a precious gift from my child

Just as the school day was winding down and I was prepping my students for their writing assignment, my cell phone started flashing; A familiar number.  Debating whether or not to answer, I looked at my watch, it was 2:30. How was I going make it to my daughters’ school before their 3:20 dismissal? Reluctantly I answered.  “Hello,” I said in a low whisper trying to discreetly hide my phone from anyone’s view. “Hi, Ms. R., this is the school nurse, I have your daughter here.” I knew right away it was my youngest because she loves going to the nurse at the most inopportune times of the day.  What could possibly be wrong and whatever it is my kid is going to have to wait until I dismiss my class at 2:55.

“Ms. R. are you still there?”  Yes, of course I am. Where else would I be?  I am waiting to hear what the nurse has to say.  “Yes, I am,” I reply again in a low whisper as I raise my eyes to see my class listening intently to my conversation.  Why wouldn’t they want to listen to my personal not-allowed-to-be-talking-on-my-cell-phone phone call? It’s definitely more interesting than reading or writing.  But hey, that’s just my guess.

“So, we had a student out today and the parent called to let us know their child had lice.  We did a head check and your daughter has it. You will need to pick her up right now.” What?!  I was expecting a tummy ache, a scraped knee, or something that really could have waited until I picked up from after care but not that, not LICE!  “Ok, um … well I can’t leave my class without coverage. We dismiss in about 15 minutes. I can leave then.” I reply. “Will you be here by 3:20?”  she asks. “I’m about 45 minutes away with traffic so no.” Silence. Neither of us say anything. My heart is pounding. My students are glaring. I’m sure they’re reading my lips.  I must have mouthed “fuck” a million times. “Ok. We will have her wait in the office. Her sister can’t go to after care either. She will be pulled from class.” Wonderful. Both girls will be doing the walk of shame down the long corridor to the main office.  

“I will do my best to get there as soon as I can.”   I ended the phone call and turned to my co-teacher and blurted out, “I have to leave.”  He asked what’s wrong and I couldn’t even muster up the words to tell him. Mortified and shamed I leave without a word.  I dart out the back door, the door we are unable to use and I’m certain the security cameras caught it all. I’ll deal with having to sit in the principal’s office tomorrow.  

The ride home was a blur.  I called a friend and asked if she had heard anything.  She would be at dismissal soon enough and I’m sure word will be spreading quickly.  I checked my own head at every traffic light. I felt them crawling and I couldn’t stop scratching, but really I didn’t have lice because adults don’t get them.   I called a couple of salons that specialize in lice removal. My goodness! I was seriously debating letting this problem take its course or handle it on my own because I could have taken a mini vacation instead of spending that kind of money trying to get rid of those little nits!  Finally I made two appointments; one was in a hoity-toity town about thirty minutes west of me and that’s without traffic and the other was a service that would come to your home – completely private.  They would be at the house within the hour. Sure, I’ll take it.

I walked up the stairs to the main entrance and waited to be buzzed it.   I didn’t even know what I was feeling at this point because all I kept seeing were dollar signs flashing before me.   This was not a good time to be spending money I didn’t have.  My daughter comes running over to me and wraps her arms around my waist.  “Hi mommy, I have lice but it’s ok because it doesn’t mean we are dirty.” Oh great, I think. Why not just tell everyone! I grab her wrists slightly and push back as if to say, “let me see your cute little smile” but really it’s because I don’t want her bugs.  “It’s ok. We will take care of it.” I can see the looks of sympathy or pity as we walked out of the building. I hit them with a zinger, “See you tomorrow,” I said as I walked out the door. Hell no! There’s no way this kid is staying home tomorrow. I need to work.  Someone has to pay for giving my kid lice. Which parent is it who didn’t take care of their situation? I want to blame someone, anyone.

My daughter proceeded to tell me how this all unfolded and after being checked she went back to class to gather her things and announced, “I’m going home. I have lice.”  No shame. Of course you can only imagine what those kids were saying to their parents when they got picked up. Yup, my kid had lice and she was the only one from her class because the kid who had the lice and kept home was in the other class along with two more kids from that room.  Go figure! What are the odds?

We had about thirty-five minutes to spare while waiting for the lice lady so I made my daughter stand in the center of our kitchen.   I ran my fingers through her hair looking for what I thought would be white egg-like things and then BAM … the little sucker started scampering away.  Wait, did I just see a live bug??? I managed to get it out and kill it. I thought lice meant white things which stuck to the hair and maybe jumped. Nope, dead wrong – almost.  

The doorbell rang.  My daughter and I darted toward the door.  Standing in front of us was a woman with her folded chair and a portable crate.  “Hi, you must be here to get rid of the lice,” I ask. She introduced herself and asked where she should set up.  Of course the only place in the house where the bugs won’t get far is the kitchen. So sanitary, I know! As she’s setting up she asks a  bunch of questions. Questions I couldn’t answer because I didn’t know how long my kid had lice. After all, she now had live bugs crawling around.   

“My name is Judy.  I’m a retired school nurse.  I have seen many cases of lice.  No need to worry as you are in the best care right now.”  I didn’t care to hear her spiel. I wanted to know what this was going to cost me.  “So, for $100 I check everyone who lives in the house. If I find something, then it’s $100 per hour thereafter.”  Sure that doesn’t sound too bad. At best, I will be out $200. The nurse at school already confirmed my other daughter doesn’t have it and why would I have it.   My daughter’s hair is shoulder length so no more than an hour scraping the bugs out. “Ok, let’s proceed,” I tell her.

Judy is very cautious and precise.  She gently combed my daughter’s hair into sections.  She applied a foaming treatment and proceeded to use a metal brush specifically made for combing out the nits and lice.  “Come here and look at this,” she says. I walked over and looked down at a little bug trying to crawl on the paper towel. “That’s lice?”  I asked. “Yes, it’s called a nymph. It’s not an adult yet.” She began to educate me on the stages of lice (Lice FAQs). Just the conversation I wanted to be having in my kitchen.  She did however put my mind at ease. There was no need for me to tear apart my daughter’s bedroom and wash everything.   As a matter of fact, there was no need to tear apart the entire house.

My daughter had four nymphs running rampant through her hair.  Which meant at some point a female louse latched onto her head, laid some eggs, died off, and the eggs took about 7-10 days to hatch.  In another 7-10 days the nymphs would mature into adults. Luckily it was caught in time. I was wracking my brain as I didn’t recall seeing those lovely little nits clinging to her blonde locks.

Judy was done.  My daughter was free and clear of the little buggers.  I called for my other daughter, who is older, to come downstairs.  She reluctantly sat in the chair and insisted she didn’t have them.  Judy went through the same process. Carefully separating the hair into parts, applying the foam treatment and using the metal comb. Though we had a few close calls and further examinations under the microscope, Judy found nothing. Lice eggs can easily be mistaken for dandruff however with a quick blow or brush of the hair, dandruff falls off, the eggs do not.   I was next. I graciously declined. “It’s ok. I can assure you I don’t have them. It’s not possible.”

“Oh no, I can not leave without checking everyone.” Judy implores.  

Just as my older daughter did, I too reluctantly sat on her stool.   I asked more questions. We have a dog so now I’m freaking out. What if he has them?  To the sausage factory he will go … ok, I’m joking. What a relief it was to find out that dogs and cats do NOT harbor or spread human lice.  Phew! Judy also told me that no one has ever reported an infestation of lice in their home because human head lice cannot survive more than a day or so when removed from a host, aka the head.  This was why Judy chuckled a bit earlier when I told her I was washing all the bedding and vacuumed all the furniture.

Judy paused in between combs and I nervously asked, “What, have you found something?”  

“Um … no this is nothing,” she says.  That is until the second comb through.  “Yeah, you might want to take a look at this,” she says.  

I get up and look at this minute, white, rice-like looking thing.   “Ok, what is that?”

“Well, see the little tail-like thing at the end?”  as she hovers the magnifying glass over the suspicious object.  “Ok, so it this an egg?” I ask.

“Yes, it is. You have the nits.”  

I put on my glasses and take a closer look through the magnifying glass.   My heart sank. How could this be? I thought. I might as well have signed over the deed to my house at this point.  My mind was scrambling as to where I was going to get the money from to pay for this! My daughter’s communion was only a few days away and money was already allocated to this.  

Meanwhile my other daughter is texting her friends ensuring them that she did not have bugs but her mom and sister did  Great, let’s tell everyone! My phone starts blaring different ring tones:  Calls, text messages, voice mails. I silenced it as Judy was performing her magic.    

Judy continued to comb through my hair and found four nits. I am trying to figure it all out.  I wanted a logical explanation. Perhaps that same adult louse latched onto my head, after laying some eggs on my daughter, and laid some on mine and then it died?  I needed to know. Judy said it was possible.

She was done.   She started to pack up her things and explained what I needed to do for the next ten days.  I bought the products she used even though she said store-bought ones were just as good.

She handed me  a certificate which stated my daughter has been professionally cleared and could return to school.  Shoot, I wanted to hang it on the wall in our family room. I could barely keep my hand steady to write the check.  Judy told me to call if I have any questions or send pictures of anything suspicious and they will review it. Judy packed up her tools, I walked her to the door and thanked her for all she had done.

“It was very nice meeting you Judy.  But I hope that you will never have to come back.”  

“Likewise,” says Judy.  “Please don’t hesitate to call with any questions.”  

I watched as she loaded her car and drove away.  She was very kind and compassionate. She truly enjoys her job, I can tell.   

What I like best about the company is they are not looking to exhaust your entire savings.  The hoity-toity hair salon said I would need to go back for a couple of follow-ups to ensure the lice were gone.  Judy and her company, Lice Happens are 100% confident the lice are gone before they leave your home. There is no need for a follow-up.  As long as you follow their ten-day plan, everything will be fine. That made me feel good.

I picked up my cell phone and counted all the missed calls, voice mails, and text messages.  I started from the beginning of the alphabet …. “Yes, we have lice.” I openly admit to all my mom friends.  After all … “no shame, no blame”.

While I give my daughter unconditional love and anything her little heart desires, she gives me lice.  

I’m just gladthisended



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