My wife has gone to war. It all started when we got the news that no parent wants to hear — there is a case of head lice in school.
Now, I had no idea this was such bad news until the text arrived and my wife was transformed from her normal cute and funny self into Fearsome SheWife - Slayer of Bugs That Live in Hair.
She’s not the only one — another mom I talked to this week recalled her own titanic struggle with the little beasties.
I think this woman vs head lice thing comes from way back in the primordial slime. It’s like whoever God is assembled all the things that would ever be created and the head lice insulted the woman by saying something like “I preferred your hair the way it was before”. From then on, it’s been war.
No one leaves our house in the morning without industrial levels of tea-tree oil and something called Nitty Gritty in their hair.
At night my wife produces a terrifying array of combs that wouldn’t have looked out of place at the Spanish Inquisition, so she can go through our kids’ hair in search of the bad guys. (I’m not given the job because I lack the obsessive killer-instinct she brings to the task.)
No sign of lice yet, but neither is there any sign that my wife is going to stand down. It feels like this is going to make the 100 Year War look like a short skirmish.
I’m doing my bit, like washing all the bedclothes and putting their coats and hats into the tumble dryer, because the internet reckons that’s the only way to kill off any nits that might have made it into the house.
My wife has done enough research at this stage for a PhD in lice massacres. I’ve done a bit of googling as well, because I’m either with her on this one, or else I’m on the side of the lice.
Lice are pretty interesting. According to liceclinicsofamerica.com, head lice developed around 1.68 million years before homo sapiens emerged. So you’re up against some right hardy little chaps in this battle.
It turns out that lice thrive on clean and shiny hair. My take on this is to stop washing your children’s hair.
According to an article on rte.ie, 80% of lice are immune to the new treatments that people use to kill them off.
The stuff we used in the past was more effective, but it was considered too severe, so now you have to comb through your kids’ hair for 75 hours a day to make sure you get all the lice.
I only have one question for aspiring TDs on the doorstep: ‘Where do you stand on bringing back the old lice treatment, so hard-stretched parents don’t have to waste their spare time in hand-to-hand combat with a bug?’
It’s clear that other places are more engaged than Ireland on this front.
In Germany it’s completely verboten to drop your kids to school if they have nits; certain parts of America insist you prove they went to a de-lousing clinic before you let them back in; in the Netherlands, they have a volunteer hit-squad for nits in every school, parents who check everyone when they come back after a holiday.
The names of offending kids aren’t revealed, but if there are recurring issues with your family, you get a call from the public health nurse.
This should be enough to scare Irish people into action because we’re terrified to let anyone see the mess in our house.
I doubt any of this will stop the war in our house. In the past, kids would stop touching hair with each other by the age of 12, and the lice thing would die out.
But now, thanks to selfie culture, it can carry on to their late teens. That’s 15 years more strife for us – maybe then I’ll get my wife back.