The lousiest blessing
Author: Lela Davidson

My stomach dropped when I saw the first sesame seed scurry into my daughter’s fluffy mop of hair. I didn’t yet know that the translucent bug foretold a full infestation. That’s what lice do.

She had been itching since the first week of school. What I had passed-off as dandruff were actually the tiny nits that, untreated, grow into one of the worst pests known to parent-kind.

“Stop scratching,” I begged. “People will think you have lice.”

Denial is powerful. At first I thought it was irritation from the headbands she’d started wearing. We tossed those out, but she still scratched. I worked prescription eczema cream into her scalp, assuming the skin condition had migrated from her body to her head. No relief. We tried over-the-counter scalp itch medicine. No help.

After a few weeks, I consulted the internet and what I found
wasn’t pretty. After a few cleansing breaths I asked my daughter to come close to the window so I could have a look. That’s when I saw the first louse disappear into her hair.

I called a nurse and learned there was so much to do. I drove immediately to the store for lice-killing shampoo, fine-toothed nit combs and tea tree oil. I began what would be a 10-day assault on every live and gestating louse in the house. All soft surfaces received lethal doses of scalding water, bleach and toxic sprays. There were endless loads of laundry, quarantines of stuffed animals, and nightly nit-picking. I combed my daughter’s hair into tiny sections under bright lights for hours every evening. When I called my husband, who was working a thousand miles away in Mexico, I made him itch.

It was hell for days.

It was exactly what I needed.

Several months earlier, when my husband started working out of the country, I had quit my job. In limbo and not sure about which direction to take, I’d been feeling stuck and sorry for myself. The worst part was the inactivity. I watched too much TV, yelled at the kids and didn’t want to talk to my friends. I’d gotten into the rut of having no purpose.

Suddenly those lice gave me something important to do. They got my mind off of me and filled my hours with the meaning of simple tasks. I had to destroy every last louse, had to get them out of my daughter’s hair, out of our house, and out of her school. I didn’t have the luxury of wasting away in worry about what I was supposed to do with my life. I had work to do. And that was a blessing that proved to be the push I needed to climb out of my funk.

People say God works in mysterious ways. I say sometimes God blesses us in ways that are just plain lousy.

Lela Davidson is the author of “Blacklisted from the PTA,” a collection of irreverent essays about motherhood and the modern family. She blogs at and is always on the lookout for lice.

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