We’re In This Together, Except That We’re Not


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So, I’m pregnant. Again. And my husband is ecstatic. Of course. But the worst thing about it is that he keeps using that word “we” about the whole process. “We” are pregnant. “We” are having a baby. “We” are in this together. But, all I keep thinking is – no, “we” are NOT! This party is mine and mine alone! 

Don’t get me wrong. I love my husband. And our marriage is a rock. Rather like one of those briny ones at the bottom of the sea, it’s not shiny or spectacular. It’s just sort of there. And, thankfully, it’s been there so long that there aren’t many natural disasters that could disturb it or divers interested in plucking us from our spot. We are here to stay. For better or worse. BUT, as much as this is all true – the fact that I love him and we are for keeps – he needs to know that there’s no “we” in pregnancy. 

Yes, it took two of us for this blessed event to occur. As his two seconds of work began and ended his part of the equation, my body was left holding the bag to do the rest by itself. There was no “we” after the egg and sperm met. Once his little buddy got sucked in there, my body took over the rest of the show. And since that time, all of the organ-making and body-forming has been on my end. Me! Not “we!” 

It’s not just about the work and the creation part, either. It’s also about the pain. Who am I kidding – it’s mostly about the pain. And, believe me, there is no “we” in any of that. He doesn’t share my momentary dry heaves or the sort of fatigue that leaves me feeling like a zombie after doing almost nothing. He is just fine! Ready to conquer the world!! He’s still planning get-togethers with friends and family outings like nothing has changed. Meanwhile, I just get tired from picking grapes off of their stems. It’s hard work creating a new life. And I am the one working. Me! Not “we!” 

Sometimes, when I’m feeling bad, he holds me and lovingly looks into my eyes. In those moments, I almost forget how much I hate the words that will follow. The whole ‘“we” can get through anything together’ and ‘“we” can make this all work’ speech. “We.” Not me. Even though, really, who are we kidding? I’m the one who will have to get through the torn vagina and cracked nipples. I am the one who will have to figure out the sleepless nights and the feeding schedules. I am the one who will learn the habits, allergies, and temperament of my new baby – and then, after all of that, I will find the way in which to make this whole thing work. Me. Not “we!” 

The problem is he doesn’t get it. The male gene doesn’t allow for this sort of reasoning. They are so used to team sports and shared victories, they have mistakenly evolved their brains to believe that something done by one is done by all. But it’s not. And they are lucky for that level of ignorance. Really lucky, in fact.  

If there were a way that I could give birth to a baby without having little trickles of urine dribble out after every sneeze, or without huge clumps of hair falling out of my scalp post-partum, it would seem all the more magical. But, I can’t. Because I am the mother. Me. Not “we!” And until “we” realizes the fact that I am suffering more than he, I just can’t stomach that darn word. 

I love him. I’m happy to have another kid with him. But to hell with that word – “we!” Pregnancy is all me. And it sucks! Proverbially speaking, it’s the hardest work that I, or any mother, will ever do. And, in retrospect, after I have years of healing behind me, I’m sure I will believe that it was the best thing I’ve ever accomplished, too. But, as I’m living it right now, with discomfort and queasiness and heartburn being my daily routine, I’m taking full credit for this event. Me! Not “we!” Because, even though we are in this, I’m doing the heavy lifting. 

After the baby arrives, I will test out his theory of “we” status! Any chance I get – smelly diapers, crying jags, grocery jaunts – I will be on top of capitalizing on this “we” ideal. However, for the moment, as there can be only one of us in my body, this pregnancy thing is all about me. Me! Not “we!” Not yet. One day, we will see. But for now we’re just in this – me more than he.

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Troubled People: Part 2 (A Hand in the Crowd)


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The end of the school year often brings about a plethora of evening gatherings and events, celebrating and showcasing the work that students have done for the entirety of the school year. At my daughter’s school, this was very much the case with their Annual Family Night presentations. They had worked hard for the entire semester perfecting their speaking abilities and mastering their knowledge on one topic. And this night, this event, was rather like the crown jewel in their efforts. The cherry on top of the sundae that was a strained and loathed curriculum.

My daughter, who was not too eager to step into the limelight, slunk through it all with the ease of any wallflower, wishing her part would come and go without notice, praying away the minutes until it was time to leave. And I would be remiss if I weren’t secretly admitting the same. Not from a shyness standpoint (though I am, painfully), but really from a boredom standpoint. Not boredom about her topic (which was the tropical rainforest, by the way – see, I do listen!). Really just distracted detachment due to the plight of being there as an unfocused mother of another child, one who was three-years old and headed for a meltdown.

After the first hour of doing everything in my power to maintain a wrestling hold on my little squirming monster, I was pretty well spent long before her grade level was even on the brink of stepping out. I kept checking my watch, hoping the time would magically whiz by in a rush of warp speed. All I could think about was the bedtime we would be late to catch, the punch-drunkedness that was starting to take effect on my little guy, and how to keep him from saying his new favorite word (poopy) at the top of his lungs. No small feat!

Of course, we were in the middle of the middle row, so I could neither escape quickly nor with any sort of grace. But, the time was coming. I knew I had literally minutes before the ticking time bomb of a toddler would go off. Countdown was already happening – it was just a matter of when!

I kept checking the exits, measuring whose legs were longest and which direction would be the best point of leave. I glanced at the back, looking for a safe spot where I could take my cantankerous son while still being able to watch my daughter. Ever hopeful that I could live in both worlds at once – like all good mothers. And, of course, it felt like I was the only one in the auditorium suffering through this sort of ordeal. Everyone else had older children, better behaved children. Silent babies. Mannerly toddlers. And they also had complete focus on the videos they were recording. Complete involvement in the world we were so focused on removing ourselves from.

Just as I could hear it, the start of my son’s soliloquy of potty words, I made a mad scramble for the exit. I jumbled through the legs of many, reciting a pitiful “sorry” and “excuse me” with intermittent bouts of eye contact and half-hearted smiles. In the moment of my passing, I was blocking parents from seeing their kids’ presentations. Snickers could be heard. And over that, my son’s loud voice was starting to cause a ruckus. We were both, together, ruining the moment. I felt like a pariah. Like the person who was responsible for wrecking the night. Like the one that all eyes were watching.

Though I know so many of the moms who were present had been in my shoes before, I couldn’t help but feel a little judged. If I were able to hear their thoughts, I was certain they would have sounded like: “Why can’t she keep her son quiet?” “Looks like she’s raising a brat!” “Where’s her husband?” “Why did she sit so close to the front?” “Does she even have a kid in this school? I’ve never seen her at a PTA meeting!” “One word, lady: babysitter!”

Just as I made it to the back, I saw her. You know, the mom that all the other moms talk about. As I passed, I noticed a faint smell of whisky looming in the air around her. Her dark, curly hair was a slight birds’ nest of a mess. Her clothes, ill fitting, aimed desperately to be professional in appearance, though fell short because of the small specks of food (or something) that had stained the corner of her lapel. I watched her for a moment, almost gawking that someone was more awkward than me – me with my over-tired babbling boy, screaming through the rows about his new found fecal philia.

This mom, she clapped ferociously after every child’s pause in speech. And sometimes when they weren’t yet done. She cheered occasionally the way that college girls do at Mardi Gras when they catch a string of beads. A long “WHHOOOOOOOOOHOOOO,” even raising up her hands as if she were on an amusement park ride. And toward the end, she started throwing out phrases like an eager and raucous church lady, saying “Uh huh, that’s right” or “You tell ‘em!” And to one of the boys she even stood up and said “You go, girl.”

In my prior haste to get to the back of the room, I had noticed the thick and steaming snickers of judgement pervading the air around me. Because I can be a bit self-centered, I had misinterpreted it to think that they were all aimed at me. But they weren’t. Not most of them, anyway. After watching for a moment, I realized that they had been directed at this mom. The mom that all the other moms avoid.

Finally, as it was time for her daughter and my daughter (who were in the same class) to make their presentations, I noticed the kids shuffling out with timid confusion. They each came out in a small groups, mumbling briefly into a dusty old microphone before scooting off into the shadows. I was able to catch my daughter’s presentation before she scurried off with the rest. She had been so nervous, but when she saw us in the audience, even though we had moved so far to the back, she smiled with ease and seemed to instantly relax. The juxtaposition between my daughter and her classmate, however, was profound.

This woman’s little girl seemed to have the opposite reaction when she saw her mother. Her otherwise fearless countenance flickered with a hint of panic. You could tell she was holding back tears – tears of disappointment, tears of upset, tears of sorrow. She seemed to have the whole weight of the world on her tiny shoulders, aware of all that could, and probably did, go wrong when her mother was in this “state.” And her mom, who was near us, rose from her seat to a standing position and projected louder her boozy pride from the distance. Clearly the daughter wanted to quickly hurry into the shadows, too.

The evening’s event ended as they always do, with a big heap of gratitude offered from the flustered and ever-perspiring Principal. I walked through the crowd, with my tired son wriggling in my arms, on the quest to round up my daughter to go home. As I did, I overheard a lot of people’s conversations. Most of them, sadly, were about the mom with the drinking problem. The one the other moms wish would just go away.

They talked about how unfortunate it was. How sad for the girl. How many days on the wagon she had been before falling off again. There were even a few guesses about how many drinks she had drunk before coming. And how many more she would have when she got home. Everyone was talking about her. But no one was helping. No one was even considering lending a hand.

Not that there was a lot anyone could do, right? Our culture is one that recognizes problems and then just expects the person to suck it up and move forward. But how? How does one do that if they are living with a debilitating mental condition? How can they get help if the “village” has moved to the other side of their reach, thereby cutting them off from community or the support needed to get such help?

I didn’t know enough about her to answer those questions. And I wasn’t a therapist (unlike one of the other moms, who should have known better than to be so…cruel). But what I did know was that she had not long ago moved here from another city. She was a little rough around the edges, sure. She hadn’t ever really folded into the mix in terms of the group of moms at the school, obviously. But then again, neither had I. We were kind of the same. Both subject to the scoffing of other more perfect parents. Both feeling outside of the loop. Both hampered by big, loud diversions that caused constant embarrassment. Yet, despite our flaws, both of us were here to support (loudly or otherwise) our daughters.

Maybe because I saw myself in her a little (minus the Jim Beam infusion), I decided later on that I would stop being one of those people whose actions and deeds didn’t match. If I spoke of concern, I would act on it. If I thought someone needed help, I would offer it. And if I presented myself as a friend, I would actually be one. Not like those other parents. The ones who sat and judged everyone else, wishing away all those things/people that weren’t perfect.

We can’t save the world. No! But we can be real and show real concern for people in our communities. And maybe that small impact can make a larger ripple in the lives of those we would have otherwise cast aside. Just offering to be that friendly hand in the crowd may save someone’s life.

Troubled People: Part 1 (Pushing Buttons)


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If you’re a parent, and you’ve seen Despicable Me, you may remember that scene in the beginning of the movie when Gru makes a balloon animal for a little boy, only to pop it a few seconds later. Yeah. Well, something similar happened to my son. And naturally, I was furious! Beyond furious, in fact. So livid that I had visions of flattening tires, keying sedan doors, and punching (yes, punching) testicles of the guy who was responsible. All very mature responses, no?

What happened was this: We were making our weekly trip to the library for story time one afternoon. At this library, there are double doors that open outward. Next to those doors, there is also a button that will automatically open them when pushed – either as a helpful service for the disabled, people with arms full of books or toddlers with a serious button fetish. As anyone with a small child can attest, these are the simple pleasures that kids love most. Pushing buttons. Especially little, round, gray buttons with magical door-opening powers! My son is no exception. In fact, whenever we go to this library, it is the one thing he does with such zeal, I would almost believe it to be his sole purpose in life. (Not really, though a doorman’s costume would look cute on him!)

On this particular afternoon, my son made a bee-line to the door exclaiming – “I want to push the button!” That was his usual phrase of delight, as he would run to the door, squealing in the ecstasy of what was to come. However, since he and my daughter have had their turmoil (read: pushing, pinching, and screaming battles) as of late, I thought I would try to teach him a lesson in courtesy and the importance of not always going first. So, I let my daughter have the first turn to push the button (since she never gets the chance) and then I explained to my son that we could wait until the doors closed for him to have his turn. His desire was hampered a bit by the seeming unfairness, but he sucked it up without so much as a whine or whimper and stood patiently by the door waiting for them to close so he could have his turn. Pretty good behavior, I thought, for a three year old!

Since our library is never particularly busy and we weren’t in any particular rush, it wasn’t a big deal to wait another minute and have them take turns in this way. In fact, as a parenting tool, this library’s button door system is a pretty good way to teach my children the virtues of patience and waiting for their time to do a task. In the past, I looked on this need to always press the button as another headache induced by overly curious kids. But more recently I have come to see it as a great tool as well as a treasured (and cheap) means of entertainment.

During the minute that passed from my daughter’s turn before my son’s, none of the patrons had entered or exited. There was no real hustle or bustle at this place. It was as calm as a country road. That is, until it wasn’t. Until “the incident” happened.

As the doors were finally making their close, and the twinkle in my son’s eyes glimmered with a similar excitement as it does on Christmas morning, out of nowhere walked a man. A tall adult man wearing a tank top and flip flops. He held no books in his hands. And he held no sorrow for what he was about to do. Despite seeing a mother and her patient son waiting quietly for a turn at the coveted button, or maybe in spite of it, he walked ever closer to our side of the entrance, reached out his hand, and pushed the button for himself right at the very moment that my son had just lifted his tiny finger.

I looked up at the man as he whizzed right past us, neck redder than a beet, a hint of sweat and noxious cologne swirling in the air around him. All I could hear was the word “sorry” he had verbally flung at us prior to pressing the button. Yeah. Sorry in the same manner that a bully would say it right before giving a wedgie or flinging a lunch tray onto the floor. “Sorry.” Not sorry. Not the least little tiny bit. Premeditated. Purposeful. Hateful. Rude.

What kind of person would do something like that, especially to a child, was all I kept thinking. And by the look on my daughter’s face, who had seen the whole thing from the lobby, she felt the same way. After all, in her eyes only she could be mean to her little brother – who was this guy to take her job?!

Our mouths stood agape for a collective moment. A sense of shock washed over me and a look of sadness washed over my son’s face. Here I was, trying to be a good mom, seeking to teach my kids about taking turns and accepting patience as a natural part of our time sharing this planet with others. And, in one fell finger swoop from a stranger, I now had another lesson to teach: that the world was sometimes a big, bad, mean place.

Before this cruel stranger traipsed too far across the lobby floor, my full-blown attack mom armor formed and I came after him with the only weapon I had: my words. I started by calling him a jerk (believe me, if my kids and our favorite librarian weren’t present, I would have had a few other words to say!). Then I told him that my son had clearly been waiting to press that button. I asked him why he would do that to a small child. And then I called him mean.

Barely giving any notice and certainly showing no remorse, he casually looked back at us, shrugged his bare shoulders and said in the very most arrogant way, “I said sorry.” Sorry. Still not sorry. Not the least little bit.

I repeated that he was a jerk. Not that it did any good. I wished I could have opened the flood gates of obscenities. I had visions of following him into the library. Taking his picture. Posting it to social media. Alerting the world that THIS IS WHAT AN A**HOLE LOOKS LIKE. Taking pleasure in others agreeing that he “looks” like one, indeed. But, that would have only made things worse. I didn’t do any of those things. Instead, I scooped up my son, grabbed the hand of my daughter, and took them into story time as was our intended purpose.

My son was forlorn for a little while afterwards. He later talked about it with me at home. We all talked about it, in fact. We discussed how some people are mean and it makes us angry, but how even still (or despite that) we should never be mean because of it. I told them that we have to be good in order to balance the bad in the world. That was our job!

After the day was done and I had tucked them snugly into their beds at night, I thought more about what would cause a person to be so ugly and cruel for no reason. And it struck me hard that maybe he hadn’t experienced the same patience, conscientiousness, or love from his mother as I was trying to teach my own children. Maybe when he was three, he only received a slap on the head or a pat on the bottom rather than a word or encouragement or direction. In other words, maybe this guy was troubled. Maybe he hadn’t been cared for in the least little tiny bit. And he was doing the same thing little kids do when they can’t express themselves properly: acting out.

Suddenly my anger melted away into a pool of compassion. I felt sorry for him. A true sort of “sorry.” A whole big lot of it. I mean, I still thought he was a jerk, but I felt sad for him. When it’s all said and done, my son will have plenty of chances to push that button. But that course and hostile guy will probably miss out on a lot of the simple joys of life because he is so bent on making the world suffer for whatever it is he has lost.

Instead of wanting to key his car or call him all of the bad words I could remember, what I really wanted to do was hug my children a little more fiercely when they woke up, so they would never be counted among the world’s troubled or unloved.

Who knows?! Maybe it’s not like that at all for that guy. Maybe his backstory wasn’t sad and the cause of his brash behavior was without reason. Maybe his parents were stellar and his upbringing picture perfect. But whatever made him feel compelled to crush the tiny joy of a three year old is beside the point. All that matters, all that we can control, is where we go from here. We choose goodness. Compassion. Kindness. And, you know, maybe next time I will also choose to body-block that button, just in case the world isn’t as kind as we aim to be!

We Are Who We Are


The social world, for me, has always been an awkward thing to navigate. Especially now that I’m a mom. I always hoped, in my youth, that these things would get easier as I aged, but…nope…they haven’t.

I am essentially the same string-bean girl with pigtails and dusty, white-canvas Keds that I was in grade school. Only now, I’ve added some girth, dropped the ‘do and opted for dusty Nikes instead. In essence, I have grown into a larger form of my same self. But haven’t we all, really? Isn’t that what aging, growing, maturing is all about? Becoming yourself in a bigger version?! Well, sort of…

The sad fact is that though we do age and we do grow, we don’t always change. I’m starting to see the cracks in my own development and have noticed, through the course of PTA meetings and play-dates, how I am the same person I was in school. And I’m starting to sense that this is true for most people, as well. For better or worse.

I’m sure everyone knows the typical archetypes that play out repetitively, either in the schoolyard or outside of it. There is always a popular person – that one special soul everyone wants to know or emulate. And, equally important, there is the life of the party – someone who is so comfortable in their skin that they make everything seem lighthearted and fun.

And then there others, like the helper (who you can rely on for anything), the organizer (who is able to get things done) or the clown (who helps lift your mood). Each of these people were born with the innate ability to be one with themselves and offer a skill to the world that has an absolute value. They are needed. They are loved. They are celebrated. From cradle to grave.

Then there are other, less-desirable types who make our time on Earth less pleasurable. There is the braggart – he always looks to one-up your experiences or make your talents/abilities/fortunes seem nominal in comparison to his own. The snob, similar to the braggart, is never able to find contentment within their surroundings.

Of course, there is also the social-climber – someone who is friends with you just long enough to use you for their gain…and then leave. Their cousin, the back-stabber, equally has no sense of honor when it comes to allegiances and will sell you out in a heartbeat for a pack of gum.

But, worst of all, a fixture of all playground drama, is the bully. The bully is able to embody all of these negative aspects on the inside, while somehow hiding them so well under the exterior of one of the other, more positive characters, she will often go unrecognized by most. Yes, in the adult world there are still bullies. In my case, she was the mom with long blonde hair and a tray full of cookies.

This awkwardness I felt around her had lasted for a couple of years. We would encounter one another at school carnivals, children’s birthday parties, book fairs and holiday events. We would say hello to each other. Fake smiles. Wave in carpool. But, what I didn’t know was that under the surface of smiles and years of forced conversations, she was seething with animosity towards me. It was totally unprovoked. And it was not in my head.

The cause, I would later come to find out, was because four years before I had posted an article on Facebook about the devastation big families cause the environment. I didn’t say anything damning. I just posted the article with a response that “this is why I will only have one kid.” Obviously, I didn’t only have one kid, so that logic flew out the window. But it was just a silly article I chose to share years ago. One that held very little value over my life, but one that she saw as a personal attack to her family of seven and, therefore, felt the need to cause my destruction.

I always felt the sense of something being “off.” I knew, for whatever reason, that she didn’t like me. Not really. But I was okay with it. It bugged me. I didn’t understand it. But, I dealt with it. That was, until the veneer came off and her reasoning for disliking me bled over into her reasoning others to do the same.

Under hushed tones, I know she whispered about how my “sad little career” was a joke in comparison with her own, thriving business. I discovered how she had adopted some of my friends as her new “besties” and asked them pointed questions about how they could feel comfortable having an atheist (meaning me) influencing their children during play dates. To my best knowledge, I had held very little impact influencing anyone to do anything…but that was beside the point.

I started to feel sorry for her, how insecure she must be, how lonely – until I realized that I was the one! Insecure. Lonely. A loner. And I had always been. Because of people like her. It was her very ilk which had marked me from the start, put me in my box, and left me there like a prisoner. For my entire life.

Schoolyard drama had never ended. It had just shifted. Grown. Increased in its value in my life. Perhaps in all other lives. It was all the same as it had ever been. And, no matter how much older I got, not a darn thing would change that fact. Worse still was the fact that I was passing it along to my own children to repeat and rediscover. A family of loners. Alone, again. Naturally.

So, now that I watch my daughter, in all of her social experiments (some floundering, some faltering), I worry about the thing that plagued me more than bad hair and orthodontic halitosis: the unrequited friendship. It is the sure-fired fast track path to becoming a loner. And loners are easy fodder for bullies.

When I was a kid, I remember always wanting to be friends with people who were not quite as interested in me as I was with them. There was never an equal footing and, as a result, the ones I considered to be my best friends were people who only regarded of me as “okay.” Sadly, sometimes, I see this path coming along the horizon with my daughter. So, my new goal, as any parent’s would be, is to nip this in the bud.

There have been times when she comes home in tears after being excluded from a game or told about a birthday party to which she was not invited. In those moments, I coach her as fervently as I coach that hurt little girl in dusty Keds, the one I used to be.

Simply, to both wounded children, I explain that these things happen. People get left out. But it doesn’t diminish the worth of the outsider. The outsider just has to harness this feeling and treat others better than they were treated. They need to learn to dance to their own songs and sing to their own rhythm. They need to bask in the beauty of silence and live with the knowledge that observation makes them kings. And, more importantly than any other lesson, they need know that, though life isn’t fair, it can be just.

Cookies will make everyone fat. Mascara, after enough tears, will run. And mean people will lose friends. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow. But in the end, it is far better to be forgotten in the crowd than remembered as an asshole.

I cling to that truth. The smaller version of myself clings to it. And, hopefully, if I have any influence at all, my daughter will cling to these words as well, whether she follows my dusty loner’s path or that of her more clown-like father!

Lice, Lice Baby


liceAll right, stop! Collaborate. And listen. Lice were back. They weren’t even kidding. It was only a few weeks into the new school year when, tucked ever so delicately in my daughter’s backpack, there was a note from the school nurse alerting us to this fact. It read matter-of-factly “NOTIFICATION OF HEAD LICE – This letter is to inform you that a student in your child’s class has been found to be carrying head lice. Please take care to insure that this does not spread further by inspecting your child closely for the next two weeks.”

Past these opening lines, I can’t recall what else was said because everything seemed to go blank for a moment. Lice, I cringed. Again?! Already?! What were these kids doing and who was the evil culprit?! I wanted to get to the bottom of this.

My daughter was nonchalantly eating a snack when I unleashed my line of questioning on her. I asked, did she know anything about this epidemic? Was anyone called into the nurse’s office that day or the last? Had any of her classmates complained of itchy heads recently? Had any of her friends hugged or gotten their head near hers lately? What about scarves? Or brushes? Or hair clips? Or headphones? Did she remember that we don’t share personal items?!

To most of my frantic questions, she replied with an irked response of “I don’t know.” This didn’t help my mania. However, after more prodding on my end, she finally asserted that she knew better than to share head-related items with her friends. I took a deep sigh of relief. I felt at ease for a moment and let her resume the tastiness of her treat. I figured she could eat, unwind, and then we would do the old wet-hair comb-out with the trusty nit-comb we used during this last epidemic. There would probably be nothing. It would probably be fine. But, you know, just in case…

Then, when time came, as predictably as though it were a horror novel, all was not fine. There was something. And it was living in my daughter’s hair! Combing through her thick, brown follicles, I found not one…not two…not even three…but eight nits. Eight! No louse, but I knew it wasn’t far behind because eggs of any species don’t just lay themselves. No. There was a momma louse somewhere…and now the battle was on.

Quarantine began. I kept my daughter separated from the rest of the house as my work commenced. This meant that she was sequestered in her bathtub while I roamed around the house like a mad woman. I ripped off her bed sheets. Placed them, along with all recently-worn articles of clothing, into the washing machine for extra-hot laundering. Removed the gazillion stuffed animals in her room and placed them into a tightly closed trash bag. Then removed the trash bag to the balmy garage, just for good measure. I vacuumed her room, my room, the living room, the hall, along with all of our pillows and couch cushions. And I did this, all the while, with my eight-month-old son strapped into the baby sling I wore across my chest.

After the cleaning had taken place, the next step involved a delousing shampoo that we had purchased during the last school year, a remnant of our first encounter with head lice. That memorable occurrence, which happened as many things do – at a very unfortunate time – came about during the first two weeks of my son’s life. He was, thankfully, spared, as were my husband and I; but, my poor daughter quickly learned how it felt to be a “carrier.” And I was quickly schooled in lice-combing techniques.

This time, a mere seven months later, we were in the throes of “Round Two” in the battle of our family versus the lice. While scrubbing the foul-smelling chemicals into her scalp, I started to seriously consider the purchase of a hazmat suit. I also toyed with the idea of removing my daughter from public school. Teaching my children the strict importance of NOT hugging anyone. Ever. Not to mention the idea that we should all, very truly and in a notably utilitarian fashion, just shave our heads. My pretty daughter, with her fondness for all things relating to hair styles and beauty tips, cried when I let that last thought fall from my mouth into her earshot. Yes, the lice were starting to make me crazy! And they were ruining what had started off to be an otherwise wonderful day.

By the time my husband got home, everything was a mess. My daughter was sobbing. My house was turned upside down. And I was frantic – exhausted from all of the cleaning, itchy from psychosomatic worry and anxious for a resolution to this problem. I feared all of the possible outcomes that may result from this situation. That my infant boy would contract it. Or my husband. Or me. And, worse even still, was the thought that what if we all got it and would never, ever be able to get rid of it. I could picture the tiny louse eggs hatching all over the house, multiplying with every passing minute, and consciously hiding under our beds so they could lay in wait, knowing just the right opportunity to attach to our heads.

In retrospect, it’s almost comical how such a small bug, a mere pest, can cause a rather terrible commotion. There is no logic to it. If I were to take a time machine and go back to the earlier, more ignorant and less calm version of myself, I would walk her through the situation with a more scientific approach. Let her know how things really work and why she shouldn’t worry so needlessly.

I would explain to her that head lice, unlike other parasites (such as tapeworms, hookworms, mosquitoes, scabies, body lice, and bedbugs), do not spread pestilence or create bodily harm. Though pesky, they are relatively easy to contain and are not as dreadfully contagious as one would think. They don’t jump, hop or fly. (Fleas have cornered the market on jumping and hopping – mosquitoes have the flying covered.) And they can hardly stand to be away from the scalp of a human for any length of time. As a result, no, they do not live on other surfaces. (Unlike pinworm eggs.) And, no, they do not lay in wait for another human host. (That’s the modus operandi of bedbugs.)

The life of a head louse is very tenuous. Lice need to eat every two to three hours and can only live apart from their host for about two days before they die. As for any eggs they lay, if for some reason they are not on a surface as warm as a human body, they will not hatch at all. (Think of a chicken egg that does not get the warmth of a mother hen.) Of course, if the louse egg does get the warmth it needs, the nymph will hatch – but it then must eat within a very short period of time or else it will die. This is why the mama louse all but glues them onto their host hair shaft.

Another interesting fact about lice: whatever blood-type they originally ate in their first meal is apparently the only type they may continue to eat, unless they are starving. In other words, they can make a change but, in doing so, they will die. Why? Because the different blood-type, or even different Rh factor, causes – wait for it – an explosion in their intestinal tract. Yikes! Take that, bastards!!

So, it seems fair to say that after knowing their lifestyle nuances getting rid of them is not nearly as daunting. However, the number one rule in the process of removal is important: there are NO short-cuts! Use the delousing shampoo of your choosing. Chemical. Non-chemical. Natural. Nuke. Whatever you are comfortable with. Just be sure that each and every nit MUST be removed from the head and the head must be scoured with a nit-comb daily for the next couple of weeks. If it’s too time-consuming and it feels like an impossible feat, just remember that it’s always harder to treat a problem when it’s larger than when it’s smaller. After all, these suckers can lay about 4 eggs per day which means, if you’re not careful, the situation can go from bad to worse almost overnight!

Next, I would reiterate that lice don’t live on surfaces. That means overly laborious cleaning can go out the window. The bed-sheets and clothes, bath towels and hairbrushes of the infested person need to be cleaned – and in very hot water – but, the whole house doesn’t have to be turned upside down. Focus only on the items that the person with lice has come in contact with in the past 24 hours. Vacuuming is a good idea but a person doesn’t need to become crazed about it. And, as for stuffed animals, just bag them up and take them away for a little while. There’s nothing more to it than that. No chemicals or foreign practices needed.

While it’s no walk in the park and definitely highly ranking on the top-ten list of least favorite things in the world, I would also stress the important of weekly (yes, weekly) lice comb-outs…you know, just in case. Even after the infestation is a distant memory, as long as your child is in school it’s important (for mom’s peace of mind, more than anything else) to do these regular checks.

As for special “lice barrier” shampoos and sprays, they don’t work. We were using them religiously after the first encounter and, guess what, they didn’t build any sort of magical force-field that would keep the lice at bay. My recommendation: don’t spend the extra money on shampoo that smells like salad dressing. Instead, just buy a good quality metal nit-comb and keep your eyes open!

Aside from all of that, it behooves any mother to know that contracting lice (especially for little girls) is merely a rite of passage. It is an experience that most people will face at some point or another in their child’s elementary years. Period. And, though it sucks, it could be a lot worse. A LOT! I tried to remind myself of that fact as I combed out my daughter’s hair each day. At least she was healthy, I told myself. At least she didn’t have cancer, or a birth defect, or paralysis. At least this wasn’t anything that would affect her life permanently. And at least this nightmare would one day end.

To keep my mind occupied as I scoured her head for nits each afternoon, I ran through a whole list of “at least’s.” I even started saying them out-loud to my daughter so she could realize that this wasn’t as terrible as it may have seemed. Before I knew it, in the midst of this wretched new past-time of ours, she turned to me and said something truly special: “At least we get to be together.”

It was then that I realized that maybe, just maybe, we could get through any ordeal as long as we did it as a family. With that, I gave her a kiss on the forehead and told her that I loved her. I was so proud of how amazingly mature she had become because of this. Of course, I wanted to follow my words with a hug, but decided we would save that for another day. Once this was a more distant memory. You know…just in case. And following the given two-week quarantine period, that’s just what we did!