my new best friends

Mr. Lice

When I said, after the too too sudden deaths of Balloon and Foxy, that I was considering getting harder-to-kill pets for our family, this was not what I had in mind.

In the last two weeks, instead of blogging, I have discovered that the word “nitpicking” is a well-chosen metaphor. In my life, I have had to do many tedious, methodical things that I have termed as “nitpicking.” But none have been quite so exacting as the actual act of Nit Picking itself, let me tell you.

Still, in that regard, I do have a confession to make: as soon as I picked up the phone and heard the Head of Lower School at Cooper and Fergus’ school say, “I hate to tell you this, Ms. Flaherty, but your sons have lice,” I hung up on her, and scratched my head with one hand while dialing the magical Hair Fairies with the other.

Go ahead, call me a spoiled Real Housewife of Manhattan. I am not ashamed! If Countess LuAnn’s children can have lice, it can happen to ANYONE. And if I can pay someone to make it all better that same afternoon, sign me up.

The only residual guilt I do have about letting the “highly trained” Hair Fairies use their “patented combs” to rid our family’s heads of lice, instead of being a hero and doing it myself, is that I used to make fun of them in my show. The mere mention of the Hair Fairies, next to my revelation of my sizable muffin top, was perhaps the biggest laugh in the show. I only stopped talking about them in my show when my director and I decided that actually, they didn’t sound too bad. Unlike the personal trainers for toddlers and the people who coach you on how to read to your infant, the Hair Fairies sounded like they made the world a better place for moms, not a harder one. And now I can say, with first-hand experience: bless you, Hair Fairies. The same afternoon we received our slightly devastating diagnosis, the boys each received an hour-long combout session, personal DVD players on their laps. Then David, Maddie, the babysitter, and I each received thorough checkups, and hallelujah! No one had head lice. Well, except me. “Thank God,” David said, and promptly boarded a plane for London for four days.

So while I cannot claim the badge of courage that my sister-in-law can, for personally combing out her children’s hair each evening AND HER OWN (how is that even possible??), I do deserve a little room to bitch because I did have to wash everything that anyone ever touched in our house ever, and then wash it all again the next day, and the next, oh for ten days or so. I also had to endure the humiliation of standing in the hallway with my sons, outside the nurse’s office, to get their heads checked each morning (along with a dozen or so other lepers) before they were deemed clean and able to return to their classrooms. The boys, however, thought it was awesome. “Guess what! I have lice!!” Cooper boomed, as he strutted into pre-K. “Well. I HAD lice. And I went to the Hair Fairies. And they might come back. And they are bugs that live IN YOUR HAIR.” A crowd of five year olds surrounded him, murmuring reverently, while their parents stole aghast glances at me.

But we survived, and another milestone of parenting panic is under my belt, and here are a few things I have learned about lice:

–they are so small I can’t imagine how any untrained professional is supposed to see them, anyhow.
–they hate tea tree oil. If just reading this post has made your head itch, dab a little tea tree oil behind your ears and you will be proactively protected.
–they cannot burrow. They can live on your pillowcase, but can’t get into your pillow itself.
–they can only live off your head for two days. So anything that is not washable can be bagged for three days or so, and then will be lice-free. Alive lice, anyhow.
–most importantly, Raoul the Hair Fairy makes house calls. If anyone needs me to put in a good word with him, let me know.