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The Longest Day

I would like to apologize for being MIA last week and for the rant that constitutes this week’s column.

You see, the reason I was MIA last week is directly related to what has me fired up this week, and you are the lucky ones who get to learn from my misfortune. And if you’re squeamish, run away now. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Early last week, I was on top of the world. It was one of my weekdays at home with Dude. I was feeling smug because my house was clean and almost all of the laundry was done. I’d picked up my groceries early that morning, and I was enjoying a cup of coffee from my Grinch mug while making my to-do list for the day. Dude was happily racing his cars and the dog was napping on my feet while Christmas music played softly in the background. Truly a perfect December day.

But then the phone rang. Caller ID said it was the girls’ school, and I prayed that it was the usual recorded message about buses being late in the afternoon. Alas, my hopes were crushed when the answering voice was that of a human, the school nurse.

She informed me that she had one of my girls and that she would need to be picked up immediately because she had lice. I am a hairdresser, and nothing strikes more fear in my heart than lice. Knowing how difficult it is to get rid of and the cleaning process will ruin not just your day, but the next few weeks.

(Look, I know y’all are all feeling itchy and uncomfortable right about now because we are not supposed to talk about this and it’s gross and how dare I let my kids get lice. But let’s be honest, it happens and it sucks and we all need to commiserate instead of being embarrassed about it. It’s a fact of life when you have school-age kids.)

So of course both of my girls had it and I chatted with the nurse about treatment since this was our first time dealing with it. She made it pretty clear that the proper choice was paying some sort of extortion fee to a company whose only business is delousing desperate families. The second best option was using a prescription treatment, and the worst, stupidest, most ineffective thing you can do is buy a treatment kit at the drugstore and do it yourself.

I loaded up my girls and started making calls. The first was to the extortionists who told me that while they couldn’t give me an exact quote, it would probably cost in the neighborhood of the sum total of all the Christmas presents I would like to buy for my children. Um, thanks but no thanks.

I then called my pediatrician, whose nurse was happy to call in a prescription for us. Because our insurance is the literal worst, said prescription treatment would have clocked in only slightly below the extortionist’s estimate. So we left that option behind and picked up a few boxes of at-home treatment. Did you know that CVS has an aisle whose sign reads “Warts/Lice”? Didn’t they have any scarlet letters for us to pin on our shirts when we walked in?

By this time, it was early afternoon and my peaceful smugness was in shambles as I returned home to begin pushing my rock up the mountain. Gather everything soft that has touched any family member in the last two weeks. Wash it all in hot water and dry it until it almost catches on fire.

Meanwhile, dump a whole bunch of chemicals on your kids’ heads and repeatedly comb every single strand with a fine tooth comb. Don’t forget to offer them candy and iPads to keep them quiet while you torture them for three hours each.

Realize it’s almost bedtime and you haven’t even fed them dinner, throw some chicken nuggets in the oven and slice a few apples, because you’re not a total slacker.

Switch the laundry a few more times, wonder how ridiculous your water bill will be. Argue with kids about having to put their stuffed animals in quarantine for two weeks. Eat a chicken nugget. Realize that three nights ago, one of the kids had a bad dream and slept in your bed, on your pillow.

Ask your husband, who has been bald for a decade, to treat your own head. Try to instruct him on how to comb tiny sections and be thorough. Wince through the painful parts (the whole process). Realize it’s after 10pm and your kids aren’t in bed. Put kids in bed with no stuffed animals, let them cry themselves to sleep.

Realize that you never put your own bedding in the wash, switch more laundry. Sterilize all hair accessories in the house. More laundry. Pull your own covers out of the dryer at 1am, set alarm for 5am, fall asleep before your (probably bleeding) scalp hits the pillow.

The next morning, drag pitiful, sleepy children out of bed, do the usual morning routine plus a thorough re-check of their heads to make sure they can go to school. Instead of putting kids on the bus, drive them way out of the way to school and walk them into the nurses office personally to make sure they are OK to stay.

Are y’all with me here? I’m exhausted, but I have done everything I know how to do and checked and double checked my kids. I’m not just putting them on the bus and going to work, I’m driving them to school to have them checked before they ever come in contact with another student. I’m fully prepared to take them right back home if there’s any evidence of lice — busy work day be darned.

As soon as we walked in, I was asked what treatment we went with. I answered that we treated at home. And the sneering answer that I got was “Well, if it comes back within a week, you’ll have to take them to the doctor.” Before anyone even looked at my kids’ heads.

Look, I get it. Nobody needs a lice epidemic in their school. But can I get the benefit of the doubt? Because I didn’t fork over a week’s salary for treatment, it’s not good enough? I don’t get fired up about a lot, but steam came out of my ears. I explained that both of the other options weren’t feasible with our budget and that I’d done everything I knew how to do. After a quick check it was determined that my girls were fine to stay at school. And I am well aware of the maintenance required for the next two weeks, thankyouverymuch.

Apparently “it costs too much” is not something you’re allowed to say around here? I love our community, but give me a break. If any of you have ever been treated as “less than” because you live on a normal human budget, I am your people. Because I don’t give a fig about any of that nonsense.

Come over in your Old Navy clearance yoga pants and let’s have a glass of Aldi’s wine in my small house. I know you’re a good person whether your vehicle was made in this decade or not, or if you have something less than double crown moulding in your house.

We will be real and laugh and we won’t have to pretend we didn’t go to the beach this summer because of “sports.” We will commiserate about impromptu lunch date money being commandeered by doctor’s office copays. And I guarantee I’ll have deloused the whole place.

Overheard at the salon: Who does he think he is wearing that ascot? The only person who ever pulled that off was Fred on Scooby Doo.