Daily Archives: September 28, 2011

My nitty twenties (again)

They warn you about the stinking nappies and the sleepless nights. You’re prepared for teething and fevers, terrible twos tantrums and endless hillocks of washing.

But no one tells you about the nit checks.

I emptied Tom’s book bag on Saturday morning and out fluttered one of those slips that Tom thought was a letter about the bug museum. Two weeks into term and the meticulous and time-consuming ritual of nightly nit checks resumes. I always feel like Tom’s a prime suspect, because most of the boys in his class have very short hair and the girls all have their hair tied back.

“Please will you check him for nits?” I said to Mum, when I dropped him off later that day.

She winced. “That’s your job.”

“Please. I only found the slip on the way out of the door.”

Mum took the comb, a torch and a magnifying glass to Tom’s head that evening.

“If they’re anywhere, they’ll be behind my ears,” Tom helpfully informed her, “But check the top of my head too; you might find one there if he’s decided to have a walk from my left ear to my right ear, or from my right ear to my left ear and he fancies a different walk so he has decided to go over the top of my head instead of round the back. For a change.”

There were no nits, eggs or nymphs. There were no lice nestled behind Tom’s ears or taking a scenic hike across his crown.

After school on Monday, I checked again – just in case there had been any new arrivals throughout the day. I sit on the toilet seat and Tom sits on the floor and I spend ages soaking his hair in conditioner and combing through it, cranking up the wind-up torch every time there’s a possible sighting.

“Keep still!” I shout, which is a guaranteed way to make him shake his head and move.

“Mum, I hate nit checks.”

“I hate them too but –  hang on.”

“What is it?”

“I think I just saw something.” (I don’t know why but I whisper when I say this.)

“What was it?”

“I don’t know. Keep still.”

“What is it?”

“Hang on.”

“What is it?”

“Oh for Christs’s sake.”

“What was it?”

“The shadow of a strand of hair that was lying just above the strand of hair I was looking at.”

“A what?”

“Oh, nevermind.”

“What did you say it was though?”

“Nevermind. Keep still.”

“What is it?”

“Maybe a nit. Oh, maybe not.”

“What was it?”


“Why do I have to shush? Nits don’t make noises.”


“But – ”

“Have you been playing in the sand pit today?”

“Yes. Someone threw sand at my head.”

“Great. Ooh – hang on.”

“What is it?”

“I think it’s an actual louse.”

“Let me see!”

“Oh no, it’s a piece of fluff.”

After I put Tom to bed, I have a shower, slather on loads of conditioner and rake through my own hair with the nit comb. Last night, I think I was doing a nit check in my dreams. And on a bus yesterday, I was so convinced that I had nits that I thought the person sitting behind me must have been able to see the lice sitting on top of my head having a pinic and a rest before their descent to the other ear.

It’s actually driving me mad.

*Neither of us has actually got nits.



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