It was a typical weeknight. My son was having dinner while I was tackling my leftover work emails and sorting through the coupon mailer. In fact, it was actually one of those rare evenings where the ratio of food in the child’s mouth to food on the floor was pretty favorable. Things were looking good until I noticed that in between bites, my son seemed to be aggressively scratching his head.
At first I assumed he’d gotten food in his hair–a feat he’s managed on many an occasion. But upon further inspection, I saw nothing of the sort.
After dinner the scratching persisted. And the more he scratched, the more I came to face the realization that we were probably dealing with our first-ever lice infestation. I mean, the kid goes to daycare, so it was bound to happen at some point, right? Only instead of taking a productive, level-headed approach to the situation, I opted to do the thing that came naturally: I freaked out.
Now before those of you who have been there start nodding your heads in empathy, please understand that while I appreciate the license to panic, I’ll be the first to admit that my reaction went above and beyond simply losing it.
My heart started racing as though I’d just finished a marathon while my brain rapidly formulated a hysterics-induced game plan: I’d have to launder all of the baby’s sheets, linens, and clothing. Actually, never mind laundering–we’d have to throw everything away. Get new bed sheets. Replace the towels. Burn the pajamas and coat. Burn everything. What other choice did we have?
When my husband walked in the door, I was in the midst of a not-so-stellar mom moment that involved me frantically searching Google not for lice remedies, but for local disaster recovery services. Why? Because there are companies that come in and restore homes following fires and floods, so surely one could come in to fumigate and purge my house of lice. And wouldn’t that be money well-spent?
The downward spiral in my brain continued as my poor husband tried to talk me down to a state of reduced panic. We’d need new furniture, I started yelling–otherwise our couches might retain lice remnants for years to come. And surely our wooden chairs and glass coffee table would come to harbor enough of those pesky creatures to render us slaves to persistent head itching for the remainder of our collective existence.
Clearly something had to be done. And something was done. Only it was not I who stepped up to the plate, but rather my husband, who actually went over to our son, sat him down, and inspected his head for lice and nits. And guess what? He didn’t see any. I made him do it again just to be sure, but a flashlight-assisted search confirmed it: We were lice-free.
At first I refused to believe him. But then we let our son be for a few minutes, and sure enough, the scratching stopped.
Once I was able to breathe normally, I realized what an idiot I’d been–not because I was wrong about the lice, but because of how I’d reacted. I utterly and completely lost my cool over lice. Lice. Itchy hair bugs. This wasn’t a massive head wound. My son hadn’t broken a bone or started running a frighteningly high fever. He simply had an itchy scalp.
I was embarrassed. Seriously, if that’s how I reacted to lice, how would I manage to cope with a real problem?
That night I sat down and gave myself an F on the mental mom report card I maintain in my head. And no, I really don’t think I’m being too hard on myself. See, I’m a firm believer in learning from one’s mistakes, and so over the next few weeks, I took to repeating the incident many times over, not to obsess (which I’m perfectly capable of), but to learn a lesson, and it goes like this: When it comes to kids, stuff happens. Kids get hurt. Kids get sick. Kids get lice. But by freaking out every time something goes awry, I’m putting my own needs first, not my son’s. And that really isn’t cool.
And so I’ve promised myself that when–because it’s not if, it’s when–my son does come home with lice, I’m going to take it in stride, and rather than freak out, I will focus on making sure he’s okay. I mean, yeah, I’ll probably still want to throw out all of his clothing and burn the sheets, but I’ll at least have the sense to Google “lice shampoo” before “disaster recovery lice.”