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Monday, March 14, 2011

a close nit family

One of the great things about living in New Zealand is how cute everything sounds.  Sunglasses:  sunnies.  Breakfast:  brekkie.  A lot of anything:  heaps.  Lice:  nits.  Yep, nits are cuter sounding than lice.  I dare someone to tell me otherwise. 

My first introduction to nits was at my 3-year-old’s preschool.  At drop off one day I found a sign attached to the sign-in sheet.  “Nits have recently been found on a child at this school.  Please check your child’s hair daily.”  The sign was laminated which meant this happens heaps.  My initial, knee-jerk response was, “oh, dear God!”  Then, “these people are vile!”  Followed by, “I can’t leave my clean, nit-free child here!”  I was appalled by the cute-sounding bugs camping out in some toddler’s part.  I wanted to take Charlie home, disinfect him and put him in a bubble where he’d be safe.  But I had to write that day (I have make-believe deadlines that I try to meet and then invariably miss) so Charlie had to stay.  Still, I was grossed out and instantly formed severe negative opinions of the unnamed nit family at Charlie’s school. 

Cut to three weeks later.  Last week.  It’s 2 o’clock in the afternoon.  A whole hour before I had to start collecting kids.  I was home working on my screenplay (this is year two, people – I need better deadlines and/or stop moving out of the country) when the phone rang.  The phone never rings.  I have two friends here and we don’t talk on the phone.  One lives right next door and the other is a cricket mom.  Not the mom of an actual cricket but the other kind.  Anyway, phone rang, I answered.  It was Charlie’s preschool.  Uh-oh, I thought.  Scraped knee.  Or cut lip.  Or green snot.  Never did I think I would hear this:  “I know you’re going to be here soon but we just noticed Charlie was scratching his head and, well, it seems he has nits.”  Egads!  (I know this is an outdated expression but I really think it captures my feeling at this point so I’m going with it.)  I abandoned my screenplay (buh-bye, make-believe deadline) and zipped over to my son’s school.  Which is five minutes away by foot and one and a half minutes in a car.  Another great thing about New Zealand.  It is small.  The country.  The island.  The city of Auckland.  I usually walk but nits = car so I’m there before they knew it.  I apologized profusely to the teachers who were oh so kind and understanding and then go to sign Charlie out and there it was:  the laminated nit sign.  Double egads!  We were the gross, dirty, vile unnamed nit family at Charlie’s school!   We walked to the car in shame.

Four seconds later, Charlie and I were at my seven-year-old son’s school one block away.  My sons canoodle more than Cameron and A Rod so I knew Max was infested, too.  His teacher was appreciative of the early intervention and we were on our way to the chemist (way cuter word than pharmacist).  Now I grew up in the 70s in Texas.  There was no such thing as organic or non-toxic back then.  I drank Coke like water, we regularly flea-bombed our house and my parents smoked indoors and often with the windows shut.  Growing up like that makes you either do exactly the same things with your kids or the complete opposite.  I went opposite and then some.  We drink filtered water like water, we don’t use any toxic pesticides ever and smoking is banned in restaurants, airplanes and our house.  So, I called my husband on the way to the chemist to alert him of the situation.  He had one request of me:  please please please just get the chemical treatment so we can be done with them.  He did not grow up with Coke, fleas or second-hand smoke.  I said I would try and then proceeded to ask the chemist what the most effective nit treatment was and it was for kids so I’d like it to be as natural as possible.  I tried.  I did.  But I couldn’t.  The chemist had just the answer for me.  A box of Mr. Nits.  All the treatments had been personally tried by him and this was the one he liked the best.  I was sold.  The nits were dubious. 

Thirty-five NZ dollars and an hour later all three of our heads were slathered with the Mr. Nits solution.  A really drippy, non-toxic combination of coconut, sunflower and jojoba oils.  And we waited.  Watched TV.  Did some maths (questionable cuter name for math).  Skipped cricket practice and seeing my cricket mom friend.  Scratched our heads.  And then waited some more.  The good thing about non-toxic treatments is you can leave it on your head for hours and hours and it will do you no harm.  You can not do this with a mouthful of Coke and expect to keep your teeth.  After many hours, it was time to run the nit comb through the hair.  One by one, like a mama chimpanzee, I de-nitted my babies.  First up, Charlie.  He had a few little guys and some eggs.  Then came Max.  He had a lot of little guys, some eggs and a couple of big ass adults.  I was horrified by this but then remembered they were on the head of my child and they were nits and not lice.  Same thing, yes, but the cuter name made it slightly less disgusting.  And then I did my own hair.  And oh my, not a good day to be me.  Max may have had the most nits but I had the most hair and the most hair loss and nits.  Because you use a tiny, wire comb, you tear out a lot of hair.  Unfortunately I was already going through some involuntary hair loss from the stress of the move here four months ago so intentionally pulling out my own hair was not what my look needed.  But it is what it got.  Every tug of the comb resulted in a few eggs, maybe a nit and ten strands of stressed-out hair.  Do that over and over and hairless cats everywhere start to think you’re one of them.  I immediately traded in my adult-sized ponytail holders for mini child-sized one and I still had to wrap them three times around.

The thing about Mr. Nits is it kills nothing except your self-confidence from lack of hair.  The oils are supposed to separate the nits and the eggs from your strands and scalp and the comb removes them.  It is a safe system but one that requires maintenance.  Every day we’ve had to run that Mr. Nits nit comb though our hair.  Each day we found less and less evidence of how gross we used to be.  It has now been a week since my phone rang.  It is advised to repeat the whole treatment seven days later for any eggs that weren’t removed and may have hatched.  So here I sit with a garden of botanical oils on my head.  The nit comb eagerly awaits my attention.  I will no doubt lose more hair.  But I know that the last strands standing will be the shiniest and smoothest ones in town.  Mr. Nits is not only a semi-effective nit removal system that requires seven full days of action, it is an above average deep conditioning hair treatment. 

I should probably tell my cricket mom friend about it tonight at practice.  Her hair has been looking a little limp and dodgy (not good).  But that would mean naming the unnamed nit family.  With only two friends in my back pocket?   Bloody-hell (all-purpose expletive) no!

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