This week, I am unable to come up with any deep observations on politics, psychology or spirituality, because my daughter came home with lice. Those parents who have gone through this know how embarrassing, time consuming, and stressful it can be. I even got a second call from the school nurse telling me I didn't do a good enough job picking out the nits. Both the nurse and my daughter's kindergarten teacher spent time removing lice eggs from my daughter's long, beautiful hair. I am grateful, and humbled.
I guess my eyes must be going bad, and the evening lighting in my apartment isn't that bright, but I am truly doing the best I can. After shampooing myself and four children with the recommended medication and combing through everyone's hair, I have been doing laundry around the clock for the past two days, losing sleep - all the while my youngest engages in “cute” antics like dumping corn starch all over the living room, peeing on the carpet, and well, you know what it's like to have kids. This article is devoted to parents facing the stress of lice. As if we didn't have enough to worry about.
I remember bursting into tears the fifth time my kids got lice from visiting their cousins in Queens. A nice Pakistani lady calmed me down reminding me it's no big deal. It is often humiliating to be found with lice in your family, because lice is common in places where people have less access to running water. It is associated with being poor and dirty. However, lice are very happy to live in clean people's homes too. Lice live on the scalp, sucking your blood. But they do not die from shampoo. So even if your children bathe frequently, they could get lice. If you are diligent about brushing your children's hair often while looking closely at the scalp and each strand of hair as you comb through it, you might catch the lice sooner than if your kids' hair stays braided or messy.
If you catch lice early, you will find white little bubbles about the size of a pencil dot sticking to shafts of hair near the scalp. You have to use your fingernails to slide the egg down the hair shaft and remove it. If lice goes on for a long time left untreated, you will find little crusty brown dots stuck to the scalp that require a fingernail dig to dislodge. In any case, as soon as you realize all these eggs are in your child's hair you have to use the lice shampoo, and then manually search through every blade of hair. And wash your hands afterward of course. We might think: Who has the time for this???!!!
It is part of primate biology to be vulnerable to insect parasites, but God created biology with some interesting psychology mixed in! Monkeys and gorillas comb each others' fur and pick out insects (and eat them) as a way of showing love and affection. They can sit together for hours, just exchanging their beingness with one another, providing a little gentle skin massage to their beloved in the process. I knew a woman whose husband had such fond memories of his mother searching his hair for lice while he lay his head on her lap, that he enjoyed his wife to pretend to look for lice as part of their mating ritual! That woman is now an elected official – so don't let the fear of real or imagined lice hold you back.
It takes a lot of love to pick nits out of someone's hair. And a lot of time and patience. Single parents definitely face a challenge because there is no one around to comb through their hair, after they have combed through their children's hair. Some barber shops will help out on the sly. But it is always a situation where you are begging someone for a serious favor!
Hazrat Ali said (something like) that he KNOWS there is a God, because every time he makes plans, something else could happen. You might have thought you were going to reorganize your recipe box this weekend. But instead, you are dealing with life. I mean, lice.