The return of the nits: the empire strikes back

Nits are one of the unexpected ‘pleasures’ of parenthood.

child having nits removed from hair


I was reflecting on embarrassing child-related work things that you didn’t anticipate as a pre-parent the other day. I was due at an evening event for work and had, it has to be said, been feeling slightly itchy in the run-up. Only son had been scratching his head from time to time for a week, but I had been monitoring for signs and there were none. I confess that I had been so focused on getting to the end of the week, given there is rather a lot going on at the moment on both the work and home front, that I had taken my eye off the ball.

“Could you check my hair?” I asked my partner. My partner has only a sketchy idea of what nits are because he is bald and seems to have used that as an excuse to duck out of nit duties in the past. “You’ve got quite a bit of dandruff,” he replied. Hmmm. My hair was, in fact, alive or very soon to be. I had a work event the next morning so there was no time between the evening thing and the morning thing to run to the chemist. I decided it was too much of a risk to go to the evening event. What if I was talking to someone earnestly about detailed academic research on phages or the like and a small creature appeared from the top of my head or, worse, dived into the head of a world expert on biochemistry?

It’s been a while since we’ve had nits – the last time no shampoo worked and I was combing the girls’ hair nightly for what seemed like years, with daughter three wailing at the slightest tug. Only son has very curly hair and a low pain threshold. It’s not a good combination. “I have a nit comb,” he said brightly, brandishing an Afro comb. I countered with an actual nit comb. His face fell.

I have developed a kind of morbid fascination for nits as a result of earlier encounters. I was at one point contemplating writing a children’s book series about a vegetarian nit family, called The Nit Nots.  After pouring on a lot of nit shampoo, the greasy stuff that only comes off after multiple washes you don’t have time for, I mentioned to the disinterested teens who were absorbed in their nightly BTS-a-thon [BTS is a K-pop band that I now know way too much about] that, though I looked calm, there was nitocide going on in my hair and that I felt slightly guilty.

Unfortunately, however, I spoke too soon. A substantial number of the nits seem to have survived the shampoo and are possibly lounging around, reading the papers and generally chilling, on my head. Meanwhile, only son has no nits at all. It seems his nits must have all jumped onto my head in the same way that the mosquitoes always home in on me. I am bug’s dream.

So I’ve reshampooed several times which means lots of combing. Due to the menopause, half my hair has fallen out which makes overcombing problematic. These are the kind of things you never contemplate when you embark on parenting. They rank alongside breasts suddenly leaking through tops in the middle of long, turgid meetings, realising you put your work clothes on back to front in the rush to get everyone out the door and spending your evening squinting at poos in the toilet to check for worms…

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