Prepare for Pediculosis

Ah, September.

The first of the yellow leaves have begun to drift down a few at a time, the first of the yellow school buses have passed by the house, and Halloween candy has replaced the Super Soakers in the “Seasonal” aisle at the supermarket.

I love summer, but I still feel that frisson of excitement in the fall, thinking about the new school year. I remember the simple pleasures, like the smooth painted surface of an un-chewed pencil in 4th Grade. Stacks of blank loose leaf pages in 6th. Clean three-ring binders in 8th Grade, their covers not yet etched with my imagined married name, surrounded by hearts, crossed off, and etched with the next one. And the next.

But even more exciting than the promise of fresh opportunities to prove how socially awkward those middle school years can be, September is National Pediculosis Prevention Month, which thrills me to bits, because everyone in the country is focused on head lice for the entire month! I go from ordinary super-hero to Rock Star this month, and everyone wants to book me for a PTA meeting, or invite me over to screen and treat their families. God, I love September.

Unfortunately, it leaves me so little time to acknowledge the other things that I’m supposed to be aware of in September. Like “Children’s Good Manners Month.” I have to admit that there’s nothing more pleasant than a polite child, other than a polite dog, of course. But there are times when “bad” manners are a sign of something really, truly good.

For instance, on a recent call, three very shy children hid beneath the kitchen table while I prepared to screen Mom first (a technique we use to show the timid ones what to expect). Eventually, my special “Lice Happens” brand of gentle humor cured their apprehension: they burst out from beneath the table, engaging in a rowdy burp-fest that sent them into a fit of giggles. The contest was spirited, and the competitors seemed to have been training for this Olympic effort their entire lives.

Mom, as you’d expect, was horrified, and beyond apologetic. I tried to honor her attempts to control them by stifling my own laughter, but there was no stopping them, and my laughter leaked out with an embarrassing snort. Bad manners all around, but wasn’t that actually good? We got the job done, and the kids were secretly hoping the lice would return, so we could play the belching game again soon.

It seems fitting that September is also “National Preparedness Month.” Beside your hoard of water and canned goods for the next apocalypse, or hurricane, whichever comes first, make sure your shelter has a good lice comb. Unfortunately, it’s just a matter of time before the inevitable “lice letter” gets tucked into your child’s backpack for your reading pleasure. The best prevention against a full-blown head lice infestation is early detection and awareness of the symptoms.

So get a comb, and don’t be afraid to use it.