This Mom Writes An Open Letter To The Parents Of The Kid At School With Lice

by Lisa Sugarman
Lisa writes the nationally syndicated column "It Is What It Is" and is the author of Untying Parent Anxiety.

I know — the headline just sucker punched you right in the crotch. And it’s stinging. So, I’m gonna give you a minute.

(Dramatic pause.)

Lice is a reality that happens to come at this time of year — a nasty eventuality that we need to be prepared for, especially if we’ve got kids. It’s coming, whether we’re ready for it or not, so we need to get our heads in the game, just to be prepared.

During the twelve years I worked in the school system, I saw a lot of lice. All that hat-sharing and hair-brush-lending, and the coat piles! God, it was awful. Plus, I’ve got two kids of my own, so I’ve been hit by this nightmare multiple times on my home turf. And all those memories left me pre-programmed to think one thing when I bust open that Rubbermaid hat bin every winter: all heads must be shaved, not because I want to, but because I just can’t help myself. It’s an automatic reaction.


For most people, just hearing the word lice is like finding a grenade on the sidewalk, minus the pin. No matter who’s talking about it, or why, just the mention of the word causes a visceral reaction unlike anything I’ve ever seen.

People sweat, people shake, grown women cry. I mean, if you’ve ever dealt with it first-hand, you know that — for the rest of your life, whenever you see or hear the word — you’ll get a PTSD-type reaction every time. You’ll start phantom itching just because you heard the word.


Case in point: I’ll bet that in just the last fifty-three seconds that it’s taken you to read this far, you’ve already scratched your head more than once, and maybe even thrown up a little in your mouth. It’s okay, don’t be ashamed. You didn’t do anything wrong. It happens to everybody.

The truth is, whether you have kids or not, or whether you’ve experienced lice firsthand or not, it’s just one of those things that everyone can sympathize with — purely because of the stigma that goes along with it. And because it’s all-consuming.


Life just stops cold when you find that first nit. And then, once you start breathing again, it’s game on. Everything’s got to be stripped and cleaned and decontaminated and inspected. Then re-stripped, re-cleaned, re-decontaminated, and re-inspected. Then again, and again, and again. It’s as maddening as it is overwhelming because all parents know that if even so much as one rogue louse breaks through the line again, you’re right back to ground zero, doing everything all over again.

So, in simple terms, lice is quite possibly the most offensive four-letter word we can ever hear if we’re a mom or a dad. When she calls, the school nurse’s voice reverberates right through us, bones and all, leaving us dry-mouthed and twitching, with clouded vision and ringing in our ears.


It’s because so much information is saturating our brain at one time that processing anything becomes impossible. It’s like trying to force water through a big, gnarled hair clog that goes eighteen inches down the drain. Nothing gets through.

Then there’s the whole embarrassment piece, combined with the reality that our kids have bugs living in their heads. It’s just all kinds of foul.


The bottom line is we need to find a way as a modern society to maintain control over these little bastards, even in spite of the chaos they bring with them. We need to win the upper hand, and the way we do that is to use our big, fat brains and our opposable thumbs to our advantage. That, along with some deep breathing and heavy duty nit combs.

We repeat over and over that lice are not deadly. Lice are not contagious. Lice don’t carry diseases. Lice can’t hurt us or our kids in any physical way. They can’t jump or hop or fly. They can’t even live more than a few days without the warmth and food of the human head. (Eeeeeew.) And, for all intents and purposes, they look like sesame seeds, which are basically the most benign-looking things on the planet.


Remember, we’re the advanced species. We’re the ones with unlimited amounts of olive oil and shower caps and nit creams. And once we all recognize that lice are beatable, we gain the upper hand. Once we understand that these little a**holes can’t take us down, we take control.

So even though it may take time and commitment and effort, and there may be more than one battle, we will win the war.

We just need to stay alert, be vigilant keeping those brushes and hats and hoods separated, and not be afraid to shave some heads if the going gets tough.

Have you struggled with lice? Make sure to SHARE this with your fellow moms and dads out there.

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