Parenting: Not For the Faint of Heart
“Mom,” my daughter said, as I raced around that morning, trying to get everything ready for school. Lunches packed, doors locked, dogs taken out, everyone’s shoes on, my keys both house and car, water bottles, that kind of thing.
“What is it?” I asked, rolling my eyes inwardly as I grabbed a backpack and shoved a packet of fruit snacks inside.
“I think I have lice!” she answered, her nose scrunched, hands tangled in her mess of hair.
I stopped in my tracks. “What?”
“I think I have lice! I can’t…stop…scratching! I looked it up online. I definitely think I have them!”
This is the point where I gazed off into space and think for the thousandth time…W.T.F. When you’re a parent, there’s always something. There’s no smooth sailing. Trust me on that.
I shifted into action; first Googling “lice” to see what exactly I was looking for then I parted her hair, as thick and lush as an Amazon rainforest. Of course, my child couldn’t have thin hair, no; hers was long and tangled like weeds.
My stomach turned as I viewed the images of these disgusting crawling, creeping parasites. Suddenly my own head felt itchy.
“Moooom!” my son called. “We’ve got to leave!”
I did a cursory check in my daughter’s scalp and told myself that little black speck was a piece of lint. A little fuzz.
“Nope,” I said cheerfully. “No lice! Let’s go!”
I spent the morning looking up remedies and what I needed to do in case this was really a Defcon five situation. Hoping whatever I saw was simply lint; I prepared for the worst and went to Target, buying a kit that including toxic heavy shampoo that smelled like a freshly paved road, a micro- grooved comb, and a slippery conditioner to help the comb slide through the hair.
It couldn’t be lice.
It was lice.
Though she shampooed daily and was as clean as a whistle, apparently lice LOVE a fresh scalp. I gathered my supplies including the lice kit and a magnifying glass so a single critter couldn’t escape my gaze. Then I went to town on her hair and scalp the second she got home.
I’d love to tell you that I sat there with that itty bitty comb, painstakingly combing through her snarls of dense hair in a state of meditative thoughtfulness, pondering this blessed experience known as parenthood but really, I dragged that tool over every inch of her scalp harboring resentment and a tired sense of duty.
Three solid hours of lice picking later, I stripped her bed of sheets, blankets, stuffed animals, pajamas, slippers and everywhere else lice might lie their sinister eggs (called nits), dumping it all in blisteringly hot water. With some very strong, probably cancer causing, lice-killing spray, I doused the car, the house, the carpet then vacuumed and vacuumed again like a woman possessed.
Wouldn’t you know, even after my diligent lice removal, she got it again and we had to repeat the whole process? The whole thing gave me the heebie jeebs and it took me months to go places where lice may lurk like the seats of a movie theater and I still haven’t tried on a hat while shopping.
This fulfilling parenting experience was followed up soon (I know, how can you top not one, but two bouts of lice? Keep reading and I’ll show you!) after by my daughter stuffing herself full of hot Cheetos during a party at school, only to come home and violently erupt in a volcanic explosion of scarlet vomit that forever stained our carpets and my memory despite my valiant efforts to scrub and bleach and steam clean both.
I’d love to conclude this all with a cheerful story about how my heart is full and there were important lessons learned from lice extraction and cherry red Cheeto vomit but honestly, that’s not true. The only lesson I really learned through parenting so far is that sleep is priceless and quiet time is a gift and to be grateful when everything is dull. Dull and boring = good!
Every horrifying parenting experience from epic temper tantrums in public to bloody noses that pour like water from a spout or visits to the urgent care for possible broken bones have been stacked in my memory like a never ending game of Jenga or one giant episode of Dirty Jobs.
Sometimes I sit and reflect on all the exhausting, unpredictable dirty work of parenting and I realize if I had known ahead of time, I might not have signed up for it. I am a mild, weak person with a low tolerance for things like noise, pain, fighting, and bodily fluids, yet my years of being a mother have forced me, against my will, to address them head on and often without gloves and frequently by myself.
The Peace Corps slogan is, “The toughest job you’ll ever love” but I think it suits the business of being a mother or father.
Although, “parenthood, not for the faint of heart,” would be an excellent slogan for this line of work too.
All of my essays can be found over at Mundane Alley on Medium, here!