Before we begin, some disclaimers:
#1: If The Internet brought you to this specific post after you typed a desperate plea for help into a search engine, you should probably click away. There’s no medical advice here or even any expert advice on the subject of horrifying bugs who hop from head to head, terrorizing mothers across the country. If you want to talk about decluttering, I’m your girl. But this post is just the story of a hyper-paranoid mother’s personal experience.
#2: While I often, over the course of these events, felt moments of intense exhaustion, despair and self-pity, those moments were always followed by a realization that what happened in our home is NOT the worst thing that could happen. Many parents have experienced real tragedies and fought real health battles.
#3: #2 is true, but it was still awful.
#4: This post contains affiliate links. I lived my nurst wightmare. Monetizing it makes it sting a little less.
The Story of my Nurst Wightmare:
It all began on a Friday afternoon.
I had allowed 45 minutes to clean up the house. You’d better believe I had future blog posts running through my head. And they were good ones. I was going to talk about how far I’d come over the past almost-five years of this deslobification process. How it was a big deal that I could make a real dent in only 45 minutes in the middle of an ultra-crazy week.
I was also proud of how I’ve changed my way of thinking enough that I was willing to let my kid have a random slumber party.
See, about a month before, I’d actually brought it up to my 12yo. His group of friends is always spending the night at someone’s house. I said that we should host soon. I even mentioned a date.
And then forgot.
So when he reminded me TWO DAYS BEFORE (after he’d already invited his friends), I stifled my initial reaction and said “Sure!”
I called a friend with whom I’d recently made an if-your-boys-have-a-sleepover-send-your-girl-to-our-house deal and explained the last-minute-but-not-really-last-minute situation.
She said, “Sure!” and I made my daughter’s
day week year when I told her she was going on her VERY FIRST sleepover of her entire life. I’d made her wait until she turned 8, so this was a VERY big deal.
After 45 minutes of cleaning, I drove to school to pick up a Suburban-load of kids and brought them home. I hugged my daughter good-bye and then put out snacks in the dining room while I finished cleaning up in the kitchen.
And then I sat down.
And noticed I had a message.
It was from my daughter’s school nurse.
Something about a girl in her class having lice, and she found “nits” in my daughter’s hair.
And that right there, folks, is my
nurst wightmare worst nightmare.
I couldn’t breathe. The thing I’d feared for all my years of parenting, the thing I’d assumed would send me straight to the looney-bin, the thing I couldn’t imagine I’d ever be competent to deal with . . . had happened.
And my daughter was at her very first sleepover of her entire life.
And my house was full of other people’s children.
I called Hosting-my-Daughter Friend. I texted Nurse Friend.
Hosting Friend was much calmer than I was. She’d dealt with this plague before and lived.
Nurse Friend was nice. She offered to check all of our hair. I didn’t think I’d know what to look for and was petrified to try. I also wanted to have all my guest boys checked before I sent them home.
Because that was what I had to do. Send them home.
Right. I had to go pick up my devastated daughter and put an end to the night she’d dreamed of for 8 long years.
I had to text all the parents of the boys who’d been at my house for less-than-two-hours to let them know the sleepover was off.
I had to console my poor-put-upon 12 year old.
“Sweetie, I’m soooo sorry. There’s just no other option. If someone in our house has it, we can’t have guests here. Really, I totally understand that this is devastating. Honestly, it’s my nurst wightmare. Haha. I mean my nurst wightmare. Blech. MY (pause) NURST WIGHTMARE.
Whatever. You know what I mean. It’s awful.”
Nurse Friend checked everyone’s head.
All the Guest Boys were lice-free, but my boys weren’t. Both of them “needed treatment.”
This wightmare was getting even nurse.
I sent Hubby to take the Guest Boys to their new location. (Another parent had volunteered to host.)
I . . . went looking for Poison Shampoo.
Here’s where I remind you of that first disclaimer. I am NOT an example of what to do. I’m just venting the horror we experienced. Yes, Nurse Friend explained that there are now more “natural, non-toxic” options available.
I wanted toxic. I wanted the hard stuff. I wanted these things dead.
I blew our monthly grocery budget on lice-fighting supplies. 15-dollar-a-bottle shampoo, a special comb (since everyone knows the combs included with the shampoo are worthless), spray for the beds. And then I sent Hubby back to buy two more bottles of shampoo that night.
We went home, started washing our hair with poison (it’s actually lice shampoo, but still . . . ), and I began the painstaking process of running the lice comb through three kids’ hair.
I got to my own hair AFTER EATING SUPPER AT 10:30 P.M. My naturally-excessively-curly hair was a big frizzy, tangly, impossible-to-run-a-nit-comb-through mess.
Oh, and then I made Hubby do the shampoo too.
Wait. I didn’t mention that the nurse said I also “needed treatment”? Well, I did.
Nurst. Wightmare. Ever.
But poison shampoos and a special comb weren’t enough for me. I also used an electric lice comb that Nurse Friend let me borrow. Basically, it’s a bug zapper for your hair.
It’s cool. And chemical-free. If you’re anti-chemicals, I definitely recommend it. It works well. I just wanted to use EVERYthing I could possibly use. No louse left alive.
Funny (but not funny at all) story: At first I thought the lice zapper didn’t work. I ran it through one child’s hair and heard it go “neeerrrrrr . . . eh. eh. eh. eehhh”
Turns out it stops buzzing when it hits something.
It was stopping because it was hitting many somethings.
And . . . as the head zapper hits little bitty living things, they fall dead onto the shoulders.
Wightmares end when you wake up. I was living in a horror movie, people.
Finally, at 11:45, I went to bed. I . . . was . . . exhausted.
At 4 a.m. I got up and started searching the internet. I hadn’t had time to breathe the night before, much less create a plan of attack. I found sites that explained lice can’t live more than two days without sucking human blood. I learned you have to re-treat in 7 to 10 days to keep from getting them again since the nits (eggs) are the hardest to find and they’ll hatch again and start it all over.
I also read time and again that cleanliness isn’t the issue. That anyone, slob or not, has an equal chance of getting lice.
That there is no real benefit to scrubbing the house from top to bottom.
But here’s the thing. THAT is the stigma. That having lice is a sign of grossness. Of being a . . . slob.
So even though everyone who has had them and all the scientists who study them (poor things) insist you shouldn’t be ashamed . . . I know the only reason they feel the need to insist is that people automatically think bad thoughts about people who have them.
This was one of the times when I missed my days of anonymity. I missed the time in my life when no one knew I was a slob. When most people actually assumed the opposite because of my raging germaphobia.
But now, when the fact that we were dealing with lice came up, my heart squeezed and my stomach sank. I wondered if the person I was talking to was totally not surprised because of the whole “well, she does have a blog about being a slob” thing.
Oh, you’re thinking you’d just not tell anyone? I didn’t have much choice, what with the sleepover situation and all.
And . . . I had to send the dreaded text. The same one I’ve received in baseball-seasons-past that caused me to think bad thoughts about the sender.
I had to send a text to all the other baseball parents explaining that my boys might have already had lice at the last baseball game . . . and they had borrowed helmets. And we didn’t know exactly which helmets.
And . . . I went to church on Sunday with straight hair. If you know me personally, you know this is a RARE thing. A thing so rare that random people stop in their tracks and exclaim.
And ask why.
I suffer from excessive honesty and chronic over-sharing, so even though I’d told myself and my children to not volunteer information about our plight, I found myself blurting out “We had lice!!” to waaayyyy too many people.
I just couldn’t think of a non-lie story to tell about why in the world I’d straightened my almost-impossible-to-straighten hair. See, I was paranoid. I’d only found about three nits in my own hair, but since I didn’t trust Hubby to be as thorough as I needed him to be, I obsessively used that lice-zapping comb on my own hair. And you can’t run an electro-comb through crazy-curly hair.
Really. It’s not possible.
My entire goal was to NOT experience what most people had told us they experienced.
I was determined not to have a re-infestation.
My plan of attack:
- No kids went into or slept in their rooms for three nights. If lice can’t live for more than two days without sucking human blood, my paranoid-logic decided three days would ensure they had starved to death.
- All stuffed animals went into a black trash bag to sit for two weeks in the garage. (This was recommended by multiple people and websites. They’re still in the black trash bag in the garage right now. For good measure.)
- ALL bedding was washed in hot water and then piled on the dining room table after it was dry. (I wanted it in a quarantined space, not to be contaminated again.)
- All beds were vacuumed.
- All beds were sprayed with lice-killing stuff. (I wasn’t going to spray this on the kids’ beds, but after I sprayed it on my own and couldn’t smell it, I did spray their beds. They didn’t go back in their rooms for two days after I sprayed it anyway.)
- No one sat on the couch or soft-surfaced living room chair for a week. (The kids slept in our new leatherish recliners for the three days they were banned from their rooms.)
- All couch pillows were put in the dryer on high heat for a very long time.
- Every bed pillow in the house went into the trash. (The experts said this wasn’t necessary. I had to do it to maintain/regain sanity. FYI, bedsheets wadded up inside a pillowcase make a decent pillow substitute.)
- The boys got VERY short haircuts.
- After the three nights of being banned from their bedrooms, the kids were then banned for three days from the places where they slept during those first three days.
- We did another round of Poison Shampoo on Day Two for good measure.
- I ran the electric comb through everyone’s hair three times a day for a week-and-a-half.
- On Day Five, we used LiceBGone, which is a chemical-free lice spray. (I’d read that over-using Rid can cause the lice to become resistant to it.) But it stinks so bad. And requires that you sit with a shower cap on your head for an hour.
- On Day Eight, we did the Poison Shampoo again. And washed sheets again every day for the four possible re-hatching days.
- On Days 9-13, I used the Electric Comb once a day on each and every head.
- On Day Fourteen, we re-treated with the non-poison Lice-B-Gone.
It has been almost a month, and I’m still watching heads closely. I feel confident that if we get it again, it won’t be because we didn’t get rid of them.
Oh, and my daughter will now and forever more wear ponytails to school.
Things I’ve learned:
- Lice-fighting . . . is exhausting. For real. I was bone-weary for weeks from the constant nit-picking.
- Nit-picking is a totally valid metaphor.
- Unlike the oxygen mask in an airplane, mamas shouldn’t use the “special” shampoo until after they have painstakingly gone through the rest of the family’s hair. Hair is supposed to be wet, and it will be dry by the time mom gets to work on her own hair.
- Most people go through this. I was so hoping to be one of the VERY few who never do, but through this experience I only encountered about three families who haven’t dealt with lice at some point.
- Lice are easily identifiable. Once you know what to look for, it’s easy to distinguish a nit (egg that gets glued/layed on a piece of hair) from a nymph (itty-bitty wiggly-legged non-mature louse) from a full grown louse from a piece of lint or dandruff or dirt or a leaf.
- My kids walk around regularly with lint and dirt and leaves in their hair.
- If, after the first or seventh use of the metal lice comb, one tine happens to get wonky, buy another one. Switching to the other non-dominant hand so you can use it in the opposite direction will result in severe thumb arthritis after a few dozen more uses. (Seriously, I haven’t been able to tear open a bag or do anything that requires use of the thumb joint for weeks.)
- I’m capable. I can handle things that seem too scary and overwhelming to handle.
And here’s something I already knew. I’m awesome at adjusting.
Here’s what people saw in a recent video interview I did:
Here’s what the room really looked like:
Feel free to express horror or solidarity in the comments.
(Horror, as long as it’s sympathetic horror. I’ve suffered enough.)