School’s almost out for summer, so I thought this would be a great time to share some major lessons I’ve learned this term, in pursuit of my advanced degree in Pediculosis Studies.
Head Lice can be our greatest teachers. There’s an old saying, “When the student is ready, a teacher appears.” It may be hard to imagine, but head lice can actually teach us A LOT about ourselves, beginning with the way we react to news of something unexpected and unpleasant.
I’ve noticed that a few families respond to an infestation of head lice with equanimity, while most react by initiating DefCon 5. The latter type is in full-on crisis mode, which might be marginally more helpful during an actual nuclear attack than it is when a small child comes home with head lice.
Discovering head lice IS scary when all you know about them is how icky they are, and when you believe that they’ll multiply forever. Like the Kardashians.
It’s hard to solve a problem from freak-out mode. Fear narrows our point of view, both literally and figuratively. Our primal fight/flight/freeze fear response physically prevents us from seeing anything beyond the immediate threat, so we can’t focus on our options. We feel so overwhelmed we can barely move.
Knowledge is a powerful antidote to fear. Seek it out whenever possible.
I’ve seen the emotional fallout from an infestation cause more harm than the infestation itself. In a society that values appearances, the appearance of head lice proves to the entire world that you aren’t perfect.
Because, of course, the entire world is watching you, along with the Kardashians, to see what ridiculous sham marriage or baby naming stunt you’ll perform next.
Imperfection is the normal, natural state of things. Perfection exists only in the airbrushed, Photoshopped, glossy photos in magazines. So why do we feel so ashamed when our kids come home with lice? Why do we want so badly to make it someone’s fault?
The shame and the blame only serve to keep us separate from the one thing that can ease our emotional pain—other people.
Connect with others who have experienced the same thing, rather than withdraw into the dark, quiet prison of shame, and your deficiencies will seem less remarkable.
Admitting your shame to someone who has been there before will lighten the heavy burden of feeling like a failure, a bad parent, or an unworthy human being. And they’ll probably say something nice, like, “Oh, honey, all kids get lice. But only a Kardashian kid gets named after a compass point.”
The most horrendous experiences teach us life’s most important lessons. As much as we might have preferred not to learn them this way, apparently the universe is fond of serving up traumatic circumstances to get our attention. If you think getting lice is one of the worst things that has ever, or will ever, happen to you, consider yourself lucky and celebrate getting schooled.
You’ll survive the lice episode, and if you’re lucky, you’ll laugh about your neurotic behavior. Lice have never actually ruined any lives. They might change your plans, be highly inconvenient, and give you the heebies, but the world won’t end. You’re not a bad parent or inferior housekeeper, and in a few days, I’m sure the neighbors will stop talking about you behind your back. Treated properly, the lice WILL go away, unlike the ants in my kitchen.
Or the Kardashians.