Last week, while dutifully brushing and tying up my daughter’s hair before school, I made a Very. Unpleasant. Discovery.
This was the moment I’d been dreading for the past five years, since our children entered the world of formal childcare. And over those years, we’d dodged the bullet so many times that I’d started to think we were immune to them.
Only a week earlier I’d been discussing this apparent immunity over a glass of wine with two other mums. Unknowingly (and regrettably), I had jinxed myself, and it transpired that all the essential oil spritzing in the world couldn’t save us from the dreaded nits.
Feeling itchy yet? I don’t blame you.
There was scant evidence, but there they were. And they had decided my daughter’s head was a good place to set up camp. I felt slightly woozy and positively outraged at the prospect.
Ick. Yuck. Yuck. Double yuck. Blerk. Shudder… I took a deep breath, steeled myself and herded the kids into the car.
At the pharmacy, the teenage sales assistant visibly recoiled, then composed herself enough to point gingerly toward the far isle. Quite clearly I was on my own here. She wasn’t coming to help us, and frankly, I didn’t blame her.
After a good ten minutes of standing before a bamboozling array of anti-lice products and preparations, I decided on the scariest-looking, most-napalm-like product I could find – the Triple Action Pack. First you hit them with the eight hour lotion, then the thirty minute foam, and then the nit comb and conditioner. Good. I began to feel proactive, and empowered. I would declare holy war on the nits!
It was at this point that a well-meaning stranger decided to stage an intervention. ‘Don’t get the metal comb!’, she cautioned. ‘My kids hated it and screamed when I used it – it virtually tore their hair out’. Ah… really? Thanks lady. Thanks for sharing that helpful advice RIGHT IN FRONT OF MY CHILDREN, who were suddenly looking horrified. And it didn’t stop there. She then launched into a monologue about her sister, who’s two boys had lice for months. She just couldn’t get rid of them – and she was a hair dresser, and their hair was only a centimetre long! Oh feck! There went my false bravado and feelings of empowerment. I was back to feeling violated and disgusted.
So who are these people, I would like to know? Are they employed by evil pharmaceutical companies to haunt the hair-care isles and scare the living shit out of parents? Because it certainly worked. And it doesn’t stop with the zealous, nit-obsessed strangers in the pharmacy. Oh no. It’s the friends and acquaintances who feel the need to share their horror stories of recurrent nit infestation which really get to me. Even worse, some of them seem to have surrendered to the inevitability of nits – and are no longer particularly phased or disgusted by them.
Well I wasn’t going to become one of them. Not me. I smiled weakly, thanked the nit-lady, and accepted the plastic comb. What was another $5, after all?
I’ll spare you the details of the remainder of our day, except to say that thankfully, I had nowhere to be. The children were slathered in the napalm lotion, causing them to resemble drowned rats, and I set about laundering every item in the house. I don’t think there’s anyone that would blame me for going a bit OCD with this issue, but I did feel a little deranged whilst boiling up a soup of brushes, hair clips and elastics in a saucepan.
So at which point do you stop? At 3am Saturday morning, while I lay in bed trying to think of anything but nits, I even pondered the merit of wrapping the car seats in cling film for the next two weeks. Seriously! And that’s where I decided I must stop obsessing. I mean, surely my husband would call the loony bin if he found me out there with a roll of Glad Wrap at that hour?
Let’s fast-forward now to one week down the track, and allow me to share my good news story. It seems that our nit experience was contained to the one head, which after a week of intensive combing and then a re-dousing, is impeccably clear. For now, I’m claiming victory in the War On Nits, but rest assured I will not be relaxing my vigilance just yet.
There will be weekly combing sessions (which, thanks to i-pads and smart phones, are remarkably well-tolerated by the little people of the house). And before signing off, I’d like to share a few thoughts I’ve had over the past week:
1. Let’s forget about stopping the boats. How about we give a break to the innocent, desperate people who decide that boarding a rickety vessel to Australia is their best chance in life? I’d like to see a party with a tough Stop The Nits policy. Now surely that would unite the people of Australia, save us billions of dollars every year and a whole lot of mental anguish?
2. Although I’ve never considered polygamy a great idea in the past, I can see a definite advantage to having sister wives, in the case of nits. Those extra hands would be indispensable during the daily, hour-long hair combing sessions, and also for on-the-spot scalp checks every time I feel the slightest tingle up there.
3. I’d like to thank whoever invented wine. Actually, alcohol in general. Without it, I may still be in the foetal position in the corner, clutching a nit-comb and contemplating home schooling.
I think I did the right thing by stopping at two children. I just don’t think there are enough hours in the day to maintain the War On Nits, with any more than two.
What is it they say about families? Sharing is caring?