Lice and life lessons

It is Sunday. We have just successfully pulled off a birthday celebration in the park for my son Lorenzo, who turned five. The sun shone during an otherwise rainy week, my sugar-free banana bread turned out moist and yummy, and the bottle of Prosecco I brought for an impromptu toast remained chilled all the way into the afternoon.

Now, the evening is approaching, after the birthday celebration ran too long, and we are heading home for a much-needed night of sleep ahead of a long week. But Lorenzo complains of an itchy head. We take him for a shower. And accidentally — with horror — Nacho, my partner, finds lice in his head.

I have had the luck of never encountering lice before. I turn immediately to the internet for answers, while messaging my friend in Spain who says you absolutely need to do at least one treatment before sending the kids back to school. Nacho stays cool and remembers his mother’s vinegar tricks from when he was growing up: he gets out a comb to get the lice out of the hair. In the meantime, all I can think about is stripping every bed and putting everything to wash at 60 degrees — despite the inconclusive information I find online.

The kids can’t stay home, not tomorrow. Parents out there, you know what I am talking about. What it’s like to feel stretched extra thin — maybe a babysitter has suddenly cancelled, there are no grandparents to rely on, meetings pile up. You use military planning to make new arrangements, and the balance is so precarious that even a tiny, tiny head louse can lay to waste all your well-laid plans.

We suddenly remember the spray they gifted us at Lorenzo’s daycare at the beginning of the year, which is to treat lice (if my life were a film, there would be a foreshadowing scene).

So we go to bed, but all I can think about is lice taking over my head, and I sleep uncomfortably. I try not to touch my other son León’s head when he comes next to me to breastfeed. So I end up sleeping with part of my head dangling out of the bed. And I wake up, and it is Monday, and Nacho packs the kids in the car and they all go off. And I stay at home, tidy up a bit, and have time for a run. I feel tired, but also grateful that I can go out and my legs are moving.

And the day turns into a blob in which no task ahead of me can be completed. The hours fly by, and it is already time for a vaccine appointment. I need to wrestle León into the car seat, but he is having none of it. When I get to the doctor’s office, he knows where we are and starts crying. But we get through it. I go back to the car, the radio is on, 100.4, blaring out tunes from the 1990s. I sing along Ace as Base’s “All that she wants”, a song from my middle school years. But then a sign comes on the dashboard: “engine fail, repair immediately”.

I make it home. I try to discuss the engine situation with Nacho during dinner, but it is impossible to talk over the kids’ voices. I make it through a round of cough syrup and another lice treatment. They are finally asleep. For a moment, I think of going back to my laptop, of completing at least one of the items I couldn’t finish today.

But I know better.

The lice are being treated, my sheets are clean, the car becomes tomorrow’s problem. I decide to call it a day instead.

What I’ve been reading

This story by Kenyan science journalist Scovian Lilian looks at how parents of children on the autism spectrum struggle to get diagnosis, therapy, and support in Kenya — and the groups that some parents themselves created to get organised and provide support to others. were created to help them.

What I’ve been listening to

I’ve recommended the work of U.S. poet Ada Limón in previous newsletters. In 2022, she was named the U.S. poet laureate, and it was then that Krista Tippett interviewed her for an episode of her phenomenal On Being podcast. I could not recommend this episode more. It made me laugh, and cry, and left me with a sense of hope — something that I need to actively seek out these days.

What I’ve been watching

This TikTok by British video creator and mum of two Claire Warren (mykindamum) is a hilarious take on the advice that people give you when you have children. This one in particular takes on the idea of “sleep when the baby sleeps”. Worth a quick watch for some laughs!

What’s been inspiring me

This poem by U.S. fertility awareness educator, poet and beekeeper Rosalie Amber Grace touched me deeply — it spoke to me about the importance of daily routines for healing.

you don’t need an altar

sit on the ground
feel your lover’s body
watch the sky

you don’t need a perfect
daily practice
wash the dishes
feel the joy spreading through
your chest
the ache of grief

practice being here
amidst the mess of being human

nothing to transcend…

just everything to come home to

With love and care, 

📣 The First 1,000 Days is edited by community member and friend, Shaun Lavelle.

📸 Photo credits and alt-text: Lego minifig on a white surface. It has an horrifed expression on its face.

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