Modern parents have a busy schedule. Somehow, they have to fit in work time, time volunteering in the classroom or at the tuckshop and time spent ferrying children from one extra-curricular activity to the next, not to mention time spent keeping the family fed and the house passably clean.
No wonder a case of nits – and the many the hours of conditioning, washing and combing that come with it – strikes dread in the heart of the average parent. Just Another Mother blogger, Rowena Newman, can sympathise…
It's only 8am and until this very minute everything has been running smoothly for the dreaded double drop-off. My son has been safely delivered to before-school care and as I stand in my daughter’s day-care centre I can almost feel the exultant rush of liberation.
Breakfast? Check. School Uniforms? Check. Lunches and recorder packed? Check and check. I'm actually still running on time for my 9am meeting and, miracle of miracles, I think I've even done a reasonable job of dressing myself. Hell, I've even managed to blow-dry my hair. My days are filled with small miracles… like the fact that my outfit vaguely matches and my shirt is ironed.
But everything is about to come unstuck. I am standing among friends, parents and teachers and I can feel the blood draining from my face as my four-and-a-half year old daughter-with-a-megaphone-voice delivers the death-knell. "My head is so itchy!"
The earth tilts on its axis and I spin around in slow motion to see her holding fists full of hair with an agonised expression on her face. Did she really just say that? The four-letter word that sends shudders of dread through a mother's heart. Nits.
As I reach down to part her hair and begin the obligatory scalp inspection I can see out of the corner of my eye that all the other adults in the room have parted like the red sea. It is Nit Apartheid. There is unspoken terror in their eyes.
I'm trying to play it cool. I've never actually seen nits and lice before and I've always wondered whether I could identify them. Well, they’re not small. They move and they look insect-y.
One of the teachers asks me whether I see anything. And all the air has suddenly been sucked out of the room as the terror-stricken adults await The Pronouncement.
I finally find my voice and announce with as much grace and dignity as I can muster (given the gravity of the situation) "I do". So, my daughter and I begin the walk of shame. We collect our belongings and sign ourselves out of day-care while the other parents look on in abject horror.
Throughout the ordeal I've been resisting the most incredible urge to scratch my head, and through gritted teeth I am able to maintain my itchy poise until we are safely quarantined in the car.
My day flashes before my eyes. All those horrible lotions and potions. An 8-hour insecticide treatment. An entire day to wash all of the sheets and towels, and dry them and remake all the beds.
I've got a meeting to go to and work to do. What can I do? Who can I call? At times like this I need a good old-fashioned wife to help me out! It's time to bring in the big guns. I cannot do this on my own.
Grandma answers my desperate call and spends the day nit-busting my daughter, my son and my entire house. I arrive only 10 minutes late for my 9am meeting and when greeted with the usual raised-eyebrows I don't dare tell.
Last time I spoke of nits I returned to my desk to find it encircled by black and yellow crime scene tape. For crimes against un-prepared working mothers!
So now I am prepared. I have done my research and am qualified to do some myth-busting about nit-busting. All you need is cheap white hair conditioner and a heavy-weight and long-toothed nit-comb. Comb the conditioner through the hair of every family member each night for a week.
The little critters will be revealed quite clearly as black insects against the white hair conditioner after each brush stroke and you can either just rinse the comb off in the bath (the lice are asphyxiated by the conditioner anyway) or wipe onto a tissue (I do this because my kids like to see how infested they are!). I wash their hats in hot water just to be sure.
Apparently lice can’t survive off the scalp for more than a few hours, so assuming your kids are at school and aren’t having daytime sleeps, you don’t really need to wash the sheets and towels.
Having said that, I often will do that at the end of the seven-day nit treatment, and combine it with a dose of worming medicine, so you can feel, at least for a day, joyful that your children are pest and parasite free.
Rowena- Just Another Mother