I saw it inside my daughter's take-home folder -- that dreaded note explaining a student in her classroom had been found to have lice. I immediately did three things: 1) instinctively scratched my head, 2) sympathized with that poor child and 3) remembered my own family's experience with the nasty buggers.
It was right after school let out for summer break. Not having ever seen the actual bug or egg firsthand, I had no idea what I was looking at the first time I inspected my daughter's hair. Not only did she have lice but she must have had it for weeks, perhaps longer, because she was infested. That's when our world got turned upside down, quite literally.
My husband and I went into fast action. While he treated our daughter's hair, I began cleaning the house from top to bottom, bagging up any item that, according to my quick Internet research, the bugs could cling to and possibly lay eggs on. I vacuumed and washed, paying special attention to anywhere our heads would be. No area was exempt in our house or in our cars.
I never could have imagined what a process this would be. Not to mention the most important and daunting task of all: ridding my daughter's hair of those creepy crawlers.
My daughter was amazingly cooperative. That first night, I spent three straight hours on her hair without a single complaint from her. From morning until dusk the next day, we sat outside, and I spent 12 more hours going strand by strand, pulling out the bugs, along with any eggs that had already been laid. This was after we chopped her once long hair to chin length.
It was grueling, and by day's end, I was officially going buggy. Every day after that, for a few hours, I would go through her hair again and again, each day finding more bugs that I either missed or had hatched since the last time. During it all, we were extremely cautious. Laundry was done daily. She was not allowed to play with her stuffed animals. She couldn't even get too close to her sister for fear of transmittal. It was all so exhausting.
Our routine continued for weeks until I was finally comfortable saying they were gone for good. After all, it only takes one bug to start the entire process over again.
Our daughter was such a trouper through it all. When I found myself overwhelmed (and I was), she would keep telling me it was going to be OK. And she was right. Eventually things went back to normal -- as normal as normal can be after having lice in your house.
It's been almost two years, yet I continue to do hair checks once a week. The thought that "it will never happen to us" is non-existent.
I still have nightmares. I still shudder any time my head has an itch. These bugs have done some minor damage to my mental state, but I have learned a lot, too. For two people who have very little patience -- my daughter and I -- we did it! We put the time in, and we beat those bugs.
And as much as lice bugged me to my very core, they presented no real health risk or caused us any physical harm. It was hard to realize this while in the midst of it all, but all these hard-to-get-rid-of bugs really did was, well, bug us.
But let me state for the record that I would like very much never to be bugged again.