I felt shame at first. I didn’t think I could talk about it or tell anyone, but after weeks and months of silence, I need to share.
My son came home from the daycare one day and told me his head itched. Without thinking much of it, I looked closer and saw colonies of tiny bugs crawling in his hair. I recoiled in shock. He had come close to having lice once when we lived in the United States, and the reaction was immediate: I bought the necessary treatment, watched, and waited, but it was a false alarm. This time, now in Israel, there was nothing false about what was happening on his head.
I had brought the treatment with me from the US when we moved 10 months ago, just in case—a non-chemical spray and a rosemary shampoo—and I went to work: spraying, shampooing, combing, and repeating. I washed everything washable in the house, took deep breaths, continued combing him, and crossed my fingers.
The lice seemed to decrease, but the moment I thought I could breathe easy, I picked up my almost 3-year-old for a hug at the end of the day and saw that the colony had moved to her head. I mean, live bugs just crawling around her hair line as if this was their place. I gave my son a puzzle to do, ran a bath, and went through the same steps: spray, comb, shampoo, rinse, repeat.
I did tell a few people—my mom, her best friend, my best friend—but that was it. I had lice as a kid. I remember there was a stigma, and I know it still exists. Lice are a signal for someone who doesn’t wash enough, someone who doesn’t get themselves clean. I don’t want my kids thought of as dirty kids. I am pretty laid back in most respects—if my kids want to wear mismatching clothes or three sweatshirts instead of a jacket, I am down. My kids never match, their hair is generally not coiffed with bows and lace, and their clothes are more often than not handed down by some friend. None of this bothers me, but live bugs in their hair—not on my watch.
Everyone gives me advice—go the chemical route, cut their hair, give up and accept the fact that this is their new reality. While I refused to do all of the above (despite being tempted to just shear their gorgeous heads), I couldn’t understand why this was their new reality until I did some digging. One by one, mom by mom, I learned that everyone in each of my kids’ daycares has lice. Like in the US, it isn’t talked about widely, but it is talked about.
Why does the problem persist here while in the US it seems to be a more singular affliction? Simple: Kids are not required to stay home until their lice are gone. They continue to go to the daycare and play, hug, and horse around with their lice-infested friends, essentially making my rinsing, combing, and repeating an exercise in vanity. Clearly, not everyone is as serious about eradicating those little buggers as I am.
I raised the flag of alarm at the daycare, alerting the teachers and asking them to request that every family treat their kids, either proactively or reactively. They agreed, but I have no idea if that means that each family took action.
While I have not solved the problem, I am more adept at reacting. I proactively treat my kids once a week, comb them every day with my special lice comb, and inspect their heads before they leave the house each morning. I can’t tell you that we will be a lice-free household in the next few years, and while I wish there was comfort in not being alone, I am closer to accepting this new reality as it seems as if I have no other choice.
It is 70 degrees today and my kids spent the afternoon outdoors in the neighborhood park. I am choosing to balance the lovely winter weather with the confounding practice of not keeping kids home until their lice are a thing of the past. Israel is a weird place.