“My seven-year-old daughter is best friends with the girl next door, whose family are vegan. That’s fine; we respect their choice and even make special food when little River comes to play. My problem is that recently this otherwise delightful child was at our house and scratching furiously… and I discovered she was crawling with head lice.
I’m pretty easygoing – which kid doesn’t get nits every now and then? – and casually mentioned it to her mum thinking she’d jump right on it. To my surprise, this woman said that not only did she know about her daughter’s condition but refused to do anything about it. Vegans don’t kill any living things, is the reason. My neighbour told me she was in the practice of combing the lice and nits into the garden where they had a chance of survival. My jaw hit the floor.
What do I do now? I don’t want to separate the kids but there’s no way “combing them into the garden” is going to work (industrial-grade pesticide barely works) and I don’t want my daughter covered in vermin.”
I hate to be the one to tell you this but your neighbour is a monster. Does this woman not realise that simply combing those poor lice off their supporting hairs is condemning them to a slow, parched death in the garden? Does she not stop to think of the microscopic amoeba she’s crushing each time she swipes through her daughter’s locks? As you read this, she’s probably swallowing ladlefuls of innocent bacteria while she drinks her raw kelp kombucha smoothie, Nitty, sending them to a sizzling demise in the pits of her stomach acid. As Tony Abbott said, at least the Nazis went to some efforts to hide their crimes. This woman is in total and catastrophic denial of the extent of her germicidal ways.
Ugh, I jest of course. This mother sounds like a sanctimonious twit. And you’re right: just “combing them out”, into the garden or anywhere else, is about as effective as a strongly-worded poem in a Middle East border dispute, as her daughter’s writhing scalp attests. I’m tempted to suggest you set up a game of “hairdressers” for the girls in the bathroom and get out the full nuclear nit arsenal, but I fear you’d risk upsetting the child’s mother, which could bring on some sort of hippy hex involving consecutive afternoons of bongo playing.
“I’m tempted to suggest you set up a game of ‘hairdressers’ for the girls in the bathroom and get out the full nuclear nit arsenal, but I fear you’d risk upsetting the child’s mother, which could bring on some sort of hippy hex involving consecutive afternoons of bongo playing.”
You could also call this unbearable matriarch’s bluff and explain that you love the kids being BFFs but that you’d like to make sure the nits are completely gone before they play together again. But it doesn’t sound like you’d get far. And now that they’re attached, you can’t exactly stop your daughter and this presumably nice neighbour girl being friends – morally or practically. Your only real recourse is prevention and by that I don’t mean stopping her from being friends with kids called River or Rainbow Aries, or, I don’t know, Wild Safari Hemp Lizard. If only it were that simple.
No, a more granular form of prevention is your best bet, Nitty. Quit worrying about your neighbour’s (admittedly questionable) parenting methods and focus solely on what you can do to keep your own offspring pestilence-free. Keep your daughter’s hair tied back as tightly as possible and use a protective spray. My friend Rebel swears by a combination of conditioner, tea-tree and eucalyptus oils, and water, which she sprays onto her kids’ hair for a full week without washing. Sure your daughter will stink and – as Rebel sheepishly confesses about her own brood – “resemble the Soul Glo guy by Friday”, but considering your daughter is usually seen standing next to someone whose hair jumps up and down like a nightclub dance floor, I don’t think anyone’s going to notice.
Alexandra Carlton is a Sydney-based journalist, wife and mum of a nine-year-old boy. Fifteen years of interviewing psychologists, scientists, politicians, taste-makers and other highly-qualified people means she’s very good at stealing their smart thoughts and passing them off as her own in order to amaze and delight at social gatherings. She’s obsessed with documentaries, cool sneakers, ranking her favourite American presidents and starting new, very brief, health regimes. Oh, and she loves solving people’s problems. Except her own.
By Alex Carlton