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Kids got lice? Don't be bugged about telling others

I got a call today. 

I couldn’t pick up the phone because I was wrist deep in raw turkey meatloaf, but my answering machine dutifully picked up and I heard the message.

"Hi Sarah...it's (Blank).  Can you call me back as soon as you get a moment?  Thanks."

Sure it sounds innocuous enough...to the untrained mother's ear.  But I know that tone.  It was a carefully calculated balance of "No one is dead...but you should really call me."  I knew exactly what it meant…

Lice.

Had the reason for her call been anything else, she would have spelled it out in her message.   She would say:

"Hey Sarah.  You know how the kids had that sleepover yesterday? Well Phoebe has a really high fever today.  I just wanted to let you know."

Or...

"Hi Sarah.  Thanks for taking Ivy yesterday.  I just wanted to warn you - I think she might have Chicken Pox.  I’ll keep you posted.”

Or even...

"Hey Sarah.   Thanks for dinner last night.  Uh…turns out we have the plague.  I’m really sorry but I wanted to let you know.  I’ll call you later, my arm just fell off.”

But lice isn't something you spell out on someone's answering machine.  The fact you have lice is something that can only be verbalized directly.   No evidence, like a recorded message, can be left behind.

I reluctantly called (Blank) back. "Hey. It's Sarah. What's up?"

Sure enough...lice.

Crap. 

I immediately gathered up all of the kids and made a trek to our local lice specialist for a head check.

And it was a pain in the neck.

But here’s my point - I was grateful for the call.   Grateful the mother of my child’s friend had the decency to alert me to a potential problem.

So many moms don't call at all.  Worried about social ostracism, they prefer to take the "One Playdate Stand" as I like to call it.  Your kids played together - they both enjoyed it – and now it's over.  Anything they take away from that "date" is theirs (and yours) to discover.   Nice, right?

Why are so many parents reluctant to tell you their child has lice?  Why is there such a stigma attached to it?   

Sure lice is gross and pesky and time-consuming to eradicate, but it’s part of childhood.  Just like colds, coughs and stomach flu – equally contagious maladies that kids encounter every day.  

I don’t understand why it has to be such a secret.  I don’t judge people for having lice.  (You should know I will judge you for sending your child to school when you know they have lice - knowingly exposing other children to the infestation because you have a 10 a.m. appointment for highlights and don’t want your child home.)  But I believe it’s the lack of responsibility that should carry a stigma. 

After all, what’s so embarrassing?  Will people think your child isn’t clean?  The fact is, lice loveclean hair.  Or that your house isn’t clean?  A mom once confided to me (obviously a big mistake…) that she was worried other moms would think she was “low class.”  As if a Louis Vuitton bag or a BMW is a talisman against lice and any other socially unacceptable unpleasantries like scabies or mono.  Please.

I’m not embarrassed when my kids have lice (we’ve had it three times) and I make sure to call the school and their friends.  I let people know because I want them to have the opportunity to manage the problem.  All I want is the same courtesy.  A quick phone call saying “we have lice.”  And then I can take care of it.  And move on.

The fact is, life is dirty and childhood is even dirtier.   And whether it’s the flu, chicken pox, or the plague, we are all in this muck together. 

That being said, if you could just keep your child’s head away from mine, that would be great.  Thanks.

What do you think? Do you tell others when your kids have lice? Do you wish for the same courtesy?

Sarah Maizes is the founder of www.MommyLITEonline.com, a parenting humor site and the author of  “Got Milf? The Modern Mom’s Guide to Feeling Fabulous, Looking Great and Rocking a Minivan”   She is a freelance writer, speaker, comedian and mother of three.  In her spare time she…wait…she has no spare time.