Monday, April 10, 2000

One lousy summer

It's that time of year when my thoughts turn obsessively to finding the Right Camp to keep my kids occupied over the summer. We're not to the point of sleepaway camp yet--frankly, though my kids might one day be ready, I don't know that I ever will be--but finding the right day camp is challenging in its own right. It has to be willing to accept my daughter's still sometimes sketchy language skills and my son's complete lack of interest in marching to anyone's drummer but his own. We've had our good camp experiences (the fabulous and fabulously expensive special-needs camp that crammed more different types of activities in a week than I do in a year) and our bad camp experiences (six weeks in which my daughter did little more than sit in a corner, ignored). This year, I'm looking for someplace close to home and close to our budget. And I'm looking for someplace that won't send me more little campers back with my kids at the end of the day.

That's right, last year my daughter hosted that curse of the camp, that scourge of the school, that day-care disaster--head lice. And not just any head lice. The Arnold Schwarzeneggar of head lice. Head lice with attitude. We washed her hair with the super-toxic shield-your-eyes chemical shampoo, and as we combed her out afterward, lice were crawling up the comb and onto our arms. I think I heard them taunting us. Ha, ha! We laugh at your shampoos! We move into your beds! We suck your children's blood! Ha, ha!

My daughter wanted nothing more than to go back to camp, which of course she couldn't do with an honest mother and a head full of bugs. She submitted to mayonnaise in the hair, vegetable oil in the hair, elaborately uncomfortable plastic-shower-cap head wraps, endless comb-outs, constant nitpicking. She has exactly the sort of longish, fine hair that lice must love, and exactly the sort that it is impossible to find lice eggs in. I tried as best an inexperienced nit-spotter could, but it was no use. The camp nurse searched through her hair and declared that her mother hadn't done a good enough job. Thank you so much for placing the blame for missed camp days squarely on me.

Of course, the camp never acknowledged that they were the louse enablers. She certainly couldn't have gotten them there! No other campers have had it! Which only served to convince me that other campers do not have honest mothers. And sometimes the camp nurse doesn't do such a hot job, either.

Eventually my daughter was de-loused, and made it back to the fun. But the whole thing left me a bit buggy. I am on constant rodent red-alert. The pillows I put in plastic nine months ago are still in plastic; I've gotten used to hearing the rustle beneath my pillowcase. The bedspreads that got bagged are still in bags in the basement, and we've made do through the long winter with a mish-mash of blankets. We've given up all our exotic-smelling hair-care products for Tea-Tree Oil Shampoo, which purports to be a real lice turn-off. It makes our hair smell like shoe polish, but if lice hate shoe polish, I prefer it to perfume.

My husband thinks I'm overzealous, but I've got zero tolerance for head lice. And as camp approaches, I'm mapping out some new strategies. Shaving my daughter's head--now that would thwart the little beasties. Sending Tea-Tree Oil Spray in her backpack and requiring the counselors to spritz her regularly. Keeping her head covered in mayo all day so no bugs can get through. Sending her in dirty, smelly clothes so no one wants to get close enough to spread the bugs in the first place.

Then again, there's a lot to be said for just staying home.

No comments: