I spent New Year's Eve 2013 like most people did: sitting alone in front of a computer I was building, trying for hours to figure out why it wouldn't boot while eventually hearing the downstairs neighbors count down to midnight and missing the whole thing (wait, you didn't do that?). Olivia had been in bed since 7 and Jodi was in bed by 9, the latter having taken more of her meds to fight off the bronchitis and tonsillitis that had been plaguing her. The end of 2013 was not so great for us, and we were hoping that 2014 would begin with something positive.
I got up the next morning to the sound of Olivia's chatter, served her up a bottle and tried to let Jodi get some rest. After changing her out of pajamas, I decided to brush Olivia's hair. She's had a habit of twirling it while drinking her bottle, which results in some really nasty tangles, then she throws a fit when we try to brush them out. It was then, as I ran the brush through her hair, that first contact was made. A small bug (that looked remarkably like John Cusack) fled from the bristles, hopped into a limousine and eventually took flight in a tiny Cessna to avoid my path of destruction. I gasped, then most likely followed that with a resounding "FUCK," and braced myself for what was upon us. Begun, the lice wars had.
I strapped Olivia into her stroller sans hat and gloves, because even though it was freezing cold outside a toddler knows better than you about fashion choices no matter what the temperature is. As we were going down our elevator I spotted another louse in her hair, quickly removed it and then quietly thanked my child for her stubbornness and lack of a hat. We made it to our local pharmacy and found the section with lice control products. I passed on a flamethrower, came really close to picking up a power loader but finally settled on a 3-in-1 kit. It included shampoo to shock the lice, a gel to get all the bugs and their eggs sticky so they were easier to comb out and a small bottle of whiskey to help adults get through the entire process without losing their shit (I totally lost it and cannot remember where I left it).
As we returned home and I was prepping Olivia, Jodi walked out of our bedroom for the first time that day. She looked as though the bronchitis/tonsillitis double team had not given her any slack, and that she could use some love, empathy and words of encouragement. So for our first interaction in the new year, I walked over to my wife and said the most compassionate, heartfelt thing which came to my mind in that moment: "She has lice." (I know, I'm a softie).
I locked Olivia and myself in our bathroom to minimize infection and collateral damage, then began with the shampoo. As expected, Olivia hated every minute of it and cried and struggled the whole time. The rinse was even worse, because we had to forcibly hold her down so we could get everything out of her hair while also avoiding getting any in her eyes. It pained me to see her in so much distress, but I knew we had to do this to help her (and us) out. This was just another instance where I couldn't fully explain to her what was happening and just hope that she would calm down and trust that I was doing something in her best interest.
By the time we were onto the gel and combing part, she had had enough. I would get close to her head and she would squirm, twist and turn to try and avoid me. At one point I got so frustrated that I turned her to face me, looked right her eyes and exclaimed, "Olivia, you've got bugs in your hair. Tickle your nausea. Trust me you DO NOT want this. Please, please help me to help you." She, of course, gave me a blank stare and kept on going, so i had to bring in some help. As the instructions had advised, I decided to try and distract her with an old iPhone in the hope it would make her sit still. She started playing with it, somehow managed to get the same three songs to play on repeat (those are now some of my least favorite songs due to association), eventually sat back against my leg and looked like she was getting her hair done at a salon. We dished on our favorite soaps, gossiped about people we didn't like and shared our hopes and dreams. It was truly magical...until I realized that I was just talking to myself the entire time.
After another struggle to rinse Olivia's hair we had lunch, and then I thought it best if we all had a rest after our stressful morning. I put Olivia down for a nap, which in this instance meant leaving her to chat and sing songs to herself for at least an hour. I started a load of laundry and wondered just how many more I would need to do before we were past with this whole ordeal. I knew on top of that there'd be tons of vacuuming, spraying chemicals, shampooing and combing ahead of us.
I tried not to stress about everything (mission: failed) and get some rest. It was then that Olivia began crying and decided that her nap was over. Upon entering her bedroom I was greeted by our smiling toddler...wearing nothing but her socks and sitting in a puddle of her own urine. When Chris Martin sang that "nobody said it was easy, no one ever said it would be this hard," did he mean this moment? Did he have to deal with lice and a crazy, naked toddler sitting in her own urine too? Or was he just talking about how hard it is be a rock star? It had better be the former, Chris Martin. It had better be.