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The Longest Day

parenting advice

It’s one of those weeks. Between a broken oven, several baseball make-up games, 4 volunteer duties at the school, inlaws headed to town, a sudden cold snap and a sick little girl, I didn’t think the week could get much crazier. Then my daughter got head lice….again.

My daughter is healthy and beautiful and a force to be reckoned with. She is spunky and lively and always optimistic. But she’s like a magnet for every. single. thing that comes through school.

Last year, she had strep 5 times, 4 ear infections, the stomach flu and head lice. You could write a Christmas countdown song about it. It’s sad. She missed her first Girl Scout campout. She missed both the Valentine’s Day and last day of school class parties. She missed birthday parties. She missed a lot…and my always happy girl cried a lot, not because of the misery of illness, but because of the sadness of missing all the things that are important to a then-5-year-old.

notify parents of exposure

So today she had lice. Again. And while I’m thankful that it’s just lice, I’m mad too. I’m mad at our school district, which like so many around the country now, doesn’t notify parents if their child has been exposed to lice. Actually, unless a large majority of the class has become sick with something, they don’t notify parents of any exposure anymore. I suppose it’s a money issue: the cost of having a nurse check children for signs of illness and issue notes to parents for all exposures can add up. But really, I kind of expect them to do it anyway.

The most precious, important things in my world are at school for 7 hours a day and I want the peace of mind that they are being cared for. Of course, I don’t expect every teacher or administrator to be another Mommy, but I expect that everyone operates within the bounds of common courtesy and always looks out for the best interests of our children’s safety and health.

Tonight, I went from having “that kid” to being “that parent”: the one who emails the entire class to confess that my child has lice. After hours of poisoning, combing, rinsing, repeating as well as stripping the bed, quarantining the stuffed animals, vacuuming and checking everyone’s scalps, the only thing I could think was that we were going to go through all this again in a week. The flood of all my daughter’s sad days came back. I never once felt sorry for myself in this. Yes, I was tired. Yes, my body ached. But all I could think was that my poor baby was going to be exposed to illnesses again and nobody was going to tell me. After all, I was blindsided by the lice.

I wrote the email out of purely selfish reasons, but it was well received. Parents emailed back thanking me for the warning. And it occurred to me: we all want that warning. It’s hard to swallow your pride and tell total strangers that your child may have given their child something, whether it be lice or the flu….anything. To admit to strangers a human imperfection that maybe we all take as a reflection on our parenting flaws, is hard! But speaking as “that mom” of “that kid” who catches everything, tell everyone when your child is sick! “That mom” will respect and trust you forever.

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