Even though, as the children grow older the instances of head lice infestation get fewer, the fear never quite leaves you. If my son so much as puts an index finger to the back of his neck for an innocent scratch, I’m onto him, perusing his parting like a rapt gibbon. Which of course, he hates.There can be little worse than the ignominy of having your mum nit check your best Justin Bieber barnet, especially when you are taller than her. And she makes you bend down.
Meanwhile with my teenage girls, we can be having a perfectly easy going hair related conversation about, I don’t know say, Charles Worthington versus John Frieda and who would win in a wrestling match, but if I casually drop the subject of a quick head check into the ring, doors are slammed harder than lycra bums on a smack down.
The mounting superfluity of my role as nit finder general, ergo caring parent, is evident in the handful of conditioner smeared tissues that mysteriously appear in the bathroom swing top, or I’ll find my best steel comb forlorn on the side of the shower. While I’m sad that my babes will soon no longer need me to de-flea them, I am relieved that one of the longest, most trying episodes of parenthood is nearly done.
So there I was drying off after a nice peaceful, childless swim the other day, grateful that when one of the toddlers roaming the changing room while their mums chatted distractedly caught his finger in the locker door he was smashing open and shut over and over again, it wasn’t my responsibility. Turning to the big mirror with happy impunity, a small boy screaming in the background of my reflection, I began to brush my wet hair when all of a sudden something small and insect-like fell onto the mottled formica counter in front of me.
With suspiciously approriate timing, my near-sight has begun to waver as my parental usefulness diminishes but as I squinted, I wasn’t convinced that I hadn’t dislodged a hitchiking louse. Afterall, I only discovered I had nits one summer in France when I innocently combed my hair out over a broad, white glossed window ledge while enjoying the view, only to look down and find three insects looking dazed on the paintwork.
Self-consciously, I glanced over my shoulder at the toddler being comforted by a surfeit of concerned mums (certain locker doors having been closed long after the horse had bolted) before finding a tissue, licking it to ensure adhesion (yuck) and smothering the errant creature. I then smuggled the thing into my cardigan (that word alone describes my transformation into middle, ahem, age) pocket to scrutinise later. I left the sports centre in haste.
Later, in the privacy of my own well-lit living room, heart pumping, prescribed reading glasses plonked on my nose, I carefully opened up the tissue. There nestled in the bleached Kleenex fibres, was the unmistakeable menacing presence of, a speck of navy lint. The same colour as the aforementioned cardi. Safely transported all the way from Crystal Palace. Nerk.
But like I said, the fear never leaves you. And while my kids may no longer require my comb-wielding services, I am an expert aunty to a three year old and an eight year old, prime infestation territory. Further more, with the publication of The Little Book of Nits by Bloomsbury on May 24th, I like to think that I can still be of use in spreading the word. Also available for weddings and Bar Mitzvahs…