I’ll never forget the time that my daughter got lice.
I’m pretty sure no one ever forgets something like that. It tends to be fairly traumatic for the whole family. For the other children in the family who are worried that they might also be banned from school. For the parents who feel like they must have been negligent in some way. And, of course, for the child who is forced to suffer under the chemicals and combs and the stigma of being the kid who has lice.
My daughter has the most beautiful hair in our family. She got the best of both of her parents with my thickness and her dad’s softness. We always like to compare it to the hair in shampoo commercials – it’s just that gorgeous. This was no exception when she was much younger.
At that time, her hair was long, hanging into the middle of her back. She had no interest in cutting it, so we dumped a bottle of olive oil on her head and put her to sleep in a shower cap, with her pillow wrapped in plastic, her stuffed animals sequestered to another room. And the next day, we spent hours and hours and hours sitting in our kitchen, combing out the suffocated bugs and what felt like 537,942 nits.
I don’t know if you’ve ever had to do this, but let me tell you, it is the most tedious, disgusting things I’ve ever had to do as a parent. I’ve dealt with exploding diapers, projectile vomit, and bloody, gashed up knees, but nothing could have prepared me for dealing with a squirmy elementary school child with a head full of lice.
So to pass the time (and to help her keep her head down while I was working on different parts of her hair), I asked her to read to me. She was just starting the Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket, so she read the first several books aloud. We laughed at the brilliant wit of the narrator, shuddered at the horrors that the Baudelaire children had to endure, and worked on improving our vocabulary. And bit by bit, chapter by chapter, we removed the pest.
This was not a positive experience. Plague might be a little bit melodramatic, but in the moment, it felt completely accurate. However, we talk about those couple of days regularly. We talk about how shiny her hair was after soaking in olive oil for days. We laugh about how we found a flea comb for cats to be more effective at removing the nits than the official combs for humans. We remember her animated reading of Count Olaf’s marriage to Violet. We remember that even though we were going through something unpleasant, we were able to go through it together.
And together is a good way to get through a plague.