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One night shortly after I tuck her in, my daughter inches her way down the stairs.

“Mom, I have three problems.”

“Oh really?” I ask, eyeing her skeptically. She has three minutes before being shipped back to bed, so she spits it out quickly:

“ONE. I need a drink.”

“TWO. I can’t sleep.”

“THREE. My head is really, really itchy.”

I close my eyes. Oh, fuck. I promise any higher being listening that I’ll be a better person if it only turns out to be dandruff. Not lice. Too late. Scratch. Scratch scratch.

I breathe through some silent cursing and herd both my daughter and her pajama-clad brother into the car to get some lice shampoo. The simple joys of single-parenting.

Of course the kids are totally excited – they never get to go out after dark! Look at the moon! “Aaawwooo,” they howl.

Oh yeah, the werewolf is about to come out.

I wash my daughter Moxie’s hair then sit her on the bathroom floor, picking out all the lice and nits for the next hour. Their excitement is not contagious. At one point, I wish that she had the flu instead.

Though the bottle promises all we need is one dose, the horribleness continues off and on for more than a month. Her brother took joins the party a week later. We spend every morning and every night looking through hair. Some days, nothing and then next thing you know, the little terrors are back. I douse everyone in tea tree oil despite protests that it stinks; I spend hours washing and rewashing sheets, and tumbling stuffed animals in the dryer on the highest setting.

At bedtime I try to hug them as tight as possible while keeping my head far away. 

nits will make you nuts

 

But then I come upon the sight of the two of them together, reading stories to each other while they wait for the magic potion to do its thing. Another night Rain comes into the bathroom and entertains his sister while she waits to be rinsed. She giggles for a good eight minutes.

I ask a nurse at work to check my own hair for lice before going to a hair appointment. I hang my head in shame and during the appointment I am so paranoid I only smile and nod in answer to the hairdresser’s questions. I walk out with one of the worst haircuts of my life.

The breaking point comes when I find more lice when I truly thought they were gone. I put the lice shampoo in and then, perhaps I lose my mind from the fumes: I spend the 10 minutes it needs to sit on their heads shouting like a drill sergeant for them to pick up their toys for “if we cannot have clean heads then at LEAST WE WILL HAVE A CLEAN HOUSE.” I know then that I’ve lost it.

That weekend I vow to get rid of every last one of those filthy bugs once and for all. It’s my Honey Bunny moment.

On Friday night we welcome the weekend with a nice Nix shampoo treatment for them both. Saturday Moxie and I have some fun in the kitchen; on the advice of a colleague we mix vinegar and oil and slather it through her hair. I then wrap her head in saran wrap and put her in the fridge. Just kidding about that last part.

Moxie sits drenched in oil and vinegar. She touches the saran wrap and shivers with disgust.

“Did your friend REALLY say this would work? I think you made this up.” Apparently I have a reputation around here.

To distract her from all the dripping we make cookies. I pop chocolate chips in her mouth whenever she complains the vinegar stings.

nits will drive you a little nuts

A few hours later we rinse her hair in more vinegar (which is used to dissolve the dead lice after the oil smothers them–I hope you’re not reading this on lunch break right now) followed by the warmest water she can stand.

When we pick up Rain from hockey she exclaims, “Guess what Mom did to me? She put salad dressing in my hair and wrapped me in saran wrap!”

Rain cocks his head to one side. “What kind of salad dressing?”

He gets to find out the next day.

The two of them are soaked in dressing as they watch cartoons on my laptop on the bathroom floor.

nits are nuts

ALL PHOTOS: ERICA RICHMOND

I selectively ignore the caution against applying lice shampoo more than once a week and give them an extra dose; these are not ordinary lice and I am done playing by their rules. Will their hair fall out? This would render the lice homeless. I guess I’m okay with that; this is war.

Perhaps it’s the double dose of Nix or the oil and vinegar concoction, but the lice have stayed away. I’m not naïve to believe it’s fully over. We have years of elementary school ahead of us still.

Erica Richmond is a single parent. She loves words and adventures.

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