Richard, aka Bugman Jones (think Indiana but with an insect net instead of a bullwhip), told me he found an ostrich egg in Dulwich Woods last week. Not your usual addition to the school nature table, you’ll agree. In fact, a startlingly unlikely exhibit next to the mortified stag beetle and chestnut leaf. One egg – whole forest. The analogy is obvious to me. One nit – whole head of hair. But where as that stray ostrich egg is definitely not going to hatch out into a six foot bird with comedy feet, the mystery of how it came to be there up in the woods is both baffling and exciting. Not so the louse egg in the head of hair. One egg will hatch and it will wreak havoc as relatively effectively as a flock of ostriches let loose on the landscape. One egg will not disappear of its own accord. And, there is no exciting mystery whatsoever as to how that nit got there. It was laid. By a headlouse. That stepped off someone’s head. And, of course, there is never just one egg, there are always lots.
Throughout my existence as a parent, I have battled headlice. The fight against infestation has consumed hours and hours of my life. I have combed and cried and watched back-to-back Julie Andrews movies until I’ve screamed (no, it is not a jolly bloody holiday with Mary any more). I have fished through my children’s heads at bus stops, in traffic jams and on beaches. I have come to know my enemy well. Curiously, I have come to respect its tenacity. Headlice have been with us for thousands of years and are here to stay, especially if we parents sit back and pretend they will go away if we do nothing. When it comes to nits, you cannot make like an ostrich and bury your head in the sand.