There are a lot of things I’m prepared to defend my family from, like zombies, revenuers, bears, that weird ice cream man with the Slayer T-shirt, and flat earth enthusiasts. But there comes a time that takes even the most prepared father by surprise.
Our 4-year-old supplied that time; this is her story.
She sat on the living room floor playing with junk toys we’ve collected over the years while she neglected the expensive ones. Kids do that. My favorite toy as a child was a box. An empty box.
“Hey, honey,” I said quietly to my wife, who is much more capable of noticing everything than I am – except cleavage.
The preschooler dug at her scalp like it was a scratchers ticket.
“Did you see what she’s doing?”
She nodded. “She’s been itching for the past three weeks.”
Three weeks? We’ve had the kid that long? By our third child I kind of lost track.
“What do you think?” I asked.
She replied with the most middle class American response possible. “Dry scalp. Looks like she has dandruff.”
OK. Cool. That’s better than, well, any other reason for scratching her head.
The next morning, the girl scratched hard enough I worried she’d need a skin graft.
“Baby’s still itchy,” I said. So we washed her hair.
For the record, the 4-year-old hates having her hair washed and often gives us one of those looks horror movie kids give when they make a person’s head explode with their mind.
After school, she still scratched.
We used special oil to treat her scalp. She still scratched.
We asked if she’d like us to rub tuna in her hair so the cat would do the work for her. She said yes.
Then reality sank in.
“Oh, my God,” my wife said, sitting cross-legged on the living room floor, the preschooler in her lap while she picked through her hair like a momma chimpanzee. “She has lice.”
Lice? Lice? I’ve never had lice. My sisters never had lice. I don’t know if my parents had lice, but they wouldn’t have told me anyway, just like they never gave me the sex talk. That’s why I have so many kids.
“Aren’t lice just for pirates and Medieval peasants?” I babbled. “Where’d she get lice?”
My wife shrugged. “I don’t know. Kids are gross.”
I drove to the nearest drugstore to buy what I assumed was nuclear-powered itchy-head bug-melting gel created in a dark government lab. I also bought Beano because I had chili for supper and I’m thoughtful like that.
Then my wife spent the next few days Arnold Schwarzeneggering every bug and egg she could find from our 4-year-old’s head. This included multiple baths, which the Baby hates more than us calling her the Baby.
Watching my wife fight a lice infestation was a lot like watching her give birth. I stood watching her do all the work while I occasionally asked if there was anything I could do. And, like the delivery, the answer was no.
“Well,” my wife said after the girl was free of cooties. “The lice have made her cleaner than she’s been in a long time and the nit poison made her hair soft and manageable.”
So, having lice wasn’t all bad, although if I had to choose, I’d say it wasn’t nearly as easy as the baby’s flea dip last summer.
– Jason’s newest novel, “Bad Day for a Road Trip,” is available at jasonoffutt.com.