breathe and I didn’t feel like a total failure. I was still holding out hope it was just her headband. I had a brief discussion with the secretary…
- Secretary: Thanks for coming to get her. I’m just not sure if she has anything. We are just being precautions. We’ve never had an outbreak this bad. This round it’s only in the second grade class thankfully.
- Me: No problem. I’ll take her home and get her checked out. If she has it we’ll get her treated.
- Secretary: Oh good. Also, please remember the second treatment a week later. I guess that’s a piece a lot of people skip and it’s pretty vital.
- Me: Oh you don’t need to worry. I take lice very seriously. She won’t be back until she’s clear and then we will treat her again later.
- Secretary: Thanks! We really do appreciate it.
Once I had Lexi in the car and started for home, she was fairly worried.
- Lex: So… if I have lice what does that mean?
- Me: Well, that you need to have your head treated and we’ll get rid of it.
- Lex: But… you just checked me.
Yeah, she said it and it made me feel awful.
- Me: Yeah baby I know. Maybe I missed something. But it’s okay. We’ll take care of it.
- Lex: But it’s fireman day at school. I’m going to miss the firemen.
She was very upset about that which just made me feel worse. Not only had I missed the creepy crawlies on her scalp but I had also ruined fireman day for her. Great.
- Me: I’m sorry Lex. We’ll go visit them another day. I’m sure that will be more fun.
- Lex: Yeah.
The rest of the trip was quiet. She was upset over firefighters and I was chastising myself for missing the little monsters. When we got home my sister had already started the process of quarantining anything that may be contaminated. We checked out Lexi’s head and sure enough, she had eggs behind her ears and at her neckline. I had failed. That’s all I could think. I had missed a live creepy crawly and it had laid its nasty little eggs all over my daughter’s head. I had ruined fireman day for her. Instead of having fun meeting the firefighters, she would be stuck getting her head treated for the next several hours. I was a bad parent.
We spent the next four hours treating her. Shampoo, rinse, comb, rinse. She was such a trooper. Regardless that it took three plus hours to comb through her hair, she stayed positive. I have to say, she handled it much better than I did at her age. While I worked through her hair, my dear sister worked through mountains of laundry and stuffed animals. We cleaned and cleaned the house. Neither of us wanted to take a chance of it spreading. We were on a mission to eradicate their kind.
It’s been a few weeks and so far, everyone else is clear. Looking back at it, I realize that I was a bit harsh on myself. I did what I could to keep her from getting it and that is all I could do. I don’t blame myself. It’s just one of those things that happens. I get that. I know that we did what we could to prevent an infestation. It happened and we made it through the whole mess. Of course, I still hate the buggers. They still creep me out beyond belief and I have my sister check my head daily. However, I do know that they do not want to face me again. For I am Mom. Giver of hugs, kisser of owies and executioner of lice.