Last month, amidst a mountain of to-dos, the imminent school fundraiser, some time-sensitive business projects, and a remodel-in-progress mess in my house, I felt a bit overwhelmed.
I also felt … itchy.
After a couple days of watching my two children scratch their heads, scanning their scalps, and finding nothing, I called a kindly lice lady and scheduled a visit, suspecting the worst. Turns out, we were all crawling with the little buggers (except for lucky dad, who had managed to dodge the bullet). Four hours later, the three of us had all been picked, combed, slathered with oils and mousses, and were thoroughly exhausted. (And may I just take this opportunity to say that there’s nothing more humiliating than having another grown woman comb through your hair for vermin. I’ve been half-dressed on the deli-papered table in the doctor’s office and felt less awkward.)
Alas, that endless evening was only the beginning. Now, in the middle of my crazier-than-usual month, I had to launder, vacuum and garbage-bag every inch of my house, slather three scalps with olive oil every night and pull a nit comb through three cranky heads every day. (You can imagine whose head was the crankiest). Somehow, we made it through the ordeal, and a few weeks later the house was put back together and louse-free.
Sometimes, on the front lines of parenthood, it seems like life is baiting you. There are just too many plates in the air, and they all seem to be threatening to land on your head. If you’re not careful, panic and hopelessness can set in, and it’s tempting to sink to the floor, curl up fetal-style, and go to the “I’m not going to make it!” place. But you know what I say? Bring it on, head lice! I am channeling my Inner Warrior Mom and plowing through this sucky situation! Because there is nothing as powerful and chest-puffing as conquering a previously-thought-impossible task, landing with a huff on the bed at the end of the day and thinking, “I survived!”
I’ve realized that parenthood is a series of “firsts”: first fever, first broken bone, first throw-up in the car, first apple juice spill on your due-tomorrow report. Each “first” is met with the same initial response: “I can’t handle this.” And then, of course, we handle it. And we handle it fabulously. And with each tiny victory, unseen and unacknowledged by anyone over four feet tall, we reap the secret rewards of true accomplishment: not the ephemeral kind that you can take to the bank per se, but the kind that brings into focus who you are and what you’re capable of.
When things go wrong, there’s no room for numbing out or avoiding reality. You can wish all you want that your head isn’t crawling with pests or that you don’t have to banish your kids’ favorite stuffed animals to solitary confinement, but wishing doesn’t make it so. Other things that don’t remedy the situation include: Online shopping, organizing your shoes, going out for ice cream, or watching a Queer Eye marathon (trust me, I’ve tried them all). The least helpful act by far is wallowing in your “story.” (I can’t handle this … this always happens to me … I’m such a loser … really, how is it that child services hasn’t taken my kids away yet.) This kind of behavior is only a distraction from the necessary actions you need to take. Just like everything in life, the only way out is through— moving forward, one pull-of-the-comb at a time, until you’re on the other side with sore scalps and clean heads.
So listen up, lice: while you might have thought that my scalp would be a nice place to play house, you had no idea who you were messing with. I am the most bad-ass kind of adversary, a Mom, and I take pride not in what you can see (greasy head, dark under-eye circles, faint rubbing alcohol odor), but in my ability to battle whatever comes, and do so with the grace, skill, and humor that only a parent can muster.
By Carley Knobloch