Now, I’ve always been very careful with this kind of thing. I spray their hair every morning with a mixture of essential tea tree oil, a blob of hair conditioner and water. I then painstakingly comb out the hair in sections every day before sending them out to school. This preventative method has worked magnificently for years, and just when I thought I could relax with this routine… it happened!
I treated them that very afternoon, washed and combed and washed and combed. Seven days later I treated again, just like the chemist said. I even did my son’s hair, just in case. A few days later I pronounced them clean and warned them not to place their heads too near to certain children who I suspected may have been the source of the infestation. I mean, what kind of parent allows their kids run around with creepy crawlies in their heads, infecting innocent children whose parents are so diligent with their health.
Alas, this was not to be the end.
I caught sight of my little one scratching a few days later and dared to check her head. I was just about to brush her hair into a pony tail and tell her to stop scratching when, Lo and behold! She had some honey-coloured suckers rummaging around in her scalp, drinking her blood. They were exactly the colour of her hair and, if not for the fact that she’d recently been treated for lice, I probably would not have continued searching, therefore, would not have found them.
When I called my son over and combed through his hair, four brown ones got caught up inside the comb. I was horrified! What was happening to my children? I reasoned that one of them must be catching it from a certain friend and infecting the other two. Surely, they can’t all have friends with exactly the same problem.
So I got another bottle of very expensive lice treatment and went through the motions again. This time I was fuming as I paid up – again, for something I had fought so hard to prevent. At least by now it was the second to last day of school and I could breath a sigh of relief.
But could I?
Two weeks of the holidays went by and it came time for the kids to prepare to go to Bible camp. The day before camp, once we had packed, I got ready to braid the girls’ hair (to give them a couple of days off without having to worry about their hair while they were away). As I nonchalantly (for old time sake) combed through my little one’s hair with the nit comb, I came across – you guessed it!
Needless to say, I fretted through yet another intense treatment (all three kids) while I re-played the last two weeks in my mind for some kind of common factor (outside school) which could be responsible for the new onslaught of the tiny vampires in their heads.
I worked out that there were only 4 people who could’ve been responsible for the new infection, my husband, my sister, the kids’ grandmother, or me. Out of these four people there was only one with a history of having had lice before.
Later that night, I braided the girls’ hair, gelled my son’s hair the way he liked it, and walked upstairs to my bedroom armed with the spray top bottle - which held the tea tree oil mixture, and a nit comb.
* * *
When I was little, I had the reddest hair in my village. It stood out in big, wild, red curls all over my head. When I caught lice, they were as red as fire ants, so by the time they were discovered, I’d had them for a long period of time. Being from a very poor family, the only way my aunt knew how to get rid of them was by soaking my entire head with Kerosene oil.
Kerosene oil was also what we used to cook with, it’s an extremely flammable fuel like petrol, and just as unpredictable. The day my aunt poured the kerosene in my scalp, the tiny suckers came running out from every direction. I even found them lying dead on my pillow weeks after this bizarre and extremely dangerous ‘treatment’ (one which I would never, ever recommend, as kerosene gets in your ears and even in your throat through the fumes).
I tried to figure out what the chances were of me having caught these nasty bugs from the kids in my adulthood, and concluded that they were very high indeed. My husband and I share reading bedtime stories to the kids. On my four nights, I sit on my bed, close to the two youngest ones (my 10 year old thinks she is too old to be read to, so she goes off and reads her own books) we hold our heads together, one on either side of me.
I read with one arm wrapped around one of them, and the other hand kept free for turning the pages. When we get to end of the book, we would say our prayers, then decide whether we would play ‘biteys’ or ‘tickles.’
‘Biteys’ is a game I made up for two reasons: One, so that I could keep abreast with the kids’ physical and mental strength; and two, for them to realise, develop and use these strengths. My psychology studies taught me that this is vital for their development.
As a little girl, I was confronted every day and unfortunately only realised my mental capacity through having to deal with being abused. I wanted to create a way for my kids to be able to gauge theirs, by doing something that was taxing in a pleasurable way. Now the way we play this game is: They have got to prevent me from placing my teeth (it goes without saying, of course, that I never bite them) on their left leg – hence the term ‘biteys.’ If I manage to place my teeth on that leg, using only my hands and head, then they have to consider themselves bitten. They’re allowed to use their entire body to prevent me from coming close. The only rules are that they never leave the bed, never scratch my face, or pull my hair.
At the end of this highly hilarious and exhausting game we usually end up in a pile of bodies in the middle of the bed, often with heads touching (and this is why I’ve told you all this). My two oldest have become so strong now that I almost have to cheat (which I sometimes do) to get them.
The second game is like the first, but it involves tickling. The only rule is that every one has a safe word - the only word to use if you want to stop, or become uncomfortable. Like the first game, heads make lasting contact.
Back to my predicament; the first few comb-through yielded nothing, but by the sixth one, I saw something, not red this time, but dark - just as dark as my hair had now become.
I’d caught the monsters!
I figured out later, as I sat in the bathroom after saturating my head with the overpriced lice treatment, that the kids had most likely given the nasty beasts to me straight after they’d caught them the first time. Therefore, there was a very large possibility that the person re-infecting them was not the child (whose careless and anti-social parent I would like to strangle), but me, the person who was trying so hard to prevent them from getting the lice in the first place.
The moral of this story is, if your child is unfortunate enough to be friends with the children of uncaring parents who let their offspring run amok infecting people with lice, treat not only your kids, but yourself too.
I’ve had to learn that the hard and embarrassing way.