It happened in January.

My husband had just left for a month-long business trip to South America, leaving me alone in the greyest, coldest time of year to parent our three young children. No big deal. I could handle it. I was strong, capable and in control.
That is, until my daughter came home from school, clawing to scratch the insatiable itch on her head, holding a letter from her teacher explaining that lice had hit her classroom. I parted her hair with my hands and saw the tell-tale specks of black scuttling away from the light. 
Then I died. My kid had LICE! So gross, right?! Only the dirty kids from the wrong side of the tracks got head lice, I thought. I went about dousing her head with that crazy-toxic louse-killing shampoo, ripped off all her bedding and threw it in the washer, and spent the next day picking nits out of her hair. 
I thought that was the end of it. It had been nasty, but we made it. To celebrate, we went out for coffee and a treat at a specialty bakery in the next town with my kids and mother-in-law and sister-in-law. As I took a sip of my steaming maple latte, my sister-in-law reached across the table and pulled a louse OUT OF MY HAIR.
MY hair.
Did you catch that? It was in MY HAIR.
Then I died again. For real this time. I am writing this from beyond the grave. 
I HAD LICE. 
The shame soaked through me and we went home where I poured that awful shampoo all over my own head, did the same to all my kids again for good measure, and ripped off even more sheets, towels, hats, pillows and clothes for washing.
I was all alone. Just me and the head lice. I called my husband in South America in tears and told him what had happened. 
Then I stood in my laundry room, surveyed the waist-high ocean of nit-covered garments surrounding me, and I just lost it. How could I possibly conquer this situation when there was no one around to help me pick the nits out of my own hair? I had never had lice as a kid, so I was just so embarrassed and ashamed, too sheepish to call anyone and ask for help.
So, I phoned my mom. From two provinces away, she listened while I cried and she told me she was hopping on a plane the next morning to come and be my personal nit-picker. Then she prayed with me over the phone, asking God to give me strength and help me find a way to get through this. 
A few minutes later there was a knock on my door. A good friend of mine was there with a beautiful care package in her hands for our girls. She knew we were stuck at home, not wanting to spread my daughter’s lice, but she did not know that I had been stricken myself. 
“How are you holding up?” she asked.
“I’ve been better,” I choked. And my eyes said the rest.
“Did you get it too?” she said.
I nodded, then the tears spilled over and I crumpled in a heap of despair.
“Do you want me to go through your hair for you?” she asked.
And I scooped up all my pride, threw it away forever and said yes.
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I have never been so humbled as I was that night, as my dear friend stooped over my shoulders and sifted through my hair, plucking nits I could neither see nor reach. In the same way that Jesus rolled up his sleeves and washed the dirt off the feet of his disciples, getting real with the nitty-gritty of humanity, so my friend showed the same selfless love to me and I will never forget it, being on the receiving end of grace like that.
Never.
So there you have it. My kids had lice. I had lice. It was super gross but we survived. 
So much of my shame and embarrassment came from the self-imposed stigma out there that it just shouldn’t happen to nice, clean people. But it does. And it’s OK. 
So, lice. Let’s talk about it! Have your kids ever had it? Have YOU ever had it?
No judgement here, just nods of understanding and maybe a little reminiscent itching at the thought of it all. 
  • Aileen

    As a former “lice lady” at our school, I can tell it’s inexact at best when volunteer moms go through kids’ heads. I can also tell you lice are very non-discriminatory. They just like a warm head.
    I think people need to talk about it more and remove the stigma so people can get the information and help they need. We try to be very non-chalant about it, but it’s still embarrassing to many and we try very hard to also respect privacy.
    A couple of tips: keep hair pulled back whenever possible, especially during the big lice surges (usually after holidays when people have been traveling, at camp or have had visitors). The most effective treatment is to remove nits by hand. As you’ve all said, it’s a giant pain and takes forever. God bless your friend Amanda. It’s almost impossible to do your own head. And finally, remember that the little buggers don’t live very long off a head, so don’t go bananas doing laundry and sterilizing your whole house.

  • hypnoflair

    Yes my family has had lice. We thought it was gone and over – well at least until we have grandchildren, however, life had other plans. Yes as adults, 23, 46, 75 we all had lice. Luckily they don’t really like boys over the age of 13 or so, so the men of the household were lice free. After hours of picking I gave up. We had a total infestation, it was nasty. I called lice busters and they took over. It was still a nightmare, it took two weeks to get rid of it. Wow glad it is over, but next time, if there is one, I will spend the money and call licebusters right away! They made life livable, and we were not longer picking heads for 8 hours at a time.

  • Alice

    THAT is a good friend! we got it last year – twice in one fall, no less. The second time, it spread to my other kid and myself. I spent a whole week and a half combing through their thick hair every night with the special comb and running load after load of laundry, changing sheets every night, just in case. I combed through my own hair, as mister didn’t seem to think he could get the hang of it and while willing, was not getting it done as thoroughly as I wanted – this is my head we are talking about! Talk about a crick in your neck.
    There is a definite stigma attached, but I will tell you what my teacher friends have been told – they can hang onto clean hair better! It goes around our school like wildfire every fall, and everyone I know with school age kids has had it come through their house, no matter how pristine and gorgeous that place might be, so fear not judgement from this quarter!
    Although fearing their return, that I can totally understand. Speaking of which, I need to start getting on my girl about ponytailing up her hair again now that it’s fall and school’s in session…l

  • Julie

    it’s funny cuz when you tell someone in the schoolyard, 90% of the time they say, “oh, we just got rid of it…talk to XXX…they’ll tell you the best way to get rid of them” or “we’ve had it three times” and on and on. my oldest got them as school ended…right after the school lice check! i don’t trust them anymore.
    i have only one friend that says they haven’t had them yet! so, what i have learned is that the lice squad comb is the best. use that with a massive bottle of conditioner, wipe each stroke through the hair on paper towel and do that every day for about 3 days and you should get them all. with me, my hair is so thick that it takes hours to do myself but i like that better than the nix.
    the hardest part is trying to relax once they’re gone. you’re so on edge for at least a month after they’ve left that you get so jumpy and i’ve been known to do a quick check on the girls’ friends before they come in the house!

  • Erin Little

    We had lice last November and I missed 6 days of work – six! My friend came everyday to pick my hair – for 3-4 hours a time! Those little %$^%^ are not gone until the second treatment on day 7-10 – I know – I researched it. And most people send their kids back after one treatment and picking – it’s impossible to pick out every nit. So, yes, I understand your pain. My fingers are crossed that we do not succumb again this year.
    Tracey – Again! Ouch.

  • Tracey

    Dude. I just shaved my son’s hair last week. For the second time. (And it was his second haircut EVER!) I never had it as a child, and so far, the rest of the house has been spared…
    That’s a wonderful friend you have there – hold onto her forever. That’s ‘good people’. And yes, you must totally deserve her kindness… pass it on. :)

  • http://www.alimartell.com alimartell

    A true friend will help pick your nits.
    We need a pinterest-able graphic for this. Because it’s 100% true. Your friend is awesome. I’m sooooo sorry you went through that. But so happy that you had her.
    I have nightmares that my kids will get it when my husband is out of town. They have “lice ladies” here…like, it’s their job to come and pick your nits and help you get rid of it in your house. I wouldn’t totally be calling those ladies!
    xoxo

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