If you go through every hair on your child’s head and you find one louse, it doesn’t mean you can breathe a sigh of relief because your kid only has one louse. If means your kid has scores of very fast lice and one slow enough to get caught. Go buy something to kill them immediately.
Don’t leave your kid at school until you kill the lice or the other mothers will be mad at you and say mean things behind your back. If you are a Buddhist or an environmentalist who doesn’t believe in killing insects, I respect your beliefs. Really. However, unless your child goes to a school where every other family also wants to live in harmony with creation, I suggest you home school for a few years or take your lice-ridden child on a very long vacation. If you choose to kill the lice instead, you may be relieved to know that even the Dalai Lama sometimes swats mosquitoes (according to my friend Alex who swears she heard this somewhere).
If, after killing the live lice, you go through every hair on your child’s head and can’t find any eggs, it doesn’t mean you can breathe a sigh of relief because you caught the lice before they’ve had time to reproduce. It means your eyesight is failing, possibly due to age, or you don’t know what you’re looking for, or both. Go find reading glasses and a mother who has been through this before to show you what the eggs look like because they are much smaller than you can possibly imagine.
As soon as you admit that your child has lice, mothers who have been through this will come out of the woodwork with their horror stories. They will reassure you that it’s not because you have a dirty child. They’ll tell you that lice actually prefer clean hair, and it’s a testament to your child’s cleanliness that she got the lice to begin with. This will only make you feel slightly better, but that’s something.
Listen to the home remedies suggested by other mothers and try absolutely everything. No one really knows how to get rid of these critters, but every mother in Philadelphia agrees that the chemical shampoo doesn’t totally work because the lice have grown resistant. Some tout mayonnaise, petroleum jelly, or olive oil kept on the hair overnight with a plastic bag to smother the lice. Many say vinegar helps get the eggs out of the hair, though it does nothing to kill them. My favorite product is HairClean1-2-3 (sold at Whole Foods), an alternative lice treatment made from coconut oil that you can spray on your kid as often as you like. Petroleum jelly works even better, but it’s gross. It doesn’t come out with regular shampoo, though the “deep cleaning” shampoos (for women who use too much mousse) work pretty well. Try everything in the first week and then spend at least an hour every night combing the eggs out. This is more important than homework or piano practice. Trust me.
Cleaning absolutely everything in your house is over rated, but you have to do it because when the lice come back a week later, everyone will ask you, “Did you change the sheets and put away the stuffed animals and vacuum the couch and the car seat?” If you can honestly answer “Yes” to these questions, people will have more sympathy for you.
The lice will come back a week later, no matter how hard you tried, because you inevitably missed a few eggs. Do absolutely everything all over again, even if you don’t see any live lice. Don’t forget to vacuum the car seat several more times, and definitely don’t leave a bag of fresh compost in your car overnight because when you find the little compost bugs running around your car the next morning, it might be the thing that sends you over the edge. At this point, every speck you see will look like a louse, including the bit of blueberry stuck in your teeth after breakfast. Don’t despair. At least the oily treatments you are now putting in your own hair will finally cure your dandruff.
When you think you are finally done with the lice, keep checking your child’s head every night for at least another two weeks. The only thing worse than finding an egg when you thought you were done is finding a few dozen eggs because the few you missed were busy reproducing while you were relaxing after dinner.
Posting a song entitled “Three Damn Lice” in the school office might get you in a little trouble, especially if your child goes to a religious school and you lead the Religious Life Committee. However, people will think it’s cute when your Kindergartener rewrites the lyrics for you, taking out the naughty word.
Praying for God to kill the lice doesn’t work. Praying for patience does, sort of.