Surely one of the worst e-mail subject lines to receive from your child’s school is “Head lice.” A few years ago, that exact note landed in my inbox from my children’s principal. I proceeded to click on the e-mail with a cautious mind, figuring that schools had the responsibility to regularly educate parents about the seasonal buggers, so I would probably find a simple cautionary advisement.
I clicked on it and read the first line:
“Dear Parents: One of your child’s classmates had head lice.”
Ugh! I start talking to myself out loud, something along the lines of “Oh … my … god. No.”
I’m not sure which child this was referring to since I had two in the school at the time, and it didn’t mention which grade. I was sincerely hoping it was my older OCD-ish daughter and not my younger, more laidback, will leave his clothes, hat, gloves, books anywhere son.
To say the thought of tiny, little bugs running along my children’s heads disturbed me — not to mention having them invade our home — would be a massive understatement at best. I was already itchy, literally, just reading the e-mail. I’m slightly suggestive, I suppose.
The principal cautioned us to check the heads of each family member that same day and also gave us instructions about what to do if we find the critters. Then he wisely advised us not to judge:
“It is absolutely nothing to do with the kind of parents that child has. It has nothing to do with cleanliness; in fact, head lice prefer a clean, healthy head to a dirty one. Anyone, adult or child, can get head lice.”
Thankfully, my kids (knock on wood) have never had head lice. (Maybe they have dirty heads?) And every year that goes by, I feel like this is the year that our luck might run out!
Between the ever present bedbugs around the city, a nightly swarm of mosquitoes at dusk each night, and multiple, random raccoons and opossum scurrying around in my neighborhood — or just our family even riding the subway — I guess we should be lucky we don’t pick up anything worse.
But every year, the morning after notes like these go home, there will be those that judge and gather in huddled groups whispering about the culprit. (And make no mistake, someone will make it their business to tell everyone which child it is.) And as much as I detest insects infesting any part of our home, let alone body, kids who get lice just have unfortunate luck, not any hygienic shortcoming.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that I won’t want to shave my kids’ heads bald and throw out every bit of fabric in my house if they ever bring those buggers home!
Danielle Sullivan is a writer living in New York City. Follow her on Instagram @Deewrite.