Writing For Childre... OH NITS!


The Dalai Lama once said “If you think you are too small to make a difference, try finding a nit in a child’s hair.” Or something like that. Over the past few years I have been hearing all the mum-in-the-carpark tales of the tiny critters of shame. Where they were found, at what stage of the life cycle they were at, what steps were to be taken to be rid of them, and of course, who was to blame. Notes from teachers filled our school bag with warnings of anonymous nit infestations: check their hair, every child’s hair, it is going around the class, again.

And who was to blame? The rest pillows, the hat sharing, the swimming pools, the dirty kids, the parents of the dirty kids, the crunchy mama’s with their useless natural organic nit shampoo, the boys with long hair, the girls with their hair out, the virtuous parents who think their wonderful beautiful children couldn’t possible have horrid bugs in their golden locks so don’t even check, and ‘the boat people’ (who apparently also bought over the flu and ADHD).

Somehow, over the last few years of being constantly around other kids with infestations, we have escaped it. I checked, I scratched my head and worried, I sprayed daily head lice defense, I crossed my fingers and I checked again.

Then the other day my four year boy was at the hairdresser. The hairdresser was snip snip snipping then suddenly froze, mid snip. She moved slowly, she talked quietly. ‘Come and look.’ And there it was: a sandy brown 6 legged little creature, swiftly exploring it’s lovely hair-home.

I made a little gasp.

Shhhhhh Come and look.

Shhhhhh Come and look.

The hairdresser and I slowly looked at each other. It was as if loud noises and quick movements might trigger a series of serious events; perhaps this tiny insect would sink some giant venomous fangs into my boy’s soft scalp, or perhaps it would jump off his head and turn on us all, wreaking havoc through the shopping centre turning over bins and making women scream. I guessed it was actually because shouting ‘NITS!’ in a hairdresser is akin to shouting ‘MOUSE!’ in a restaurant.

‘We’ve caught it really early, there is only a couple here. Does he have an older sister or brother?’ she whispered.

‘He has an older sister but they can’t possibly have come from her – she is a wonderful beautiful child with golden locks – it must have come from kindy. He has just started. They have rest pillows.’

‘Of course,’ she nodded (with a clever invisible eye roll).

So there goes the day. If you are ever wondering how you can get rid of a day, or two, or five, nits is your answer. As we left the shopping centre I threw my large to-do list for the day in the bin.

The hair: goop, washing, combing. The bedclothes, towels, couch cushions: washing, drying, inspecting, washing and drying again. The hairdresser had said ‘some people will tell you the nits can’t live once they're are off the head – don’t believe them’ so I didn’t.

No one walked through our front door without stinky goop being launched at their scalp. There was some screaming. My head itched in my dreams.

We are now four days since ‘discovery’ and the nits persist. It has been one of those times when it’s helpful to have ‘a village to raise a baby’. I have spoken to everyone about it, never mind the shame, and taken as much advice as I can administer.

Probably the best suggestion was to stock up on wine.

The next best suggestion was to do the conditioning and the comb, every night, even after all the gooping and washing. I thought I had got them all but after swimming today I did another comb through and wiped each swipe on the towel - whatever eggs had been left, had multiplied and hatched (or hatched and multiplied?). Incredibly the little buggars had survived the initial goop and comb, the swimming lessons in an over-chlorinated pool, and the third comb through. As tiny as a grain of sand, they ran around the towel like it was an Olympic stadium.

I took the towel straight home and threw it (and everything else again) into a killer hot wash. The towel came out and I stood there aghast, helpless. A couple of those miniture mo fo’s still looked as healthy as a bag of quinoa in coconut water. Not only can they live off the head, they could live through a nuclear war. What chance do we have against these warriors? And why was I washing everything? Clearly it wasn’t doing anything except depleting the county’s water supplies. I threw the towel in the bin.

We gooped again. And combed again. There was more screaming. I may have combed some scalp off, I may have gooped some eyeballs (just in case). Next time I see even a piece of dust in their hair, the clippers will come out. Then the clippers will be burnt in the incinerator. Then the incinerator propelled into space. And this is when you catch it early?

Who do I blame? I blame the nits.

Apologies to those who were expecting Writing For Children: Week 3 this week. Clearly my writing thoughts have been overshadowed. I intend to get back on track next week, unless I find out we have bedbugs.

See, a children's book. I am still concentrating...

See, a children's book. I am still concentrating...